The Importance of the Colorado Water Plan

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Most politicians from the Western Slope run on a platform of “not one more drop.” That’s because 80% of Colorado’s water falls on the western slope, yet 87% of the population lives on the other side of the Continental Divide. To solve the problem and get more water to the Front Range of Colorado, in the 1930’s Colorado began building tunnels and water storage facilities that divert water from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range. Over time Western Slope water users became concerned that too much water was being diverted, hence the mantra about not one more drop.

Today there are 30 completed water diversion projects in the State, most of which take water from the Colorado River Basin and deliver it to the other side of the mountains, although a few just move it from one river basin to another without the inter-mountain transfer. The 24 diversions that do change the flow of water from west to east currently deliver approximately 500,000 acre feet of water to farmers and municipalities on the Front Range annually.

In 2005, Colorado passed House Bill 1177, which created River Basin Round Tables. This was a bi-partisan attempt to get water policy out of the world of partisan politics. The bill was supported by two names you will recognize from here:  Josh Penry and Bernie Beuscher. Abel Tapia, running to unseat Scott Tipton, was in the Colorado legislature at the time and was also a sponsor of this bill. The short name of the bill was “Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act.”

The Round Tables were established, and people from all walks of life were invited to participate. The idea was to get the people who actually used water to talk to each other, in a fact based environment. Over time it got old for volunteers to drive an hour each way to meetings where there were no actual outcomes, and these Round Tables started losing steam. But the problems still existed, and the need to find ways to conserve water and fill the projected gaps in water availability were still very real problems needing statewide solutions.

Needing the Round Tables to come up with a plan, On May 15, 2013, Governor Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to draft a water plan. The deadline for the draft is December 2014. Today I had the opportunity to speak with James Eklund, the Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, about the process and the plans coming out of the Round Tables.

For the record, I initiated this contact because I wanted to hear from the official leading the efforts his opinion of progress and his expectations regarding outcomes. A lot more follows, but the short version is that the Colorado Water Conservation Board will make some policy recommendations to the next legislative session, based on the identified needs of the nine River Basin Round Tables.

Eklund opened our conversation by saying that this is an historic time for water in Colorado. During July the CWCB hosted a three day meeting to hear the Round Table implementation plans. None of the plans say there will be a new transmountain diversion of water, but every Round Table has identified a water shortage and a need to find new sources of water. It is an interesting coincidence that the projected shortage by 2050 is almost the same amount of water that is currently being diverted from west to east.

Not having a cohesive water plan addressing these issues has negative impacts on economic development that we usually don’t think about. An example used by Eklund was Utah. Businesses thinking about relocating might decide on another state, like Utah, when they see east-west water wars appearing on the front pages of Colorado newspapers. Utah actually has less water than Colorado, but they tell a better story. We can’t keep beating each other up, and these Round Tables, born out of bi-partisan legislation hope to encourage Colorado’s citizens to have adult conversations about the issue, and to find bi-partisan legislative solutions.

One of the issues is “buying and drying.” The term refers to industry and municipalities buying up agricultural water rights, which takes Colorado ag-land out of production. There is a right way and a negative way to solve this problem. Prohibiting the sale or leasing of these agricultural water rights is essentially a “taking” of the property of the owner of the water rights. There needs to be some policy solution that recognizes the personal property rights, yet protects our ability to produce food, and satisfies the thirsty inhabitants of Colorado’s cities.

Knowing a little about land trusts, I asked whether there were Water Trusts, just as there are Land Trusts. Eklund said that they do exist, but they are not economically competitive, especially when cities need water, and are willing to pay a premium to get it. Policy should work to close the competitive gap.

I’ve heard Ute Water suggest that we could negotiate with California, trading our support for desalination plants in California for keeping more of the water that falls in Colorado. Eklund praised Ute Water for thinking outside the box, but scoffed at that idea. The hurdles noted by Eklund included the fact that relative to California, Colorado is capital poor and that desalination plants require a lot of energy, which is expensive.

