Air Quality Rules Hearings Get Underway

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

​We’ve talked a lot about fracking in this space and the political quagmire it has become for local and state elected officials alike. We’ve half-joked about Gov. John Hickenlooper drinking “fracking fluid” in a silly effort to prove that fracking is safe – a misguided notion on more than one level. It is true that the chemicals used in fracking fluid may be harmful to the environment, but there is another big problem when it comes to increased oil and gas drilling: air quality.

According to a widely-reported study in 2012, little ‘ol Erie, Colo. had worse air pollution than Houston – and the number of oil and gas wells have only increased since then. Air pollutants from fracking and other drilling, specifically methane, are massive contributors to climate change. The New York Times reported last week on a new study suggesting that natural gas is not nearly as clean as advertised in large part because of the amount of fugitive methane gas released into the atmosphere.

Last November, Gov. Hickenlooper proposed a set of regulations to protect Colorado’s air quality. On Wednesday, the Air Quality Control Commission will meet to begin discussions of the proposed regulations – new rules created with input from scientists, environmental organizations, and oil and gas developers such as Noble Energy, Anadarko, and Encana

But not everyone is holding hands and signing Kumbaya. Out-of-state interest groups such as the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity are beating the oil drums on behalf of the likes of Chevron, Exxon, and the American Petroleum Institute as part of an effort to derail any new regulations. You know the routine: any new regulations will destroy businesses in Colorado, cost the state quadrillions of dollars, and force oil and gas companies to move out of Colorado and drill elsewhere (as though there are massive oil and gas fields in every state). Also, the terrorists will win. 

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Poll: Land Use, Clean Air and Water Could Impact 2014 Elections

Colorado College has released results from its 4th Annual "Conservation in the West" poll, which shows that voters are increasingly considering conservation and environmental issues when making their decisions at the ballot box. From a press release:

This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states looked at voter attitudes on a list of issues, including land use, water supplies, air quality and public lands’ impact on the economy. The results show overwhelming – 85 percent – agreement that when the government closes national parks and other public lands, small businesses and communities' economies in the West suffer. In a follow up message to elected officials and land managers, 83 percent believe funding to national parks, forests and other public lands should not be cut, as it provides a big return on a small investment.
 
"The Rocky Mountain region is politically diverse, with communities running the spectrum from red (predominantly) to purple to blue,” said Colorado College McHugh Professor of Leadership and American Institutions and regular Colorado political commentator Tom Cronin. “These poll results reinforce that a love for protected lands ties western voters together. Westerners across the political spectrum support the work of public land managers and expect conserved public lands to remain that way."
 
Other public sentiments expressed in the survey include that:

  • 72 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote more use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
  • 69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.
  • 58 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who votes to increase funding for land-managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service. 

The survey also holds warning signs for candidates, including that:

  • 72 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
  • 67 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who reduces funding for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.
  • 54 percent of westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to stop taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

Of particular interest is how much conservation and environmental issues tend to have a stronger impact on Hispanic voters, who aren't only interested in the issue of immigration reform. If Colorado Republicans are going to start winning over Hispanic voters, renewable energy, clean air, and clean water is a good place to start.

Of (Preble) Mice and Men: The Making of a Non-Scandal

Preble mouse Colorado

Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse. That’s a long name to put on a birth certificate.

This is the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse. He/she looks harmless enough, but last week it inadvertently gave cause for three Republicans to go, well, mouse-shit crazy. The mouse itself isn't all that interesting (unless you're into that sort of thing), but the non-scandal that played out over its status as an Endangered Species is a fascinating look at how quickly some politicians can get moving when they think there's an opportunity to score some mindless political points.

This is also a story of how quickly those same politicians shut up and move on once their "scandal" proves misplaced.

Our story begins with a harmless news release that CBS4 in Denver turned into a serious story about flood recovery efforts. The CBS4 report caused Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-4), state Sen. Greg Brophy, and state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg to collectively go crazy about liberals and Endangered Species and anything else that Democrats might have done wrong. It just wasn't true.

Here's a look at the CBS4 story from Feb. 4, titled, "'Endangered' Mouse Could Delay Flood Recovery":

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning that many flood repair projects could be delayed because they are in an endangered mouse’s habitat.

