Gardner Gets Weasely On Crude Oil Exports

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

A news hit for Colorado’s junior Sen. Cory Gardner from the trade journal Hellenic Shipping News, a story titled Oil Producers Face Skeptical Congress in Drive to End Export Ban:

Coming into this year, it seemed that the time was right to overturn a ban on exporting U.S. crude oil: Republicans controlled Congress, production was nearing an all-time high and gasoline was falling toward $2 a gallon.

Despite a lobbying push by drillers, and steep job losses in the oil fields, there’s been no significant effort in Congress to lift the 40-year-old ban. Even the Senate’s top advocate for the idea hasn’t proposed legislation…

The reason for the go-slow approach is wariness among lawmakers that they’d be blamed if gasoline prices climb after the ban is lifted. And the oil industry itself is split, with some refiners, who benefit from low prices, opposed to lifting the ban. Oil produced domestically is selling for about $9 less than the global benchmark.

Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Sen. Gardner serves, held a hearing on the subject of lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Going into the hearing, Gardner was reportedly “undecided” about whether to support lifting the ban, but his reported comments certainly indicate where he’s leaning:

Two members of the panel, Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who often sides with Republicans on energy issues, and Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said they were still undecided on the issue.

Gardner said it may make sense to sense to send some of the light sweet crude produced from shale rock formations overseas, because U.S. refiners along the Gulf Coast can better handle heavier crudes. [Pols emphasis]

Sounds pretty supportive to us! And an energy industry press release after yesterday’s hearing praises Gardner’s “insightful question” that teed up the industry’s argument perfectly:

“Colorado Senator Cory Gardner asked an insightful question yesterday about what happens if we don’t lift the ban,” said Eberhart. “We will have a glut of crude with nowhere to go.  Oil and gas companies will no longer have an incentive to keep producing, so we’ll start losing jobs. The current shale boom has helped create 1.7 million of them.”

Consumers are plowing their savings from cheap gasoline right back into the economy all around the country, helping boost economic growth. The full reasons for the current rock-bottom price of oil are more complicated than simply the “shale revolution,” most importantly the price war initiated by foreign oil producers intended to make North American shale production from “fracking” unprofitable. The industry wants a “price floor” to ensure their operations remain profitable, and the ability to export crude oil would raise prices at least by the difference between the American and global market price–and possibly much more, depending on what OPEC does.

And once the price of oil starts going up again as it surely will, American consumers would feel the pain even more. This is where politicians with the authority to decide these questions must face the hard reality of choosing between their oh-so friendly allies and donors in the energy industry…and the rest of the economy.

Gardner may pay lip service to being deliberative about this, but where he’ll land in the end is unfortunately a foregone conclusion.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 19)

Get More SmarterWe don’t care what anybody says: Today is NOT the first day of the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Anyone got an extra $1.73 billion that they aren’t using? We may need it to finish the new VA Hospital in Denver that is actually in Aurora. Also, Rep. Mike Coffman is complaining again that other people aren’t doing stuff.

► Surprise! No, wait…what’s the opposite of surprise? Colorado doesn’t have much room in next year’s budget to fund things. It’s almost like we need a new source of revenue or something.

 ► We may not have much money in the state coffers, but at least we’re offering tax refunds! Thanks, TABOR: Destroying Colorado one ratchet effect at a time.

 ► But wait, The U.S. Senate will save the fiscal day! Oh, nevermind.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Step Right Up and WIN! This Boom will never Bust, Baby!

 (Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This Time Is Going to Be Different, Really…

 

“All that I am asking for is $10 gold dollars, and I can win it back with one good hand.  …I got no chance of losing, this time….”      The Loser, R. Hunter/J. Garcia

Colorado is about to lose thousands of jobs, again, as the latest boom and its promise of vast riches crashes into the reality of a volatile commodity market.  Again.

Like in the last bust in 2008 that hit the western Colorado gas fields, it was just months prior that the boosters, peddlers, hucksters and snakes, oil-salespeople were all saying this time would be different, this time we would ride the mineral riches to everlasting everything. 

Until we’re not.  Until the prices, in the most volatile of animal spirited commodities—fossil fuels, drop. Again.  And then Colorado is left holding the bag.  Again.

Last month there was an article about how poorly reclamation is happening, if at all, in Colorado’s oil and gas patch, a dry time in a dry land.

Sure the PR teams at shops popping up like mushrooms in the mountains after a monsoon, weave webs of spin to convince you, Colorado, otherwise. 

This time will be different.  Just like the last time would be different.  And the time before that. 

I love you, Colorado, I would never hurt you.

Again.

Of course Colorado is no stranger to the vagaries of volatility, in the boom and bust that is—in fact—the historical mark of the Mountain West.  

(more…)

Will Fracking cause the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

Probably not, but few any longer dispute that some activity related to fracking can induce earthquakes, despite years of industry pressure to deny the link.  But this is not about Frackquakes either. 

Not really. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management did try to lease the dam at the Paonia Reservoir once, and that gets closer to today’s update.  

For many it includes this perplexing fact: that oil and gas leasing on public lands starts with a whomever whim, nominated by no one really knows who, how, or why–and sometimes, maybe on a Friday afternoon when someone is not paying enough attention, something kind of crazy might slip through at the agency.  

The BLM did lease a cemetery for oil and gas drilling and fracking, according to a National Geographic article (sponsored—without intended irony, I presume—by Shell), published on its website today:  Fracking Next to a Cemetery? 10 Unlikely Sites Targeted for Drilling”:

Kanza Cemetery sits on a 320-acre expanse east of Colorado Springs offered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The rural graveyard, where more than a hundred people are buried, has been there for at least a century. Its land was leased for $26 an acre. 