Finally I asked about Climate Change. Eklund prefers to talk about variable hydrology. Colorado is the only state in the nation where no water flows into the state, rather it falls in the mountains in the form of snow, where it is stored until spring run-off. Climate change is impacting our water two ways: As dust settles on the snow in the high country, melting is hastened. If water falls as rain instead of snow, it is not stored in our high country until we need it, but rather immediately flows into streams and rivers—causing the flooding we saw on the Front Range and immediate delivery into other states.

Eklund noted that our snow pack is a pretty important and effective way to store water in Colorado until we need it. In fact, he said, “Snow pack is our greatest reservoir.” Water at lower elevations evaporates faster than it does at higher elevations, which may explain why the water is so low at the downstream dams that provide both storage and electricity for lower basin states. The delivery system to Arizona is extremely inefficient, as it flows through hot, dry terrain where evaporation steals water destined to quench the thirst of Phoenix. Of course, that water is not lost forever, but given the prevailing weather patterns, it may end up in Texas instead of Arizona.

Water is too important to legislate without understanding the complicated process of water allocations and the reality of water shortages. Yet, my opponent walked out of a briefing presented by James Eklund, which was designed to bring legislators up to speed on the Round Table discussions. Eklund told me that he thinks it is his job to brief legislators and candidates on this non-partisan effort to find solutions to Colorado’s future water woes. He also told me “If Ray Scott calls, I’ll tell him the same thing, but he hasn’t called.”

Voters in Mesa County have a real choice this fall. We can pick the candidate who seeks answers about issues, or the candidate who gets written up in the Denver Post for being too arrogant to listen to a presentation about an issue as important to the Western Slope as water.    

 Homework:

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Water Diversions

House Bill 1177

Hickenlooper's Executive Order

Ray Scott Walks Out of Briefing by James Eklund

Colorado Water Conservation Board

Taking a Break

If I have any ColoradoPols readers, this note is to let you know that I will not be posting for the next year at least. I have decided to run against Ray Scott for the Senate District 7 seat. Formal announcement tomorrow at Eagle Rim Park in Grand Junction.

For those of you who know I battled cancer last year, I am feeling fine and my Doctor pronounced me "healthy" at my last physical exam. If I'm tough enough to survive cancer, I'm tough enough to battle Ray Scott in a campaign.

A Wild Week on the Wild and Wooly Western Slope

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

What a wild week this has been.

First there was the Charles Ashby story in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel exposing the Chamber of Commerce for the political hacks that they are. Then there was the resignation of Rick Brainard, including his announcement that he and his victim are an item again. Brainard pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges shortly after being elected, and has been the subject of countless protests. Then there was the City Council thumbing their collective nose at the idea that anybody other than the Chamber has any right to any say in who runs this city. And then there was the announcement that the future leaders have been chosen by the elite.

Some time ago I heard a rumor that Sheriff Stan Hilkey would be resigning before his term is up to go to work in Colorado Springs in some job somehow related to the FBI. Steve King would be appointed to fill out Hilkey’s term; Ray Scott would be appointed to fill out King’s term, and Barbara Brewer would be appointed to fill out Scott’s term. But Barbara Brewer would prefer to be appointed to Steve Aquafresca’s seat. This week King announced he’s running for Sheriff, and Scott announced he’s running for the Senate seat. Things are falling into place.

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Brainard Recall Effort Underway

Just a brief note for those who have been following the Brainard story in Grand Junction: Organizers have officially filed papers to form a committee to recall the City Council member.

The following was posted to a Facebook Page titled, Demand Rick Brainard's Resignation Grand Junction today:

"I'm pleased to announce No Brainard Recall Committee is accepting monetary donations at our local Rio Grande FCU, just across the street from the 749 Rood #B petition office location.


Please include name/phone/address with all donations. Donations larger than $100 need to have employer/occupation as well.

Checks can also be mailed to No Brainard Recall Committee at 749 Rood #B 81501 OR
PO BOX 824 81502"

The Nexus of Paranoia and Gun Fanaticism

Last Sunday morning the headline in The Daily Sentinel was, “Fruita Cops Shoot Man Dead.” That story, written by one of my favorite Sentinel reporters, Charles Ashby, was carefully crafted, with lots of quotes from officials, because the details were still sketchy. Unfortunately the reader was led to believe that the man “ran” from the scene, which led to all kinds of rumors.

