Trump Surrogate To Big Oil: Just Kidding, He Loves Fracking!

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.

The Denver Post reports from the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit underway now at the Colorado Convention Center:

Donald Trump’s top energy adviser on Tuesday sought to play down the Republican presidential candidate’s recent comments in Colorado that he could support local efforts to ban hydraulic fracturing, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Harold Hamm, chief executive of Continental Resources Inc., said in an interview with the Journal that Trump did not fully understand the question when he was asked about local control over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by a reporter at 9News. He said Trump was a strong supporter of the industry.

“Donald Trump did not understand that concept at the time in my opinion,” Hamm said in an interview at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference. “He does now.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump raised eyebrows in his interview with 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman at the end of July, in which Trump asserted that voters should “have a say” in decisions about oil and gas development–noting (correctly, we might add) that “there are some areas maybe that don’t want to have fracking.” Now, it’s entirely possible that Trump said this completely ignorant of the battle over fracking in Colorado, in particular the environmentalist position that local communities should have more control over oil and gas drilling within their boundaries than they do now.

In short, Trump was siding with the dreaded “enviros” and he didn’t even know it.

But not to worry, as the Post continues:

Hamm said he hasn’t spoken to Trump about the comments, but emphasized that he is confident the GOP nominee does not support local bans on fracking. A request for comment to the Trump campaign by the Journal was not immediately returned Tuesday…

Hamm said Trump got caught up in the term “local control.”

“I think he was pulled into that with the term local control, which is a magnet for Republican thoughts,” Hamm said. [Pols emphasis]

Why, yes it is! Modern conservatives in fact view the abstract concept of “local control” as an article of faith, on a broad range of issues from education policy to civil rights laws. “Local control” has been a battle cry for decades for Republicans against remote, aloof federal (or state as the case may be) governments that “don’t understand” the interests of the local community they’re interfering with.

But as we know in Colorado, not for oil and gas! Trump obviously wasn’t aware that in Colorado, the conventional wisdom regarding “local control” has been turned on its head. In Colorado, “local control” is the slogan of neighborhood activists who persuaded cities along the Northern Front Range to pass moratoria and bans on fracking within their boundaries. They contend their hand was forced by a state oil and gas authority that proved ineffective at protecting their communities. On the other hand, it’s the oil and gas industry who favors statewide “one size fits all” policymaking on oil and gas–not least because they’ve got a highly accommodating partner in the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

For as often as Trump is accused of abandoning “conservative values” so as to not be constrained by them on the campaign trail, in this case, Trump was actually defaulting to a conservative position when asked about fracking.

Unfortunately, in Colorado “conservative values” come second to what’s good for the oil and gas industry.

Air Quality is Being Harmed by Oil And Gas Development

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sometimes it seems that a headline should be too obvious to write, a title too trite and true. The “Dog Bites Man” story.

But there it is. And here we are–policy-wise–debating as if it is actually a question whether Colorado’s air quality is harmed by industrial development known to spew methane and volatile compounds.

Such is the power of money and slick PR. And it doesn’t just buy opinion and confound the public, it seems to buy congressmen too.

Congressman Scott Tipton represents Colorado’s Third Congressional District, home to America’s largest concentration of methane pollution from oil and gas development.

Earlier this month a new NASA study put to rest any doubt that America’s largest cloud of methane pollution was tied directly to oil and gas development in the San Juan Basin, the Durango Herald is reporting.

A two-year study released by NASA on Monday confirmed suspicions that energy extraction practices are largely responsible for the methane hot spot in the Four Corners.

“The argument that most of the emissions are from natural seeps, definitely, we can put that to rest,” said Christian Frankenberg, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Most of the plumes we observed were directly related to industrial facilities.”

Shortly after the study was made public, a coalition of local and regional oil and gas associations in Colorado and New Mexico decried NASA’s findings, calling it limited in scope.

“They did not fly the entire outcrop,” Christi Zeller, executive director of the La Plata County Energy Council, said of the area where methane naturally escapes from the Earth’s surface. “We disagree with it (NASA’s study) wholeheartedly. We know and believe the largest sources are that outcrop.”

And this past Tuesday the state health department issued a pollution alert for the Front Range according to the Denver Post:

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Did Frackers Harass Anti-Fracking Petitioners?

Allegedly paid "protesters" disrupting petition gathering.

Allegedly paid “protesters” disrupting petition gathering last month.

Yesterday, supporters of two ballot measures aimed at regulating oil and gas drilling near existing residential and other development–one laying out rights of local communities to regulate oil and gas drilling within their boundaries, and another mandating large setbacks between existing structures and new oil and gas development–delivered their petitions to qualify for tis November’s ballot. Proponents reportedly were still gathering signatures right up to the deadline yesterday afternoon, and the Secretary of State now has 30 days to certify the petitions.