The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is listed as a threatened species, which means it and its habitat are protected by federal law. Its habitat lies along rivers and stream beds where flood repairs are underway.

The news upset Colorado State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents many of the flooded communities. He sent a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation asking it to intervene saying the federal government has put a mouse ahead of Colorado families.

“We’re holding up the ability to redo safe drinking water, to rebuild sewage treatment facilities so we can keep sewage out of the rivers, trying to have a safe environment because of a mouse,” said Sonnenberg.

According to him, communities have to delay repairs after FEMA issued a warning that local governments could lose federal funding if they violate the Endangered Species Act. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner Preble mouse flood recovery

Not pictured: Rep. Sonnenberg and Sen. Brophy running around with their pants aflame

Did you happen to catch the spot where this story went off the rails (if you didn't, take a look at the sentences in bold)? "According to [Sonnenberg]" sounds like the title of a convoluted Indie movie, but for some reason CBS4 thought that state Rep. Sonnenberg would be the ideal person to explain the ins and outs of FEMA policy. Congressman Gardner was all too pleased to ride to the rescue. Here's his press release "demanding" immediate relief from the mighty Preble:

Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-04) took immediate action after it became apparent that flood recovery efforts in Colorado could be slowed significantly due to the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse.

Ooohhh…"immediate action!" But before sending his "immediate action" letter to FEMA and issuing a press release, perhaps Gardner's office should have checked with the people who actually do know what is going on. On Feb. 5, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FEMA issued a joint press release with a pretty unambiguous lede:

Recent news accounts suggesting the Endangered Species Act and the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse are delaying flood recovery projects in Colorado are inaccurate. [Pols emphasis]

From unambiguous lede we move quickly to unambiguous quote:

“We are working very closely with FEMA and other partners to make sure important flood recovery projects proceed on time while ensuring no harm occurs to species listed under the ESA,” said Noreen Walsh, Regional Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. “But let me be clear: the Preble’s and other federally listed species have not, and will not, delay flood recovery efforts in Colorado.” [Pols emphasis]

Not only are the USFWS and FEMA clearly stating that the Preble will NOT impact flood recovery efforts…they are unequivocally saying that the Preble "and other federally listed species" have had ZERO impact on flood recovery efforts thus far. In other words, THIS IS ALL HORSESH*T.

So how did all this happen?

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Debate Over Glenn Vaad’s PUC Appointment Grows

Former GOP Rep. Glenn Vaad.

Former GOP Rep. Glenn Vaad.

A press release from the "mainstream" environmental advocate group Conservation Colorado yesterday caught our attention:

Former Representative Glen Vaad’s appointment by Governor Hickenlooper to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) stalls Colorado’s progress on our path toward transitioning to clean renewable energy. At a time when Colorado is dealing with the unprecedented impacts of climate change, the Governor missed an opportunity to appoint a leader who will work to tackle climate change and aggressively pursue cleaner energy sources like solar and wind power.  

When given the opportunity to lead on addressing climate change and moving to a clean energy future, Representative Vaad largely took a pass. He opposed a landmark bill that made Colorado a national leader on clean energy, the successful effort to increase Colorado’s renewable energy standard from 20% to 30%. On another notable climate change vote, Rep. Vaad opposed an effort to allow the PUC to consider carbon costs in resource planning decisions. As a PUC commissioner Vaad would be directly involved in resource planning decisions so his opposition to including the costs of carbon in such decisions is deeply troubling.

Vaad’s involvement with the anti-renewables legislative group ALEC further clouds his record on energy issues and raises questions about his willingness to tackle important issues at the PUC such as net-metering for rooftop solar.

Colorado has been a national leader in moving toward a 21st Century clean energy future.  Coloradans have time and again supported the state leading on solar and wind energy.  This nomination threatens to make Colorado less competitive and risk falling behind as other states pursue more forward-thinking energy agendas.

While we are heartened by former Representative Vaad’s vote to shutter old, dirty coal-fired power plants in the state, we are deeply troubled by this nomination to the PUC and believe that this pick should be a person ready to tackle the pressing climate and energy issues facing Colorado.