As the week unfolded, we learned that there was a traffic stop. The man left the scene in his pickup and evidently went home. He didn’t “run” away, he drove away. When it was reported that he “ran” away, people who knew him pointed out that he couldn’t “run” which, in turn, started a rumor that it was a “hit.” Yes, there are people in this valley who actually believe that the Fruita police department is capable of executing a man because a “hit” has been ordered.

This presumed “hit” was related to his membership in a fringe group that believes the U.S. Government is illegal. Evidently they have formed a shadow government in Colorado, of which the dead man was an “elected district judge.”

Even more disturbing was an interview with the man’s daughter which aired on local TV. She said that her father was simply following family policy when he answered the door with a gun in his hand. Her family has been taught to answer the door with a gun in their hand.

For some reason that triggered a memory of an event at my South Dakota home last summer. My friend and I were in the basement watching episodes of the HBO series Deadwood, when my dog started barking his head off. He is prone to doing that when a cat gets into the yard, or if a car drives by, so we didn’t pay much attention. But Jackson didn’t stop barking, so eventually I went upstairs to see what all the fuss was about. Standing at the back door were two young men, one white and one black. The young black man said, “Don’t shoot mam, we are students selling magazines.”

He was clearly frightened, but not so frightened that he was going to run away and miss out on a commission. My 20 pound dog is not much of a threat, and I don’t own a gun, so I thought that comment was really unusual. Although there is a black family that lives right down the street, there aren’t many blacks in the little town in which I grew-up. Given the hidden racism everywhere in America, I understand his nervousness. Of course, my appearance at the time may have been alarming, since at the time I was a bald woman.

That is, I thought the “Don’t shoot” comment was unusual until I learned that there actually are people who answer the door with a gun in their hand because they are so paranoid about the changing world around them.

I learned about the “hit” rumor from the facebook page of Mesa County Patriots. To be fair, they reported on the “hit” rumor, but also posted a disclaimer that they had not confirmed anything in the post. Subsequent posts, however, point out how paranoid these guys are.

This is particularly disturbing since they are the same group that plans things like open carry rallies and the upcoming “magazine” rally.  On the 4th of July, Mesa County Patriots are planning a magazine exchange on the steps of the county courthouse. They are encouraging people to bring cartridges that are banned by Colorado’s new gun laws and “temporarily” exchange them with other protestors. Temporary is an important word in this exchange, as a loophole in the new law allows people to loan magazines that can hold as many as 100 rounds of ammunition to others on a temporary basis. Mesa County Patriots is skating just this side of the law.

I am very concerned that this unfortunate incident, where a man ignored police authority in a traffic stop, and then reacted by answering the door with a gun in his hand, will ignite a wildfire of paranoia that results in many more similar incidents. I wish these paranoid men had as much passion for the health of the planet. We could use some of their passion fighting things like the XL Pipeline. But, please, leave your guns at home.

Homework:

Colorado Republic Website

It Is Never Dull in Whack-a-Doodle-Landia

(Indeed not – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The controversy swirling around the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and their continued support of a City Councilman who pled guilty to domestic abuse has reached new audiences. There is a man in Grand Junction who calls himself a Tea Party of One because he has gotten cross-wise with both GJResult/Tea Party and the nameless group formerly known as Western Slope Conservative Alliance, of Saturday Night Live fame. Yesterday he sent out a commentary that ended with a request for at least six recall petitions for Rick Brainard.

The path that got this self-described Tea Partier to support the efforts of feminists who are protesting domestic violence is quite circuitous. He supported the candidates put forth by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce because he was assured by one of them that they would not spend any money on the Avalon Theatre, the anchor to one end of Grand Junction’s historic Main Street. 

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All Tea Parties Are Not Created Equal

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Recently Kevin McCarney was quoted, first in the Denver Post and later in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, in stories about how the IRS went after conservative groups and how Western Slope Conservative Alliance (WSCA) was hassled by the IRS and still does not have its not-for-profit status. These days WSCA is calling themselves Freedom ! Colorado.