A press release from Yes For Health and Safety Over Fracking posted last week to their website asserts that petitioners gathering signatures for Initiatives 75 and 78 were repeatedly harassed by a well-organized campaign of…”public education?” Intimidation? It depends on who you ask:

In at least ten separate incidents in several Colorado cities (Windsor, Greeley, Steamboat Springs, Loveland, Thornton, Denver and Boulder), local volunteers and paid circulators collecting signatures to safeguard their communities have reported being followed, yelled at, and physically threatened by unidentified people repeating oil and gas industry talking points. These confrontations come at the same time that industry front groups like CRED and Protect Colorado have greatly expanded an advertising campaign aimed at defeating citizen initiatives to protect the rights, health, and safety of Colorado communities.

In one case, an aggressive man lectured people who had already signed a petition, forcing them to cross their names out. In another, canvassers were followed, yelled at, and threatened throughout the day by a man in a vehicle. There have been social media threats of violence, demeaning language used in public places, and, in one case, an 84-year old canvasser was followed, repeatedly called “crazy,” and physically taunted while trying to walk away. Such acts of intimidation represent a violation of Coloradans’ civil and constitutional rights…

In addition to being an effort to stifle the democratic process, threats of violence and the safety of volunteers must be taken very seriously. Volunteers are working tirelessly to defend the rights of Coloradans through democratic institutions. They are now being made to fear for their safety by paid, untrained, and aggressive actors. Those engaging in legal, democratic signature gathering must be protected and kept safe as they carry out their duties. Threats must be taken seriously by law enforcement.

Tricia Olson, Executive Director of Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking, said: “I wish it were a surprise that oil and gas is using organized harassment of people collecting signatures for our ballot initiatives, but it isn’t. In addition to misleading ads and promotions, we now have assaults on people and our democratic process. Bullies shouldn’t decide our future. Instead, let the people of Colorado decide if they want industrial drilling next door to their homes and neighborhoods.”

The Loveland Reporter-Herald reported on incidents alleged to have occurred in northern Colorado:

Petitioners are trained to avoid engaging in arguments with people while they are working to gather signatures, Henricks said, so he tried telling the man he did not want to try and convince him to sign. The man continued insisting they discuss the issue, calling Henricks “crazy” and “stupid” for advocating for the initiatives, getting within a foot of Henricks and pointing a finger at his chest, according to Henricks.

“I didn’t want to just walk away and pretend he wasn’t there,” Henricks said.

His partner at the event went in to the market to get the manager for help, who them told the man he had to stop yelling or the police would be called…

Incidents of petitioners being harassed or feeling bullied or threatened have been reported in cities across Colorado, including Loveland, according to a news press release from Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking. All of the alleged incidents have involved people gathering signatures for voter initiatives 75 and 78.

As the Greeley Tribune reports, tensions persisted even as proponents of the measures turned in their signatures:

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Conservation Colorado Backs Local Control Ballot Measure

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

A press release from Conservation Colorado yesterday throws support behind Initiative 75, the statewide ballot measure campaign that would enshrine rights of local communities to better control oil and gas development within their boundaries:

Conservation Colorado today endorsed Initiative #75, the ballot measure entitled “Local Government Authority to Regulate Oil and Gas Development.”

Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith released the following statement:

We have long believed that local governments should have a say in decisions directly affecting their communities, including if, when, and how drilling occurs within their borders. We made our position clear when we fought for this commonsense policy during our work with the governor’s oil and gas task force, our involvement with the Fort Collins Supreme Court case, and our advocacy for similar bills in multiple legislative sessions. Since little progress has been made in these arenas, we believe there is tremendous merit in putting this measure on the ballot and letting the voters decide.

As oil and gas development creeps closer to homes and schools, it’s critical that we empower local governments to better balance energy development with public health and safety. We are proud to lend our support and resources to this effort.

Initiative 75 is a direct response to court rulings invalidating local moratoria and bans passed by a number of northern Front Range cities in recent years. Another measure that would mandate a large setback between oil and gas and other development is also headed for the November ballot, but there is a growing consensus that the 2,500 foot requirement in that initiative is too large–a de facto ban on development of oil and gas in most of the state. The fact is, there is little political appetite for a wholesale ban on oil and gas development in Colorado, and large inflexible setbacks run counter to the “local control” message that has proven successful in cities that passed their own moratoria and bans.

But giving local governments back the power they lost in court after trying to protect themselves?

This measure has a very good shot at passing.

Trump Supporter Who Poisoned Groundwater Places Trump Billboards on I76

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The plains roll on for hundreds of miles  under blank blue skies near Roggen, Colorado. Sage, scrub grass, fracking tanks, and a few cattle dot the vast landscape.  Roggen itself is a ghost of its former prosperity – the town consists of a grain elevator, a telephone co-op,  two churches, a convenience store, and a post office.

Yet, Roggen boasts two new roadside attractions: gigantic “Trump for President” billboards facing west and east, placed to catch the eyes of all travelers along I76.

