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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

EPA’s Board of Scientists Questions EPA Fracking Study

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released findings that the agency found no examples of “widespread and systemic” contamination of groundwater from fracking the news was widely reported.

It was actually often misreported, including by several former professional journalists cum industry spokespeople, as “fracking shown to be safe” and “does not contaminate water.”

It should be noted that the EPA study did not itself make such sweeping claims. Nonetheless these apparently purposeful overstatements were repeated by oil and gas lobby groups like the Colorado Oil and Gas Assoc., Western Energy Alliance, Vital for Colorado, Protect Colorado, CRED.org etc. across the twitterverse, blogosphere, and in media circulars.

Less covered, one might even say nearly missing, from the reportage at least so far is the follow up.

The EPA’s own science advisory board is questioning that study. Here is one article from Power Source (“Energy News In Context” an industry-oriented website sponsored by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from the land of the Marcelleus shale play):

(more…)

Climate Change: Its What’s for Dinner

Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a fictionalized Thanksgiving that still haunts hostesses and hosts to this day.

By now most people are aware that the history that brings us Thanksgiving is not all as sanguine as we may have been led to believe. The subtext of conquest is bitter to swallow for many.

And abundance itself can devolve to gluttony and greed – stampeding consumerism no longer contained to the immediate Black Friday aftermath even, but invading the holiday itself.

So don’t blame me for ruining the day to raise another issue we can fret over even as we count our blessings otherwise – and that is climate change. Specifically what that clear and present climate crisis means for the food system and food security.

As you slather butter on squash and pile high your pie, you might consider that food systems are among the most vulnerable to climate change.  At risk from drought and wildlife, floods and landslides, threatened by declining pollinators and expanding pests, burdened by crashing fisheries. Of the systems that sustain humanity, how we produce and find the food we eat may be the most in jeopardy.

The point with all this isn’t to ruin the feast but to provide a morsel to chew on as the tryptophan kicks in. And may there be many more days of too much deliciousness in your life. But if we care about feeding ourselves and each other we ought to care about climate change and what we can do about it.

Recently I helped convene a group of growers, food advocates, climate crusaders, and local heroes in a series of gatherings and events around local food security and climate change, as reported in High Country News and KVNF community radio.

Pete Kolbenschlag, the organizer of the Paonia panel discussion, knows that food security affects everyone. “If you care about what’s on your plate, and you care about feeding other people and the planet, then we need to care about climate change, because climate change is going to affect our food supply,” he says.

The purpose was to consider what climate change means for agriculture and rural communities on the Western Slope and how we could begin to work collaboratively to address it.

Generally western Colorado is vulnerable to increased periods of drought and extreme precipitation, a snowpack that melts earlier and warmer winters, with freezes into May likely to remain a fact on the elevated slopes on the western flanks of the Rocky Mountains.

Warm winters result in early blooms on fruit trees that are then at risk to late snow and spring frosts.

Accepting some problems such as increased incidences of early bloom coupled with late April freeze, which is a real problem for the fruit producers where I live for instance, will be part of living with a changing climate.

And climate change means several things more broadly for farming and food security in Colorado as well, including:

*Adapting our farming and food systems to a changing climate will be necessary: to create more climate resilience into the design, crop selection, and techniques; and to make wise water use and management, a top priority in all aspects of growing and producing food.

*Adopting better practices in agriculture and in food system, to reduce greenhouse gas contributions – from eating less meat to utilizing techniques that enhances local carbon capture.

*Accelerating the transition to cleaner energy sources and more local power production in agricultural and food production.

Food security and the threats looming to it from climate change is an issue of global significance.  It also matters for us here at home.  And meeting the challenges that climate change poses for Colorado’s food system will take national and state commitment, as well as local action.

Homegrown approaches for rural communities and others that can help us adapt our food system to address climate change,  from sharing local clean energy capacity and installations (‘solar barn-raisings’) to expanding local food networks.

There is tangible value in gratitude. And for most of us there are things for which we are rightfully thankful. Considering these things helps cultivate a positive attitude.

We can be thankful we are removed from troubling global events we see, perhaps. We may be thankful we are not fleeing a war torn cluster of other powers’ making.

But even these situations have roots not only in political upheaval, like in Syria and Iraq, but also in basic needs that are going unmet. The fact is we are all connected. Global security is connected to food supply. And that supply is being directly impacted from climate change.

A stock Thanksgiving meal set unlike any that I have personally experienced, yet with several classic elements.