There is a long and quite sordid story behind this story, and it is about the Republican Party being scared to death of the Tea Party. The Tea Party, truly a grass roots movement, grew out of discontent with government spending. But locally it got hijacked by Western Slope Conservative Alliance, an invention of the Republican Party. Kevin McCarney, recently transplanted from Chicago, eventually joined the hijackers. However one of the first hijackers was Janet Rowland, Mesa County Commissioner at the time, previous candidate for Lt. Governor, and current Director of the Center for Local Government at Colorado Mesa University, another Tim Foster Republican hire.

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Screwed by Citizens United, Slapped by Rick Brainard

The law that gave personhood to corporations can be directly blamed for the current division within the city of Grand Junction.  Normally city council elections are ho-hum affairs, and not many people pay attention. I started paying attention when I realized that the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce was stacking the deck.

Western Colorado Business Alliance was organized as a 501(c)(4) in August of 2012—just in time to start raising money and planning for the next election. The Registered Agent on the Secretary of State filing is Diane Schwenke, long standing President of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce. The stated purpose of the entity is “to take measures to strengthen the business community in Grand Junction, Colorado and the surrounding area.” It is organized “exclusively for the promotion of social

welfare pursuant to section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.”

It was no coincidence that Referred Item A (Brady) in the city election and the four hand-picked candidates had really slick campaign signs and ads. Anonymous money can buy a lot of things that don’t have to be reported to the Secretary of State under campaign finance laws.

The Chamber didn’t ever pretend that they were doing anything other than stacking the deck. They announced that they were picking the issues and candidates they wanted, and that there was no reason for them to not do so. When asked by Grand Junction Sentinel’s Reporter Amy Hamilton why they had not filed any campaign finance reports, Diane Schwenke replied, “Why should we? The  Alliance and Brady have done everything that’s required by the law.”

If ordinary citizens give money to candidates or organize issue campaigns, we are governed by Colorado’s Campaign Finance laws, which requires that all donors be listed and reported to the Secretary of State. There are limits on the amount of money that any one individual can contribute. In the shady world of 501(C)(4)’s, there is no required reporting and no limits. The Chamber hasn’t stacked the deck for this one election. They will continue stacking it until we citizens wake up and demand full accountability.

Today the City Council was taken over by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce. Three out of four councilors sworn in today were hand-picked and supported by Western Colorado Business Alliance. Sam Susuras, the husband of Lois Dunn Susuras, chair of the Mesa County Republican Party, and former City Council Board Member, is the new Mayor of Grand Junction. Susuras was elected in a special session of the newly sworn-in City Council about 30 minutes after being sworn-in. Notably absent was Bennett Beschenstein, the Councilmember who called for Rick Brainard to step down.

Also absent were the many individuals who have been demonstrating against Brainard since his arrest. The swearing-in was done in alphabetical order. Brainard was first. As soon as he began his oath of office the “uninformed lynch mob” (his words) stood and turned their back on him. As soon as his oath was completed, they marched from the auditorium into, the microphones of waiting press. By my count about half of the people in the room were there to protest, the other half were there to celebrate the accomplishment of their loved ones or friends.

The clock starts ticking now. Instead of just Brainard being in the cross-hairs of the demonstrators, who mostly came out of a group called Women Helping Others Resist Exploitation and Sexism, he has company. The idea that a Mayor could be elected without any discussion immediately post swearing-in, with no official agenda posted, smacks of back room deals. No doubt the first of many designed to line the pockets of certain people in the real estate business while endangering the public, since regulations will be ignored or recinded.

Grow up Grand Junction, you can’t stay a sleepy back water forever.

Quick Note about Rick Brainard and Grand Junction

The young women who have been protesting Brainard because of his behavior after his arrest on alleged domestic abuse, are planning one more demonstration for Monday's swearing in ceremony. Brainard will have a busy day being sworn in and going before the judge in his hearing.

Will Parachute Creek Become Off Limits for Picnics and Fishing?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

There was another briefing in Parachute about the Williams Midstream disaster at Parachute Creek. You know it is serious when very senior people from COGCC, CDPHE, and EPA show up to face concerned citizens. Dave Keylor, Williams Midstream's vice president of Piceance Basin operations was in the room, but not part of the official panel.