Trump billboard on Cervi’s land near Roggen, CO

I wanted to find out who felt strongly enough about Mr. Trump’s candidacy to build, paint, and place these monumental political advertisements in this desolate area. I investigated, and found a family saga rooted in the heyday of Colorado political journalism, in the gas and oil boom years, including rodeo circuit stardom and family tragedy, and the criminal indictment and sentencing of the landowner, Mr. Mike Cervi, for violating the Safe Water Act by injecting petroleum wastes into the High Plains / Ogalalla Aquifer from 2001 – 2002.

Cervi’s Journal – the founding Cervi business

Eugene Cervi produced and edited Cervi’s Rocky Mountain Business Journal in Denver from 1954 until his death in 1970.   Cervi’s Journal later became the Denver Business Journal. “Gene” and his daughter, editor Cle Symons Cervi, were both inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame.   Gene Cervi was twice Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, although he was critical of JFK. Later in his career, the “Journal” became more conservative and more pro-business in viewpoint.

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Bernie Sanders to Supporters: Run for Office, Keep Progressive Agenda Alive

On June 16, 2016, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders  spoke to  his supporters for 25 minutes. Since I have been and am a supporter, I signed up, and took notes on the speech, the important points of which are summarized below. A video link is also included at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot of Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders speech to supporters, screenshot 6/16/16

Most of Bernie’s speech was a list of what progressive Democrats want and fought for, what we want our country to be and to do. As such, there are few surprises in the list.These are not “demands”, as we used to say in the 70s. These are the prerequisites for social and economic justice.

I didn’t expect, but was delighted by, Bernie’s call for his supporters to run for local political office: school boards, county commissioners, entry-level offices, however we can get our feet in the door. I applaud this and agree strongly. That is what it will take for real change. From the bottom up -that’s how change happens. As expected, Sanders called for the party to unify to defeat Donald Trump. He has pledged to support this effort, and will do so.

UPDATE: 6700 people responded to Bernie’s call for public service. Per Berniesanders.com, “The 6,685 supporters who expressed interest in running cover 51 percent of state house districts, 69 percent of state senate districts and every congressional district in the country.”

He called for his 1900 delegates to come in to the convention to create the most progressive platform in Democratic history, and to act on it. He called for a 50 state strategy – decrying the lack of support for Democratic candidates,  allowing right wingers to take red state governments unopposed.

He called for the Democratic National Committee to open its doors, welcome young people and working people. He called for the DNC to embrace a $15 / hour wage. He called for a party which has “the guts” to take on the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries. He called for stopping the  Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) –  it should not come to a vote during a lame duck session of Congress, he said. These are positions which sharply differentiate his policies from those of Hillary Clinton.

What Bernie did not say was more surprising:

  • He did not “concede” defeat in the primary election, although that was implied.
  • He did not endorse Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, although he emphasized that they have much more in common than not.
  • He included very little on foreign policy – only in points 29 and 30 below did he allude to the Department of Defense and wars abroad, and only to emphasize cutting waste in the DoD, and not to spend young people’s lives in unnecessary wars. This was primarily a domestic policy speech.
  • He didn’t talk about the drug war or marijuana legalization, although he criticized the prison industry and school-to-prison pipeline in point 27.
  • He did not call for an end to superdelegates, lobbyist contributions to the DNC. He did not say what his negotiations with rules committee would be. He did not mention today’s big news that unpopular chairwomanDebbie Wasserman Schultz is stepping aside as party chair to allow Brandon Davis to take over operations.
  • He did not mention the numerous allegations of fraud and voter suppression in the Democratic primary.

 