The appointment of former GOP Rep. Glenn Vaad to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper presents a unique and complicated set of circumstances for Democrats and conservationists. By law, the PUC is required to be balanced equally between Republicans and Democrats, which obliges Hickenlooper to in this case appoint a Republican. The reason former Rep. Vaad no longer serves in the Colorado General Assembly is his lopsided defeat in 2012 in the Senate District 23 GOP primary by now-Sen. Vicki Marble. Politically, as we've discussed in this space, Marble's subsequent antics in the Senate have resulted in a fair amount bipartisan nostalgia for Vaad.

With that said, Vaad's record certainly does run counter to a clean energy agenda that even controversially pro-energy Gov. Hickenlooper has demonstrated support for (see: Senate Bill 13-252). The issue of Vaad's ties to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that has been scandalized in many states but whose pervasive role in Colorado lawmaking is consistently underreported, seems to be taking hold as a trouble spot.

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Birth Defect Study, Panned By State, Roils “Fracking” Debate

Fracking fluid.

Fracking fluid.

A troubling story published last night from Renee Lewis of Al Jazeera America:

Living near hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — sites may increase the risk of some birth defects by as much as 30 percent, a new study suggests. In the U.S., more than 15 million people now live within a mile of a well.

The use of fracking, a gas-extraction process through which sand, water and chemicals are pumped into the ground to release trapped fuel deposits, has increased significantly in the U.S. over the past decade. Five years ago, the U.S. produced 5 million barrels of oil per day; today, it's 7.4 million, thanks largely to fracking…

The report by the Colorado School of Public Health, released Jan. 28, gathered evidence from heavily drilled rural Colorado, which has among the highest densities of oil and gas wells in the U.S.

“What we found was that the risk of congenital heart defects (CHD) increased with greater density of gas wells — with mothers living in the highest-density areas at greatest risk,” Lisa McKenzie, a research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health and the lead author of the study, told Al Jazeera.

Here's a link to the full study from the Colorado School of Public Health, titled "Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado."

The first thing we're obliged to note here is the swift and negative response to this study from officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. We found Dr. Larry Wolk of CDPHE's official response, among other places, on a pro-fracking Pennsylvania website.

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COGA Likes New Air Quality Rules (Except They Don’t)

crossed-fingers-behind-back

Last November, several of Colorado's leading oil and gas companies joined with Gov. John Hickenlooper to help negotiate recommendations to the state's Air Quality Control Commission to reduce air pollution from the state's oil and gas sector. Hickenlooper's longstanding weak spot on energy issues with the Democratic base, arguably his biggest political problem going into the 2014 elections, could be substantially alleviated if this deal is successful. Energy companies involved win too, both by making a serious attempt to clean up their operations and by avoiding the consequences of being out of federal compliance for these emissions.

The rulemaking process has now begun, and the prospect of the state actually adopting and implementing the strongest rules in the country to limit emissions of methane and other "ozone precursors" has resulted in a sneakier form of opposition–widening the divide between good-faith stakeholders in energy extraction in Colorado and the truly irresponsible.

Many of the initial filings in the rulemaking from operators express at least tepid support for the proposed rules, which include first-in-the-nation direct regulation of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) as well as the strongest controls of leaks, or "fugitive emissions," from well sites, compressors and tanks. However, the state's industry trade associations–the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association–are balking at the proposal:

In their joint statement, COGA and CPA support many aspects of the State's proposed regulations. CPA and COGA offer solutions, clarifications, and suggested modifications to develop reasonable revisions to the proposed regulations…

While it was at times difficult to figure out exactly what they were saying, the "clarifications" proposed by COGA would by all accounts gut the new proposed rules. They want to apply any changes only to the areas of the state that are currently not attaining federal air quality standards. They disagree about the cost. They object to the energy industry being "singled out." According to their own statement, COGA doesn't seem to be convinced any of this is necessary at all:

[COGA and CPA] requests the Division to fully evaluate and consider the full costs and benefits associated with the proposed rules and ensure these cost and benefits warrant the adoption of the proposed rule language. [Pols emphasis]

In short, the energy industry's biggest trade group "supports many aspects" of the new rules. Except they actually don't. Fortunately, Colorado's largest drillers–Noble Energy, Anadarko Petroleum and Encana Corporation–are all on board. It's a curious state of affairs to say the least, but Governor Hickenlooper and these industry leaders have pledged support for the strongest and most effective rules in the country to reduce air pollution from oil and gas development. While certainly not the only fight over oil and gas development in Colorado, this is a universally positive step that should be applauded.