The first week in April, at a meeting in Rifle, Keylor was one of the primary spokespeople. At that meeting we were told for the first time that there had been a previously unreported spill at the location where high concentrations of contaminants had been found. A spill that began in late December, or early January was not reported because it was less than 25 gallons. Bob Arrington, a resident of Battlement Mesa, retired engineer, and head of Western Colorado Congress’s Oil and Gas Committee estimated last night that the 25 gallons was more like 1,200 gallons based on his scientifically based calculations.

At the Rifle meeting, we were told that the source of the contaminants was unknown. By the end of April the source is known to be a gauge with a hole in it which controlled a 4 inch pipeline coming from a natural gas plant owned by Williams. Back when the source was unknown, Keylor said that about 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons and about 252,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater had been pumped from the plume of contamination. Sometimes the information in these sessions is presented in gallons and sometimes it is presented in barrels. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate attempt to confuse the public, but for the record an oil barrel is 42 gallons. 

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Kudos to Christy Dimond, Shame on Rick Brainard

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Yesterday, Christy Dimond, a young reporter at KKCO in Grand Junction scored an exclusive interview with Rick Brainard. For those of you who may have been camping in an ice cave and not aware of the story, Rick Brainerd was elected to Grand Junction’s City Council in the last election. But before he could be sworn in, he was arrested and charged with an incident involving domestic violence.

Since that arrest, people in Grand Junction have staged protests and started petitions asking him to step down. Brainard will not step down. The women organizing the protests have sworn to go for a recall of Brainard, which cannot happen until he has held office for 90 days. 

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Clean Up Colorado’s “Legacy” Uranium Mines

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Western Slope of Colorado is home to over a thousand, mostly abandoned, uranium mines. Some of them were the real deal, with infrastructure traditional to mining operations. Others are small indentations in the land. These uranium mines were abandoned because there was no real market for their product, usually because the ore was not rich enough to return the investment required to recover it.

All of them have the potential to pollute water supplies. Water seeks the lowest point, and rarely stays put. Abandoned mines fill with water. Water in abandoned mines pick up the elements that are in the soil. Abandoned uranium mines have water polluted with uranium. 

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Enjoying Petro Flavored Water Wine and Peaches

Last night there was a meeting in Rifle, where the spill along Parachute creek was discussed. The meeting room at the Rifle Library was filled with media, regulators, and lots of concerned citizens. Presenting updates to the Energy Advisory Board of Garfield County were Matt Lapore, Director of the COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) and the VP and General manager of Piceance Basin for Williams Mid-stream.

The short version is that both soil and water near the site have been contaminated with petro carbons. The source of the seep has not been located. Testing wells have been drilled along the banks of Parachute Creek, and no contamination of the stream has been detected. However in the plume of contamination one well tested as much as 18,000 ppb of benzene, with EPA safe levels pegged at 5 ppb. Benzene is a known carcinogen, which was a fact stated by the Williams VP, much to my surprise.

COGCC listed their priorities as: 1) keep contaminants out of the creek; 2) identify the source of contamination; 3) detail what has been impacted; 4) implement a remediation phase. Trenches have been dug to facilitate removal of 140 bbls of liquid hydrocarbons and 5,000 bbls of water so far. The amount of hydrocarbons being recovered has decreased drastically during the current operation.

There are two pipelines that are being tested and monitored. A 30” pipeline collects product from producing wells and delivers it to a natural gas plant. A 4” pipeline carries natural gas liquids to market from the plant. Both pipelines have been tested at high pressure, and no leaks have been detected. The stream is being sampled every day, and patrolled every 30 minutes looking for the tell-tale sheen of hydrocarbons sitting on water. Since March 19, there have been daily conference calls between COGCC and Williams to discuss current data and developments.

The most contamination has been detected around a valve box. The area around the valve box has been excavated for about 100 feet, with contaminated dirt contained on site. The plume of contamination is parallel to the creek and running in the same direction.

They are beginning to monitor the point in Parachute Creek where the town of Parachute has an intake valve for the city's water. Most residents use irrigation water from the creek on their lawns and gardens, and are concerned that it may become unsafe to do so.