Here’s what the man did say:
1.    The revolution continues – like every movement for social change, civil rights, etc.
2.    In every state, we won the overwhelming majority of those under 45.
3.    We are mainstream, not a fringe movement.  Numbers. 12 million votes, 22 states, Stats on contributions, 75 million phone calls, 5 million doors, 740,000 meetings, etc. Showed that we could run a national campaign without big money contributions. Bulk of contributions came from low income and working people.
4.    In every state, we took on the entire political establishment. Senators, Reps, Governors, elected officials.
5.   6:35  This campaign has never been about any single candidate .
6.    It’s about ending income inequality. It’s about ending corrupt campaign finance by corporations. Creating an economy for all of us, not just the 1%.
7.    Ending status quo: Native American reservation low life expectancy, lower than 3rd world countries. Millions of Americans dying at a younger age than their parents: suicide, drugs, alcohol, highest rate of childhood poverty of any industrialized country on earth. Ending the disgrace, undocumented people exploited on their jobs.
8.    Tens of thousands of Americans dying every year from preventable diseases, because lack health insurance, high deductibles, costly drugs.
9.    Young single mom in Nevada in tears, asking on $10/hr, How can we make it ? Millions like her.
10.    Mom in Flint, Mich. Excessive lead in water, stunted intellectual development of her child. Thousands of CA homes can’t drink tap water.
11.    Homelessness is increasing.  veterans in streets – lack of affordable housing.
12.    Corporations avoid paying a nickel in Federal taxes, stash in tax havens.
13.    6:40 Priority this year is defeating Donald Trump. Makes bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign.  Trump wants to give hundreds of B of $ in tax breaks to very rich, is a climate change denier.
14.    Major political task: Defeat Trump, badly. My role in that process will begin soon. But can’t be our only goal. Must continue grassroots  movement.
15.    Must take our energy in to the Dem convention in Philly with >1900 delegates. I met with Sec. Clinton.
16.    No secret HRC and I have strong disagreements, on important issues but agree on others.
17.    I will make sure that your voices are heard. Democrats will pass the most progressive platform in its history and that we actually fight for that agenda.
18.    I look forward to working with Sec. Clinton to form aparty that has the guts to take on the Pharma, Fossil Fuel industries, others.
19.    Dem party must support raising Fed. minimum wage to $15 / hr.  women .79 / vs men $1. Women must have right to control own bodies. Protect right to gay marriage.
20.    As Orlando has made clear, Ban sale and distribution of assault weapons, gun show loophole, and have instant background checks.
21.    Stop the TPP, must not come to the floor in a lame duck session.
22.    Expand Social security, not cut it.
23.    Greed, recklessness of Wall st must end. Pass a modern Glass Steagal. No more “too big to fail”.
24.    Aggressively combat climate change, impose a tax on carbon. Must protect our water supply by banning fracking.
25.    To compete effectively globally, Make public colleges tuition free reduce student debt.
26.    Join rest of industrialized world – Health care a right, not a privilege
27.    Stop incarcerating more people than any other country – Rein in prison industry, criminal justice reform.
28.    Comprehensive immigration reform for 11 M undocumented people.
29.    Cut waste in every department including Department of Defense.
30.    Can’t keep throwing young people into perpetual unnecessary wars.
31.    6:47 Revolution means more than Fight for our ideals, defeat D Trump. At every level continue to fight for our nation to be just. Current DNC leadership has turned its back on dozens of states, like red states, allowed right wing to run unopposed, we need a 50 state strategy. Must provide resources to ignored and poor states.
32.    Leadership, DNC must open its doors, welcome working people and young people. That is the energy we need to transform the Democratic party and our country. Cold hard fact. Since 2009, some 900 legislative seats have been lost to Republicans.  We must Start engaging at local and state level in unprecedented way.
33.    Young people deeply concerned about country and community. Start running for office! School boards, commissioners, whatever! Be prepared to engage at that level.
34.    6:50 With energy and enthusiasm our campaign has shown, we can win significant numbers of offices at down ticket level. We need new blood. You are that new blood.
35.    Government is not the enemy.(what Republicans say). I disagree. Government must protect us and our planet. But we need to attract dedicated people from all walks of life to run for office.
36.    Tens of thousands of new Dr.s, medical personnel, where people lack care.
37.    We need child care workers, teachers.
38.    We need scientists, engineers, entrepeneurs to work for renewables, efficient and cost effective as possible. Construction.
39.    Business people who respect employees and environment.
40.    Conclude: we have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America. My hope is that when historians look back and find when we began reversing the trend towards oligarchy. They see that the political revolution began in 2016. 6:53. Dark screen.

Version 1 of this diary posted at caucus99percent.com

Video available here and here

Full transcript of Sanders’ speech from Burlington Free Press

To recruit candidates, go to berniesanders.com/win

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 15)

MoreSmarterLogo-SunscreenDon’t forget the sunscreen — it’s going to be pretty damn warm for the next couple of days. 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). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Two weeks from today, the Colorado Primary Election will finally be behind us. If you haven’t yet received a mail ballot, check your registration or address status ASAP. Go to JustVoteColorado.org for more information.

 

► Aurora Democrat Eric Nelson — or some guy who says his name is Eric Nelson — continues to receive calls to drop out of the Democratic Primary in HD-42 after it was revealed by several news outlets that Nelson is an evil genius con artist whose resume is largely fictional. Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman broke the original story first, and followed up yesterday with an extensive update detailing Nelson’s bizarre attempts to falsify college diplomas in a failed effort to cast doubt on Luning’s reporting.

Marshall Zelinger of Denver7 also has more on this story, while the Aurora Sentinel is following discussions of the Aurora School Board, of which Nelson is a member.

 

► You are probably aware that Donald Trump has clinched the Republican nomination for President, but you may not be aware of how little Trump has been able to move forward in the 43 days since taking hold of the nomination. From “The Fix”:

Today, Trump is no closer to uniting the Republican party or pivoting to the general election than he was six weeks ago. And that is, at minimum, a massive waste of a critical time period and, at worst, a mistake that will could severely jeopardize his chances of winning the White House in November.