As for COGA? They seem more than ever representative of a minority view, on the wrong side of history challenging the state's authority to address the climate impacts of oil and gas development. This is especially shocking given the public posturing of COGA and its CEO, claiming support for "working together" to tackle pollution and climate change. For all the criticism of Gov. Hickenlooper on this issue, including from this blog, COGA's disingenuous response to a good proposal helps clarify who the bad guys really are.

Your Money, Their Gain: Colorado County Pays Industry Consultants to Prepare Pro-Industry Sage-Grouse Plan

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

For years, we’ve known that the oil and gas industry will throw unlimited amounts of cash at preventing conservation initiatives that it believes might limit its ability to produce more resources and make more money. We also know that energy companies largely prefer to fight back on the mere concept of protecting land, water and wildlife rather than finding solutions that meet the goals of all parties.

That’s old news.

But how far will some elected officials go to waste taxpayer dollars fighting industry’s greedy battle as well?

Last week, Western Values Project released newly uncovered documents that show some Garfield County officials are more concerned with protecting the interests of oil and gas companies than in finding workable solutions to a difficult problem. Documents revealed by an open records request show county officials are using taxpayer dollars to wage a losing battle against the grain of compromise – which is the only way forward to avoid listing the Greater sage -grouse as endangered, an outcome absolutely no one wants.

It’s time to hold the County accountable. Here’s the story…

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Limbaugh’s Lie about Polar Vortex

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Some less than astute political observers say both sides do it.

They mostly use the false equivalency dodge as a way to seem reasonable and centrist in a time when reasonableness is mostly exhibited by the left, and centrism is a convenient myth of the politics in some alternate universe visible only to Hubble.

Maybe both sides do lie at times, but no one does it better, more frequently, or without causing as much harm to our nation as the hearing impaired drug-addict Rush Limbaugh.

As the polar vortex froze the nation caused deaths here and elsewhere, Rush couldn't help but lie.

The severe weather has been blamed for at least 16 deaths so far, including a worker who was crushed by a shipment of rock salt at a Philadelphia storage facility. One person died and two were injured when a passenger jet crashed while attempting to land at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in western Colorado yesterday.

Rush's lie was so simple to check, yet will be almost impossible to refute among the vast numbers of Limbaugh listener's in Colorado:

"Do you know what the polar vortex is? Have you ever heard of it? Well, they just created it for this week

Right on schedule, the media have to come up with a way to make it [the cold] sound like it's completely unprecedented, because they've got to find a way to attach this to the global warming agenda."

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2013′s Top Ten #4: Democrats Don’t Overreact to “Overreach”

Earlier this week we discussed the "Lie of the Year" in Colorado politics, the persistent nonsense that Democrats were out to "take your guns" in 2013. That narrative continued into the September recall elections, the result of which saw two Democratic Senators ousted (though two other recall attempts failed to reach the ballot altogether). Following the Sept. recall results, we saw plenty of lazy analysis blaming Democratic "overreach" in the 2013 legislative session — analysis that had nothing to do with the reality of the situation.

Even Dawson doesn't cry this much.

Even Dawson doesn’t cry this much

Republicans were using the term "overreach" long before the recall elections, both during and after the legislative session in an effort to spin what was a successful session for Democrats. Following miserable losses at the polls in 2012, the GOP once again faced a legislative session as the minority party in both chambers, and the only play in their playbook was to be obstructionist. When that failed to work, Republicans turned to saying that Democrats were "overreaching" in doing their job as legislators. What really happened is a perfect example of why Democrats have continued to win elections in Colorado in the last decade: they went to work on the issues they were elected to tackle. Or as Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon told the Denver Post in late April:

Overreaching? No. I think we've been listening to the people of Colorado and they've told us, 'We put you in charge and we want you to get something done.'