Get out your maps, kids. Parachute Creek flows ultimately into the Colorado River, which is the source of water for millions of people in seven western states and Mexico. Clifton, where I get my water, gets its water from the Colorado River, about 40 miles downstream from the town of Parachute. Between here and there is some of Colorado's finest wine country where wineries are producing award winning wines from grapes irrigated with water from the Colorado River. Colorado's famous peaches come from this river valley also.

This is a very troubling seep, and neither the regulators nor the industry seems to know what they are dealing with. I have very little confidence that this plume of contamination will not eventually make its way into the drinking water of Palisade and Clifton, and ultimately flavor the wines and peaches of western Colorado.

The Wild and Wooly West is Alive and Well

This morning the Mesa County Commissioners considered a resolution, drafted by Commissioner and attorney Pugliese, which resolved to protect the Second Amendment in Mesa County. After much discussion, the resolution was unanimously passed.

This was a raucous meeting. Most of the people in the room were there to offer their enthusiastic support for the resolution, although they seemed to be a bit misinformed about the role that County Commissioners play in setting up gun regulations nationally and statewide. They also seem to believe that the second amendment, despite having the phrase “well regulated militia,” does not allow for any regulation of fire arms, although a good friend of mine suggested that the county set up a militia and regulate it.

The first person to speak out against the resolution was Benita Phillips, after announcing that she had a conceal-and-carry permit. Her objection was to the waste of taxpayer’s money. Her expectation is that county commissioners will limit their actions to things that impact the county, including water.

The second person to speak out against the resolution was Robyn Parker. She detailed how women are most frequently the victims of gun violence, often at the hands of their own partners. She then invited the commissioners to CMU at noon on Wednesday for one of the many Billion Women events scheduled for that day.  She suggested that the commissioners spend some time talking to the rest of their constituents.

I was the third person to speak out against the resolution, which contains language suggesting that the second amendment drives economic development in Mesa County. I spent many years in the field of economic development, and I can’t think of any retail development that would thrive if shoppers knew that there was a likelihood of being surrounded by people with pistols strapped to their hip, as I recently was in a BLM meeting at the Clarian Hotel.  In Colorado, one is permitted to openly carry a gun anywhere that is not posted with a prohibition. Sadly, my doctor, who has an office on the Community Hospital campus, has recently added a new sign at the front door announcing that guns are not allowed on the campus.

The last person to speak was a retired LAPD officer who spoke eloquently about his experiences with guns. He said he could count on one hand the number of times that he had seen someone actually protect their property or person with a gun. But it would take all the fingers and toes of all the people in the room to begin to count the number of times he had seen tragedy at the end of a gun. He also spoke about armor piercing bullets, and his distaste for being the probable target for those bullets.

This meeting had its own attendees openly carrying, including my favorite pretty-bad-boy, David Cox. His gun prompted someone to ask an officer to show up and stand at the back of the room just as I was leaving the meeting. Given the direction of the current county commissioners, we can expect to see people packing all over the county. One can only hope that the City Council thinks a bit about what actually drives economic development. Reinventing the Wild and Wooly West is not an economic driver, unless it is being done by a film company.

Oh my! I’m Making Big Enemies

My most recent Free Press column covered a lot of ground making the point that industry is using Ray Scott to rob Colorado of severance taxes, and that you can’t believe much of what they say. The article generated a response from Ed Baltzer, President of Avant Environmental Services, Inc.

According to their website, “Avant Environmental Services, Inc. safely provides high-quality environmental services on time to industry, governments, and individuals. Services include Phase I Environmental Site Assessments as defined by ASTM, Phase II site assessments, regulatory compliance, voluntary cleanup plans, asbestos inspections and abatement management, environmental health and safety, air monitoring, and related services. Avant provides careful attention to each client’s particular situation.  Avant endeavors to provide the correct level of service and to work with each client to ensure that they are in compliance with relevant regulations.”

This website appears to be new, several pages are still under construction. My Baltzer is the only listed employee. He was previously with Walsh Environmental Scientists and Engineers, LLC, which has offices worldwide, including in Grand Junction. Walsh helps clients get drilling permits, among other things.

So… the first Email I received from him was directed to my editor at the Free Press. It is pretty long, so he followed up with a second letter to my editor, which included a cc to Representative Ray Scott. What follows is first my response to the second E-mail, then his second letter to the editor, then the first letter to the editor. Your comments are welcome. As usual, there are lots of supporting links in the Homework Section, which you can scroll down to access.