Trump’s time as the near-certain Republican nominee have been dominated by self-inflicted wounds — the most gaping of which is his suggestion that a federal judge overseeing a case involving Trump University was biased and should recuse himself due to the fact that he is of Mexican heritage. Trump doubled down on that comment, then tripled down on it  — even amid widespread outrage among Republicans already concerned that their nominee was dabbling (at least) in race-baiting.  Eventually,Trump released a statement insisting his comments about Gonzalo Curiel had been “misconstrued.” He did not apologize for making the comment…

…Yes, modern campaigns last forever. But, they are almost always defined by a small group of critical moments that change the trajectory of races.  The last six weeks was a major moment. Trump wasted it.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Millions in U.S. at Elevated Health Risk from Oil and Gas

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Over twelve million Americans are at increased risk of cancer and other adverse health impacts from oil and gas development according to a new report that reviews current peer-reviewed science and health studies, and a new mapping tool that allows potentially impacted residents to gauge threat risk.

Using the latest peer-reviewed research into the health impacts attributed to oil and gas air pollution, the map conservatively draws a ½ mile health threat radius around each facility. Within that total area are: 12.4 million people; 11,543 schools and 639 medical facilities; and 184,578 square miles, an area larger than California.

Oil and gas development in Weld County sited between a school and subdivision.

The interactive Oil and Gas Threat Map was developed by Earthworks, which partnered with the Clean Air Task Force in developing the study and tools. CATF simultaneously issued a report: Fossil Fumes.

The report finds that: 238 counties in 21 states face a cancer risk that exceeds EPA’s one-in-a-million threshold level of concern; Combined, these counties have a population of over 9 million people and are mainly located in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Of these counties, 43 face a cancer risk that exceeds one in 250,000, and two counties in West Texas (Gaines and Yoakum) face a cancer risk that exceeds one in 100,000; 32 counties, primarily in Texas and West Virginia, also face a respiratory health risk from toxic air emissions that exceeds EPA’s level of concern (with a hazard index greater than one).

The report comes out as petitions are in the field regarding several ballot measures that would restrict where and how oil and gas development can occur in Colorado. It also comes on the heels of the Colorado released findings from its own air quality study in Garfield County. That study which looked at emissions during well drilling and completion of new wells found the highest level of air pollutants, including known carcinogens, during the “flowback” stage of well completion.

Notably, the team observed higher rates of emission of many volatile organic compounds and methane during flowback operations than during drilling or hydraulic fracturing. Flowback is last in the chain of well completion events, and refers to water and fracking fluids flowing up from the ground after injection of water and chemicals into the well, the process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has been targeted for emission reductions by the state of Colorado and the federal government, was the most abundant compound in measured emissions, with median emissions of 2.0, 2.8, and 40 grams per second (g/s) for drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and flowback activities, respectively. Other emitted VOCs of interest and their overall median emission rates included ethane (median emission rate of 0.31 g/s), propane (0.15 g/s) and other short-chain hydrocarbons that are important constituents of natural gas. They also looked at air toxics such as benzene (0.04 g/s) and toluene (0.27 g/s). Wide ranges of emissions were observed both across activity types and within a given activity.

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Ken Buck Tweets False Choice: Security vs. Environment

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Representative Ken Buck (CD4) tweeted yesterday that  his amendment helps soldiers “focus on immediate national security needs, not climate change”.  However, the Department of Defense’s own analysis says that climate change is a major threat to stability worldwide, and should be included in all planning.

Ken Buck’s tweet on June 14, 2016:

Ken Buck's tweet

That’s Buck, standing with the military against evil Greenies.

And he’s using Bernie Sanders/ Elizabeth Warren language about “crony capitalism” just to confuse folks:

So what’s got Mr. Buck going all “Fight the Power” here? Rep. Buck doesn’t like the Department of Defense spending on renewable energy sources to power its facilities.

For example, Fort Drum, New York has a military base running 100%  on biomass.  The public might applaud this energy self-sufficiency – remember all that rhetoric about not being “addicted to oil”?  But Buck’s standing strong against it. Ken Buck’s amendment would have prevented using renewable energy on this project.

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PUC Hearings Slated on Xcel’s Solar-Killing Proposals

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Thursday, June 9, in Denver, and on June 16 in Grand Junction, Colorado’s Public Utility Commission will hear public comment from 4-6 p.m.about Xcel Energy’s new rate proposal.

solar panels in colorado

Solar Panels in Colorado -photo courtesy of the Sierra Club of Colorado.

The Sierra Club of Colorado is inviting public comment about the proposals, and asking supporters to meet early (at 3:15  pm) for a press event on the west steps of the Capitol, then walk with signs to 1560 Broadway to picket and to speak at the hearing. Sierra Club’s invitation reads:

Xcel’s new proposal called “our energy future” is moving in the wrong direction. It adds fees that negatively impact our families and communities – whether they have solar or not – and places corporate profit over the public interest.

Xcel tried unsuccessfully to drive solar competition out of Colorado from 2013-2015 by proposing an end to Net Metering. After a long consideration process and multiple hearings Colorado sent the signal to continue with net metering.

The Sierra Club is referring to Xcel’s second proposal:

Establishing a “grid charge” to recover distribution system costs for residential and commercial customers. The company is proposing to assess graduated charges that increase with a customer’s average use over their past 12 billing periods.