So if you are fortunate enough to be able to look with thanks upon your table this season, do take time to think about the world beyond your circle. Remember your family and friends that aren’t there. Include the farmers and winemakers, the workers and craft that brings bounty to you.

But also thank Governor Hickenlooper for defending the Clean Power Plan and Senator Bennet for supporting it against Republican rollbacks in the Senate. One little bite at a time, and some perseverance, and we can make a real difference.

Maybe say a little prayer for peace. But also send it to the world’s leaders heading to Paris this week. Ask that they keep the wisdom that reminds: the smart ruler fills bellies while the harvest of an army is a waste of thorns.

If we want peace, we need security. And if we want security then people need to be secure in their food supplies. And to ensure people have full bellies, and secure food supplies, political leaders need to Act on Climate. It really is as simple as the food on our plate.

GOP’s Clean Power Insurgency a Cavalcade of Stupid

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

As promised late last months when Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced her decision to join a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, Gov. John Hickenlooper formally petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court yesterday to stop Coffman taking legal actions that contravene the policies of his administration. AP reports via CBS4:

Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday to rule that he, not the state’s attorney general, has the final say on whether to sue the federal government.

Hickenlooper’s petition comes after he complained that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman should not have joined about two dozen other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over new air pollution rules without his authorization…

Jacki Cooper Melmed, chief legal counsel to the governor, said Coffman has filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits without the support of or collaboration with her clients. “This raises serious questions about the use of state dollars and the attorney-client relationship between the governor, state agencies and the attorney general,” Melmed said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and AG Cynthia Coffman in happier times.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and AG Cynthia Coffman in happier times.

From Hickenlooper’s petition to the Colorado Supreme Court yesterday:

In this Petition, he requests a ruling on the Governor’s and Attorney General’s respective authority under the Constitution and laws of Colorado to determine whether the State of Colorado should sue the United States. The Governor asks this Court to issue a legal declaration that (1) the Governor, not the Attorney General, has ultimate authority to decide on behalf of the State of Colorado whether to sue the federal government, and (2) the Attorney General’s lawsuits against the federal government without the Governor’s authorization must be withdrawn…

The Attorney General lacks statutory authority to bring these federal lawsuits unless “required to do so by the governor.” [Pols emphasis] C.R.S. § 24-31-101(1)(a). Nor does the “common law” allow her to circumvent the statutory limitations and undermine the Governor’s constitutional authority to set Colorado executive branch policy.

We we’ve discussed previously in relation to the Clean Power Plan and Attorney General Coffman’s decision to sue the federal government to stop it, our state is considered to be in a leading position to meet the new standards. A result of legislation passed by our General Assembly in recent years and the constitutional renewable energy standard set forth in 2004’s Amendment 37, we’re well ahead of the curve.

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

But as a report in the conservative Business Times out of Grand Junction unintentionally makes clear, opponents are not reliant on, you know, rational arguments.

While Colorado is already an estimated 80 percent on the way to achieving lower emissions standards, [Pols emphasis] Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined in a lawsuit challenging the plan as federal overreach…

[Sen. Ray Scott] took exception to the state’s renewable energy standard and the push by state and federal regulators to mandate the increase use of renewable energy sources for electrical generation. “Solar has a problem, it’s called night,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Yes, folks, he really said that.

Back in the land of adult dialogue, Colorado’s leadership on renewable energy standards may indeed have made the state an ironic target for energy industry flacks like attorney Mike Nasi–who according to open-records documents we received played a questionably big role in persuading Cynthia Coffman to join this lawsuit. But for the rest of the state government Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is in charge of, Coffman’s lawsuit is totally discordant with the agenda they’ve been progressing toward for years–an agenda the voters of Colorado mandated with the passage of Amendment 37, and the legislature strengthened with subsequent laws signed by Govs. Bill Ritter and Hickenlooper.

With these facts in mind, Hickenlooper not only has the right, but the obligation to rein in a rogue attorney general off pursuing her own ideological flight of fancy in opposition to the state’s explicit policy goals–goals in place long before she was ever elected. And if Republican lawmakers don’t want to make fools of themselves while she does, they might want to come up with less ridiculous arguments themselves.

Because this really is quite embarrassing. For all of them.

On This We Agree: Cynthia Coffman is Silly

Silly

Silly

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is a big supporter of the new federal Clean Power Plan. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is not a fan, however, and that’s okay…to a point. The Governor thinks that Coffman is breaking the law by forcing Colorado to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan. As the Associated Press reports:

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday he will ask the Colorado Supreme Court whether it was legal for the state attorney general to sue the federal government over new air pollution rules even though Hickenlooper supports the rules and is trying to implement them.