The day started out like most others had before it, with Pa looking through the morning news and Ma off to collecting from the hens, when there was a knock on the weathered old farmhouse door…

Over cookies and lemonade at the Paynes’ home, a BLM representative informed them about the auction and its implications. She says they were assured that the graves would not be disturbed.

Drilling the Dead…

The leased cemetery and surrounding lands are among a number of places highlighted by the group Western Values Project in a new report “ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE: The Top Ten Most Shocking Places the Oil and Gas Industry is Trying to Lease and Drill.” 

It does seem that no where is off limits in the minds of some folks seeking their fracking fortune off the public’s domain.

The National Geographic article also notes, from the report, private ‘split estate’ lands in Wyoming where the landowners obtained a conservation easement to protect sage grouse among other species and resources, that the BLM has put on the auction block for oil and gas drilling at industry’s request.  

Indeed, oil and gas companies have been invited by the federal government to nominate public minerals under other people’s private lands, even those with conservation easements, and among the ranches and farmlands of the West for years.  

The local community had to fight back to stop the leasing of the orchards and irrigation works of Colorado’s North Fork Valley.  The agricultural lands there are the result of a century of back-breaking hard labor, first by Homesteaders then by generations, and decades of federal projects and millions in expenditures along the way.  (Thanks Wayne Aspinall!). 

Then there are the historical sites, and not insignificant ones: even the Sand Creek Massacre National Historical Site was nominated for oil and gas drilling.  BLM, thankfully, did catch that one before it went to sale.   

And industry has repeatedly nominated lands in the South Park area, including a large amount of Denver’s water supply.

There Interior Department reforms, that the BLM has begun to implement, have led to the agency agreeing to complete a Master Leasing Plan that hopefully will provide stronger guidance on which areas should be off limits to oil and gas development.  And in the North Fork Valley the BLM has agreed to consider a community-based set of management recommendations for the valley as it updates its resource management plan for the area. 

But industry remains, it appears, feeling entitled.  In Utah it has set off to achieve a new type of visual impact by taking on the art community, which is noted in the Western Values Project report.

This, in particular, seems to have attracted the ire of the grumpy-sounding Big Oil lobby spokesperson in the National Geographic article:

“A single artist determining that her work requires ‘an unimpeded view to the horizon’ does not automatically trump the public’s right to the energy it owns beneath the land,” [Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance] says.

An interesting comment from a single industry that often behaves as if its interests trump the public’s in deciding where oil and gas development is appropriate. 

To that question it usually appears it has one answer: any where and everywhere. 

The oil and gas industry, it seems, does not see problems with leasing around organic orchards; in towns or city water supplies; atop sacred historical sites and on consecrated ground; the minerals from beneath another’s own private lands, even those under a conservation easement; in sage grouse or other sensitive habitat, or even amidst art installations.

No, fracking probably won’t cause the Zombie Apocalypse.  But there seems something unholy about letting the oil and gas industry be the one to call the shots about the public’s resources and lands.

Decisions about which of America’s shared places and publicly-owned resources should be subject to leasing for drilling, fracking and industrial development, and which ought not to be, should be shared decisions and not simply left up to industry to propose, decided behind a cloak of secrecy away from public oversight.

The BLM has taken important steps to making improvements in this process.  But it still has a ways to go.  Shining more sunlight into BLM oil and gas nominations (which the agency has now specifically re-designed its process to avoid) and strengthening the public’s ability to have truly meaningful input into where, when, and how this activity occurs, remain largely in the realm of aspiration. 

This is reform that the agency needs to stick with and complete. Because an informed and engaged public remains the best defense against bad policy. And Zombies.

A tool for keeping up with the PUC….

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

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

 

CRES’ Colorado Legislative Tracker—Explained

By Rick Coen, CRES Policy Committee

 

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

There are two ways to get access. One is at http://cres-energy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/CRES-Legislative-Tracker-2015.pdf. Periodically, static versions of the Tracker are posted so you can see what has been happening. The other is to drop CRES an email requesting access permission. CRES members will have their email address added to the site permissions and will be sent a link so you can see and contribute to the live Tracker.

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

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

Original post here.

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

Wiz-quiz.

Wiz-quiz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, Senator! You first. Original post follows.

—–

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

—–

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

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

—–

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The catch is government subsidies.

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

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

sonnenbergsubsidies

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

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

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

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

Bruce Ben$on’s CU Loves Its Climate Skeptics

CU President Bruce Benson.

CU President Bruce Benson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renewable Energy Standard Rollback To Die Today

UPDATE: The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus:

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

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

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

—–

Wind power.

Wind power.

AP via the Aurora Sentinel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Feb. 26)

MoreSmarterLogo-Hat1

We've installed fresh batteries in the Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese), which is predicting as much as 10 feet of snow today. Or maybe less. It's time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here's a good example).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Yes, Bennet’s Keystone XL Triangulation Is Stupid

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

By @ColoFarmFood, crossposted at ColoradoFarmFood.org 

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

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

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

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

GRAND JUNCTION SENTINEL 2/11/15

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

GRAND JUNCTION SENTINEL 2/24/15

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

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Fracking Task Force Falls Flat: Smart Next Steps Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Feb. 25)

Get More Smarter

BIll O'Reilly would have signed the Declaration of Independence, but he overslept. It's time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here's a good example).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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

(Seriously? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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