This proposal would charge solar customers a “grid charge” to penalize them for having the gall to install solar panels, which feed energy back into the electrical grid. They would like solar customers to pay extra for the privilege of generating their own power.

Xcel’s “Solar Connect” program is the same program which was rejected by the PUC in 2014. In 2014, Solar Industry called the proposal “Sleight of billing,” in which customers would have been billed for more solar power than was actually produced. Xcel’s own spin on the program somehow neglects to mention this aspect.

What happens when a utility gets to charge solar customers extra for installing solar:

The Pueblo Paws4Life no-kill animal shelter found out when they tried to be a Leeds Green building, and installed 234 solar panels on their roof.  Black Hills Energy(BHE) had a dual rate structure for solar installations, with some sneaky fine print in the contract. The shelter was a commercial installation, and so had to pay a “demand fee” to BHE.

Carol Warner, President of Paws4life, recounted what happened when the “demand fee” kicked in. The shelter’s utility bills rocketed to $12,000 per month, even though they were generating most of it from their own solar panels. The “demand fee” charges commercial consumers a rate consistent with their highest peak use. Paws4Life began to struggle just to keep the doors open.

BHE  has been no friend to solar in the Pueblo area, and many companies are going out of business.  BHE also has some of the highest utility rates in Colorado, and a bad reputation for price – gouging customers.

Rural Electric Associations across the state often have a confusing dual rate structure for solar, leading rural customers to erroneously believe that “solar costs more”. They do this because the PUC allows them to get away with it.

Communities across Colorado are letting the PUC know that they support renewable energy –  with mixed results:

Solar advocates in Weld County successfully defeated a proposed ordinance which would have prohibited  solar installations on agricultural land. (Fracking was still allowed on ag land, though). This happened after massive community protest of the BCCC’s original solar-killing proposal.

The PUC is also considering the city of Boulder’s planned  intervention in Xcel’s wind farm proposal. Boulder is trying to municipalize its electrical utilities; so the planned wind facility would be one they would try to purchase, if successful.

Governor Hickenlooper appointed a GOP lawmaker with ties to ALEC to the PUC. There was massive public protest, and Vaad was never confirmed by the Colorado legislature. Hick reappointed Vaad anyway.

Show your support of renewable energy. Let the Public Utility Commission know that we will not allow Xcel Energy to kill the solar energy industry in Colorado.

For more information, contact the sponsors of the press event and public input at the PUC hearing:

Alliance for Solar Choice, which advocates for rooftop distributed solar across the country

And Sierra Club  of Colorado.

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Cities on Fracking

UPDATE #2: Rep. Jared Polis sounds like he’s ready to fight:

I am extremely disappointed with the bad decision today to overturn the will of the voters in Longmont and Fort Collins. It’s a blow to democracy and local control,” said Polis.  

“While at least the courts found today that local government land use authority and regulations can coexist with state regulations, the communities being hurt by unregulated fracking are looking to enact stronger measures to protect homeowners, and this case doesn’t help.

Now that the law has been interpreted, it’s up to the state legislature or the people of Colorado to act to protect our neighborhoods and homes. I look forward to continuing to help advocates in these efforts to protect our communities.”

—–

UPDATE: Rep. Mike Foote (D) remains hopeful despite the setback of today’s ruling:

“I’m disappointed that the people of Longmont and Fort Collins will be unable to implement measures that they deemed appropriate to address oil and gas development within their borders,” said Rep. Foote, D-Lafayette, whose district includes part of Longmont. “But a careful reading of the rulings shows that these are actually very narrow opinions. Local governments’ land use authority was reaffirmed, including for oil and gas development.”

Rep. Foote also noted that the court, in the Longmont ruling, did not dispute what it described as “the propriety of local land use ordinances that relate to oil and gas development.”

“Cities and counties may need to modify their approach somewhat,” Rep. Foote said, “but it’s clear that the Court has reaffirmed that local governments do have a seat at the table when it comes to oil and gas development.”

—–

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

KDVR FOX 31 reporting, a big ruling today that sets the stage for the next battle over oil and gas development along Colorado’s rapidly urbanizing Front Range:

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that individual cities cannot slow or ban fracking near residents because it’s a matter of state law.

In 2012, Longmont voters voted to ban fracking and in 2013, Fort Collins voters approved a five-year moratorium. The oil and gas industry sued both cities in 2013, and won rulings against Fort Collins and Longmont in summer 2014…

In its Monday ruling, the court said local cities’ attempts to stop fracking is “invalid and unenforceable.”

Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith responds to today’s ruling in a statement:

We’re still evaluating the specifics of these decisions, and the Fort Collins decision appears to be particularly narrow. But, at first glance, they are disappointing.

We believe that good policy-making happens from the ground up and that local communities are best-suited to make decisions about what happens with oil and gas drilling within their borders. Local governments should have the ability to call a timeout on drilling in order to better understand its impacts and ensure safety and public health, just as they are allowed to do with other industries.