Hickenlooper said he should have made the final decision on whether Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined 23 other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency. Coffman said the rules are an illegal overreach.

“The law makes it clear that except in limited circumstances — which don’t exist here — the attorney general is not permitted to file such lawsuits unless directed to do so by the governor,” Hickenlooper said.

Former Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar backed up Hickenlooper’s comments today during an event in Boulder, telling Bruce Finley of the Denver Post that Coffman’s legal opinion is incorrect in this matter:

“What the attorney general is doing here is clearly illegal on her part,” he said. “We’ll see what the Supreme Court has to say.”

And what does Coffman herself have to say about the subject? That leads us to this little gem that just made it into a story from the Colorado Statesman (which also references a Colorado Pols story from last week):

“And finally, I would say to people who would think that I have been influenced by the energy industry, that they must not know me that well, because I am not that easily influenced,” Coffman concluded. [Pols emphasis]

Not. That. Easily. Influenced.

Yes, friends, we are talking about the same Cynthia Coffman who played a central role in trying to blackmail State Republican Party Chair Steve House last summer. You may have heard about the scandal, which has been dubbed “Coffmangate.” It would be difficult to be any more persuadable to political arguments.

Cynthia Coffman Does Not Speak For Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE #2: Via the Denver Business Journal, Gov. John Hickenlooper slams Attorney General Cynthia Coffman for joining this lawsuit over his objections and the state’s longstanding leadership on the issue:

“We do not support this lawsuit,” Hickenlooper said via an emailed statement.

“Clean air and protecting public health should be everyone’s top priority. Colorado’s interest is best served by an open, inclusive process to implement the Clean Power Plan,” he continued.

“This lawsuit will create uncertainty for the state and undermine stakeholders’ ability to plan for and invest in cost-effective compliance strategies, something that the Attorney General has been advising the state on,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Hickenlooper said Colorado also has worked “extensively with the EPA to ensure we have the time and flexibility we need. We believe that Colorado can achieve the clean air goals set by the EPA, at little or no increased cost to our residents.”

—–

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, let no pesky facts come between Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and destiny:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman again vowed to fight President Barack Obama’s testy Clean Power Plan as the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday published the initiative’s final rules.

“It would be remiss if I, as attorney general, looked the other way and said, ‘Because Colorado is likely to meet this carbon dioxide cap, we shouldn’t challenge the federal government,’ ” said Coffman, who in late August announced she was joining a lawsuit to stop the plan. [Pols emphasis]

“That to me is an abdication of my responsibility.”

In short, Colorado is going to pass this test. But by God, we shouldn’t have to. Because freedom. And unregistered lobbyists. The rest of the state be damned!

Original post follows…

—–

After Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced her lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, in apparent defiance of Gov. John Hickenlooper and the rest of the state government which has been working toward a smooth transition to the clean energy economy for years, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on Coffman to stop playing politics with her office at the behest of out-of-state special interests–and to abandon this ill-conceived lawsuit against our state’s best interests.

“Documents unearthed by Public Citizen reveal unethical heavy involvement in Attorney General Coffman’s opposition to the Clean Power Plan by a Texas energy attorney named Mike Nasi,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. [1] “Why is Cynthia Coffman colluding with out-of-state oil and gas interests against our state’s own governor and legislature? As Attorney General, Coffman’s job is to represent the people of Colorado, not Texas.”

“Since taking office this year, Cynthia Coffman has repeatedly brushed with scandal,” said Runyon-Harms. “Coffman has been accused of misusing her position for political advantage and was even accused by fellow Republicans of blackmailing the party’s chairman. By using the power of her office to join this lawsuit against the wishes of Gov. Hickenlooper, Coffman has once again proven that she is not fit to serve as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.”

“Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s lawsuit flies in the face of Colorado’s leadership in the global transition to a clean energy future,” said Runyon-Harms. “In 2004, Colorado passed a groundbreaking constitutional ballot measure establishing a strong renewable energy standard. In 2013, our legislature made it stronger. Experts agree that Colorado is well positioned to meet the challenge of the Clean Power Plan. Our state’s pro-energy Governor supports the Plan. It’s the right thing to do for Colorado, and it will grow our economy the same way Amendment 37 made our state a leader in renewable energy.”