Response from me to second E-mail:

Ed, who is your employer? (http://www.avantenvironmental.com/company.html)

I almost wrote you a thank you note for giving me some ideas for follow up columns, but you are way too determined to discredit me for me to extend that courtesy. The fact that you have now included Ray Scott (Hi, Ray!) in this exchange leads me to believe that you are not simply an interested citizen invested in newspapers printing the truth, but rather are an industry shill.

It does seem that you are confusing me with a reporter, which I am not. I am an opinion columnist. Certainly facts are important when trying to motivate one to support one’s point of view, and my facts are just that. One of your examples in your dismissive letter was that I “lied” (my term, not yours) about the head of the institute in TX losing his job. He is no longer the head of that institute. He may still be a professor, but he is no longer the head of the institute. He lost his job as head of the institute. That is a fact.

What you did was throw up some straw arguments that have nothing to do with my point, which was that the scientific “evidence” promoted by industry is losing credibility in part because of the money influencing the outcomes. The bill that Ray Scott is sponsoring that would allow new wells to avoid severance tax is a give-away to the industry, and he needs to be called on it. I doubt that most of my readers know, but surely you do, that most production in wells occurs during the first couple of years of production. Hence, the bill Scott is proposing robs the people of Colorado of just compensation for the privilege of harvesting the resource that is owned by the people. If the industry weren’t already the most profitable on the planet, I might have some sympathy for the costs they incur, but that isn’t the case, and I have no reason to want severance taxes to be waived. I can only conclude that you and Scott want that result because of personal financial reasons.

Climate change has to do with humans burning fossil fuels, so it is not the stretch that you make it out to be to conflate the production of natural gas with climate change—especially if one has 700 words in which to make a point. Fracking has to do with the production of natural gas. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. We are fracking in order to continue burning fossil fuels. There is a relationship between climate change and burning fossil fuels, whether you recognize it or not, and there are plenty of scientific studies that point to that relationship. Here’s a story about just one of the scientific reports: http://www.geotimes.org/feb07/WebExtra020207.html

Second Letter to the editor

From: Ed Baltzer (E-mail redacted)
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 7:24 PM
To: Tracy Dvorak
Cc: Ray Scott; Claudette Konola

Subject: shortened article

Dear Ms. Dvorak:  here's a shortened version.  I also attached a list of common logical fallacies for your reading enjoyment.  Thanks again for a great newspaper.  EMB

 Dear Editor:
 
Claudette Konola's opinion of January 25, 2013 (Climate Change is Real, and Ray Scott is Clueless) begs for editing.  In it she introduces her strong opinion about climate change, and states "despite all of the money flowing into universities to produce studies that deny climate change has…human causes, reality is finally rearing its head…".    She then presents evidence of bias in hydraulic fracturing research.  Climate change and hydraulic fracturing are unrelated.  She presents a thesis not supported by the evidence, which is the writing error of a non-sequitur, or the logical Fallacy of Irrelevant Thesis.  
 
So, I guess her thesis actually is how big oil money is biasing hydraulic fracturing research, not climate change research.  She states such bias resulted in "professors and department heads resign[ing] from American universities for agreeing to publish biased information", implying multiple resignations from multiple universities.    In support of her thesis, she states that one professor retired and one academic head (Raymond Orbach) "lost his job".  However, according to the University of Texas, Mr. Orbach resigned from his post as director of The Energy Institute at UT, but remains a professor, so he did not lose his job. What she wrote misrepresented the facts.  In fact, one department head resigned his post at one university, which had nothing to do with climate change research. 

 
Ms Konola then discusses a drilling bill proposed by our Representative Ray Scott.  The bill, HB-1122, is silent on hydraulic fracturing, global warming, AND scientific research.  This is another non-sequitur.   

Ms Konola uses language such as "hyped as being true to science",  "fantasy world of pro-oil and gas operatives", "flagrant disregard for truth and science", and "his pockets get filled".  This is using biased or emotional language to coerce the reader to accept a position, rather than using logic or evidence.  It is known as the Question-Begging Epithet, another logical fallacy.  I have other comments but am out of space.