We will continue to stand with the communities that are being dramatically impacted by oil and gas drilling. Their concerns have not gone away with today’s rulings.

These decisions also show that the oil and gas industry’s threats of litigation are a hammer that the industry has no qualms about wielding against local governments if they decide to engage in land use planning. In order to combat this hammer, local governments must be empowered with better tools to protect their citizens from heavy industrial drilling.

There’s no question this is a setback for the local communities who sought better control over land use within their boundaries, but the fact is it was not an unexpected ruling. Colorado’s split-estate management of surface and subsurface development rights, a holdover from a era when Colorado was a mineral extraction hinterland and not a burgeoning urban population center, is simply not written to balance the needs and rights of today’s urban populations vs. mineral rights owners.

These local communities who fought back for a better deal knew they were up against long odds under current law. As much as anything, these moves were intended to provoke a statewide discussion on how to better protect neighborhoods, businesses, and schools from a heavy industry with a unique right to run roughshod over local land use authority. The response from the industry, Republican politicians, and yes, many Democrats including pro-energy Gov. John Hickenlooper, has ranged from denial to outright contempt for the concerns of opponents of “fracking” in residential areas. Rather than working toward a solution that acknowledges the problem, supporters of the industry in both parties have brushed off concerns–often offensively–and hid behind the legal status quo.

After today’s ruling, the battle shifts back to the ballot box. We’ll have to wait until August to see what energy ballot measures we’ll be voting on this November, but bigger setbacks between energy development and surface populations and a constitutional statement clarifying local control rights are major possibilities. Energy industry surrogates prefer to steer this debate into extremes like a total ban on “fracking” statewide, from which they can make more effective counterarguments, but more realistic measures may well prove much more popular. If funders like Tom Steyer and Jared Polis decide that 2016 is the year to throw down, today’s ruling against Front Range cities could become the battle cry that changes everything.

Because it’s evident now that something has to change.

Who is Scott Tipton working for? Not you

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This weekend, a devastating report in the Denver Post confirmed something many in western Colorado already knew: Rep. Scott Tipton is the tool of an oil and gas company that has given his campaign tens of thousands of dollars. Tipton takes his orders from the energy industry–not the citizens he represents in Congress.

Tell Scott Tipton to return SG Interests’ money–and stop letting them write his bills.

The Denver Post reported this weekend that Rep. Scott Tipton introduced legislation regarding a controversial energy development issue in western Colorado which “was written largely by an energy company that is also Tipton’s largest campaign contributor.” [1] The bill leaves out any plan for long-term conservation in the Thompson Divide area. The Post reports that Rep. Tipton admits to taking language for the legislation “word-for-word” from lawyers for the energy company that owns mineral rights in the Thompson Divide.

And it’s the same energy company, SG Interests, that has given almost $40,000 to Rep. Tipton’s campaign. Ordinary citizens in Tipton’s district can’t compete with the industry’s lavish support for Tipton, and the results are obvious. Western Colorado’s representative in Congress answers to the highest bidder.

Send a message to Tipton now: tell him to return SG Interests’ money, and stop letting the oil and gas industry write “his” legislation. We’ll make sure Tipton gets the message.

Thanks for standing up for western Colorado when it matters most.

Tax Day, Tipton, and the Tired Rhetoric of an Entitled Industry

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Two things come with certainty we are told, and one of those comes with an annual deadline: Tax Day.  And without getting into the many issues of public spending, and tax policy, and philosophies of government–there is still a thread that connects them all: fairness. Who pays what for public resources, public benefit, public good.

“Only little people pay taxes.” Leona Helmsley ~ This year Tax Day is April 18.

So here is something to think about as you dig around for that last receipt hoping to save another $50 on your 1040.

Last year alone oil and gas companies, already profiting off developing resources from public lands, wasted enough methane gas that it could have put another $50 million or more into the U.S. Treasury, according to a report prepared by the Western Values Project.

That’s money that American taxpayers have to make up, even though the resources being wasted already belong to us.

So not only are we robbed of the royalty that gets vented and flared along with the gas, we lose a valuable energy resource too. The Durango Herald (covering a public  hearing held in nearby Farmington, New Mexico) reports:

“Oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands are now wasting more than $330 million worth of natural gas nationwide,” Salazar said. “And in New Mexico, that’s $100 million a year, each year, through the wasteful practice of venting, flaring and leaking. In fact, New Mexico is No. 1 in the country for the amount of natural gas being lost.”

Oil and gas executives think paying Americans for the waste of their public resources could be “crippling.”

Which brings us to another thing to consider this Tax Day. The Bureau of Land Management, which administers most of the public’s onshore minerals, is finalizing an updated rule to stop this disregard shown by oil and gas companies for our energy resources and for the American taxpayer.

Under the proposed new rule more money could be returned to the U.S. Treasury, less of America’s energy resources would be wasted needlessly, and methane emissions would be cut significantly, the Herald reports.