Such errors are not unique to Ms Konola or Progressives.  All of us need to think clearly and write carefully.  Present a clear thesis and logically support it with undistorted facts.   This is hard work, but is required for intelligent discussion, which is vital to the preservation of our Republic.
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Sincerely   
 
Edward Baltzer

And now the original letter to the editor:

From: Ed Baltzer (E-mail redacted)
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 9:10 PM
To: editor@gjfreepress.com
Cc: Claudette Konola; Ray Scott
Subject: Conoloa editorial (Konola note, for someone so picky about writing, he manages to mangle my name.)

Dear Editor:

Thank you for presenting a wide range of viewpoints in your paper – I really appreciate it. 

However, Claudette Konola's opinion of January 25, 2013 (Climate Change is Real, and Ray Scott is Clueless) begs for editing.  In it she introduces her strong opinion about climate change, and states "despite all of the money flowing into universities to produce studies that deny climate change has…human causes, reality is finally rearing its head…".    She then presents evidence of bias in hydraulic fracturing research.  Climate change and hydraulic fracturing are two unrelated topics.  She presents a thesis not supported by the evidence, which is the writing error of a non-sequitur.   A non-sequitur would have earned me an F in high-school English.  In logic, this is known as the Fallacy of Irrelevant Thesis. 

So, at this point, I assume that her thesis actually is how big oil money is biasing hydraulic fracturing research, not climate change research.  She states such bias resulted in "professors and department heads resign[ing] from American universities for agreeing to publish biased information", implying multiple resignations from multiple universities.    In support of her thesis,she states that one professor retired and one academic head (Raymond Orbach) "lost his job".  However, according to the University of Texas, Mr. Orbach resigned from his post as director of The Energy Institute at UT, but remains a professor, so he did not lose his job.  So a correct rendering would have been, "At the University of Texas, coincident with criticism of the study, a professor retired,  and another resigned from his directorship, but remained a professor".  What she wrote misrepresented the facts.  A reasonable interpretation, assuming the resignation and retirement are the result of criticism of flawed research, is that academia is routing out non-scientific research.  This is a good thing.

Ms Konola then describes a State University of New York (now Buffalo University) research report that was "hyped as being true to science" and resulted in a research institute being shut down.  I checked BU's web page and learned that the report presents robust data on environmental violations recorded in Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2011.   It was peer reviewed by two professors, a retired US DOT employee, and an environmental consultant.  It is exactly this type of research that is needed to understand the role of regulations and regulators in mitigating environmental impacts of hydrocarbon production.  In their decision to close the institute, UB stated that they are pursuing "a comprehensive program of scholarship and education with appropriate breadth and complexity".  Once again, assuming the criticism of the report was justified, BU corrected errant scientific research, which is good.  By the way, her use of biased and emotive language such as "hyped" in her statement above and "fantasy world of pro-oil and gas operatives" earlier in the article is known in logic as the Question-Begging Epithet, and is a logical fallacy.

After criticizing Range Resources for "bull[ing] EPA" (another Question-Begging Epithet fallacy) by legally protesting EPA's "scientifically baseless action" (hey, maybe it IS scientifically baseless, did she check?), Ms Konola discusses a drilling bill proposed by our Representative Ray Scott.  The bill, HB-1122, is silent on hydraulic fracturing.  This is another non-sequitur

I could go on, but it's late. 

Ms Konola and other progressives are not alone in their use of logical fallacies, flawed reasoning, misrepresentation, and writing errors.  We all make these and similar errors.  I encourage all people, especially writers, to think clearly and write carefully.  Present a clear thesis (is it climate change? fracturing pollutes? drilling is bad? Representative Scott is greedy?  No one can determine Ms. Konola's thesis from her article).  Then support your thesis with undistorted facts and logic that is free of fallacies.   This is hard work, but is a requirement for intelligent discussion, which is vital to the preservation of our republic.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely

Edward Baltzer

Certified Hazardous Materials Manager

Certified Professional Geologist

Homework:

Free Press Article

Avant Environmental Services Website

Baltzer's Linkedin Page

Walsh website

Good Story About Scott's Proposed Bill