BLM officials estimated the tougher regulations would reduce methane emissions – a gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide – about 169,000 tons per year, and decrease volatile organic compound releases by 410,000 tons per year.

“The announcement … is consistent with the Obama Administration’s goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2015,” the Department of Interior said in a Jan. 22 statement.

The BLM rulemaking is a necessary and prudent update to regulations that predate the shale boom and the widespread deployment of fracking and horizontal drilling, practices that can release large amounts of methane.

(more…)

Hickenlooper: Between a Frack and a Hard Place

John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the perennial battle over tighter regulation of the oil and gas industry in Colorado heats up again this election year, three news stories from the weekend help illustrate the trouble Gov. John Hickenlooper finds himself trying to thread the needle between longtime support for the industry versus the substantial segment of Hickenlooper’s Democratic base increasingly concerned about the environmental and public health effects of drilling near population centers. Over the weekend, as the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Gary Harmon reports, Gov. Hickenlooper took fire for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about a pipeline to export natural gas overseas from Colorado’s Piceance Basin:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has sat on the sidelines as western Colorado officials have tried to marshal support for an appeal of a natural gas pipeline out of the Piceance Basin, state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said Saturday.

Hickenlooper needs to persuade Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a fellow Democrat, to support the pipeline, Scott said during Club 20’s spring meeting on Saturday at Two Rivers Convention Center.

The proposed Pacific Connector pipeline would carry natural gas collected in northwest Colorado to Jordan Cove on Coos Bay in Oregon and then to markets on the Pacific Rim…

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Salazar is giving voice to Democrats disaffected by the Hickenlooper administration’s perceived bias toward energy producers. The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland:

The Adams County representative announced via Facebook that he intended to ask for an amendment to hire more inspectors to investigate oil and gas operations.

He could have chosen thousands of areas to cover the $370,000 cost. But he went directly after Hickenlooper’s budget.

“I think the Governor has swallowed too much of the fracking fluid Kool Aid,” Salazar wrote. “I am prepared to send a message to the Governor that his comments are ill-founded and we are tired of his attempts to minimize what Coloradans are feeling about oil and gas operations.”

Rep. Salazar’s budget amendment to fund more oil and gas inspectors out of the Governor’s budget wasn’t successful, but definitely was not received positively on the First Floor of the Capitol.

At the same time, Hickenlooper hasn’t done much to prove Joe Salazar wrong: a paywalled story in the Colorado Statesman today has Hickenlooper defending the status quo drilling regulations alongside Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute.

As we have discussed in this space for the nearly six years John Hickenlooper has been in office, the split within the Democratic coalition over oil and gas drilling is probably their largest point of division on any contemporary issue. As concerns nationally about the effects of drilling nearer to homes and schools have grown, the reaction from pro-energy Democrats to their constituents has been seriously deficient to the point of outright contempt for these concerns. At the same time, Hickenlooper can point to events during his administration, like tighter rules and continued work toward clean power goals, as evidence he is indeed responsive on the issue.

The entrenched influence of the energy industry among Colorado Democrats of course predates Hickenlooper’s administration, and will still be there after Hickenlooper has moved on to bigger things–possibly as soon as this coming December. Looking ahead, the changing economics of the industry combined with greater public awareness do portend a shift: toward greater industry accountability, and support for surface communities over subsurface mineral rights holders.

Being on the right side of that shift will be good politics for people like Joe Salazar.

Let’s Get Cracking, Fracking

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Oil and gas drilling near a high school in Greeley, Colorado, in 2015.

It looks like it’s time to get all fracked up for 2016. From the Denver Post:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has “failed” to protect homeowners and communities from the impacts of drilling, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis said late Tuesday, leaving the door open to throwing his support behind another citizen-initiated ballot measure this fall.

“I think that setbacks and giving communities a legitimate say on what kind of industrial activity is appropriate in backyards and schoolyards are reasonable solutions that ought to be considered,” Polis said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that all stakeholders can coalesce around a thoughtful plan.”

The leader of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, who has leveled his own criticism of the  new COGCC rules approved Monday, on Wednesday called Polis’ characterization “unfair.”

“To say that communities are not protected is not a fair statement,” COGA CEO Dan Haley said. “Local governments have a strong voice in this process, and the task force recommendations were about giving them an even greater role in oil and gas development.”

If communities really were being protected, we probably wouldn’t be arguing about this, now would we?

All of the COGCC meetings in the world aren’t going to change the fundamental issue here: NOBODY wants to live near an active oil or gas drilling operation. The oil and gas industry can continue to claim that it will bring 10 gajillion jobs to Colorado if only we would let them do what they want, but that’s never going to trump the health and safety concerns of Colorado residents.

The industry promises that it will fight any potential ballot measures in 2016 that might weaken its potential profits, but we continue to have a hard time believing that most Colorado voters would actually oppose efforts to move drilling sites further from residential areas, parks, and schools. Yes, we know that the oil and gas industry will spend millions trying to defeat any potential regulations, but in a Presidential election year, all of those TV ads can easily get lost in the shuffle.