This is a lesson that Republicans have not been able to grasp for more than a decade in Colorado, and it is the fundamental reason why they lost control of the legislature back in 2004: Colorado voters want their elected officials to lead and to get things done, and Democrats have figured that out. As we wrote back in May, when the GOP "overreach" spin was in full tilt:

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2013′s Top Ten #5: Hickenlooper’s Fracking Follies

In just a few short years, fracking has gone from a relatively obscure term to one of the more explosive (no pun intended) issues in Colorado politics. In November, voters in four Colorado cities — Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins — approved unenforceable bans on fracking by wide margins (except in Broomfield, where the outcome was much closer). Voters approved the fracking bans despite nearly $1 million spent by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association in a fruitless effort to sway the outcome, leaving the Gov. John Hickenlooper and the State of Colorado in the unenviable position of considering legal action against those cities

Frackenlooper

Fracking isn’t falling on me…right?

Because of the frequency of new nearby wells and increasing news about harmful air pollution and leaking wells, it's not difficult to understand why so many residents are concerned. Local communities have organized in rapid fashion, with residents in at least one city (Erie) raising enough money to hire someone to work on fracking on a grassroots level. Think about that: When was the last time you remember any issue creating so much intense community interest that a group of concerned citizens quickly raised enough money to hire someone?

When it comes to the health and safety of your family, issues like mineral rights and stupid scare tactics about natural gas wells running dry just can't get any traction among the local populace. And fracking is beginning to creep into other areas of concern; if the presence of fracking wells starts to really disrupt the local real estate market, like it has in Pennsylvania, all the talk about economic impacts of oil and gas drilling will need to include the significant economic downsides as well.

All of which makes it so baffling to see the continued obstinance from Gov. Hickenlooper in regards to fracking. Hickenlooper has long aligned himself on the side of oil and gas developers and mineral rights holders, using his background as a geologist to imply that he has a full understanding of the issue on all sides. But for someone who has shown enough political savvy to win elections for Denver Mayor and Governor, Hick has been strangely tone deaf on the real concerns of people living near fracking wells. Consider his response to the election results in November, via the Colorado Independent:

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says he understands citizen concerns about neighborhood gas drilling but maintains that passing local laws restricting the activity is the wrong way to address the problem.

“The fracking ban votes reflect the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods,” Hickenlooper said in an email to the Independent. “Yet local fracking bans essentially deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own. Our state Constitution protects these rights.

“A framework exists for local communities to work collaboratively with state regulators and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping communities safe.

“These bans may or may not result in new legal challenges from mineral rights holders, individual companies or others. No matter what happens we won’t stop working with local governments and supporting regulations that can be a national model for protecting public health and safety.”

- See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/51676/hickenloooper-responds-poorly-to-local-fracking-ban-wins#sthash.atNGaY0c.dpuf

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says he understands citizen concerns about neighborhood gas drilling but maintains that passing local laws restricting the activity is the wrong way to address the problem.

“The fracking ban votes reflect the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods,” Hickenlooper said in an email to the Independent. “Yet local fracking bans essentially deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own. Our state Constitution protects these rights.

“A framework exists for local communities to work collaboratively with state regulators and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping communities safe.

“These bans may or may not result in new legal challenges from mineral rights holders, individual companies or others. No matter what happens we won’t stop working with local governments and supporting regulations that can be a national model for protecting public health and safety.”

Instead of focusing on trying to reassure local residents that he truly understands their concerns, Hick makes a throwaway "I feel your pain" comment before delving immediately into the mineral rights and states' rights arguments. His response to four heavily-populated communities voting to approve a ban on fracking amounted to: Yeah, well, you're wrong.

Hickenlooper's complete cluelessness on fracking was never more clear than during a "debate" on the issue with Boulder County Commisser Elise Jones back in April. As we wrote at the time, the formerly-reliable "Hick Schtick" was failing him miserably:

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Don’t Be a Playa Hater, Say Increasingly High-Society Gardners

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

There are a great many things that can motivate a person to run for public office, running the full spectrum of ethical defensibility. In the case of Colorado's most upwardly mobile Republican member of Congress, Rep. Cory Gardner, his time in office has been marked by an unrepentant embrace of the trappings of power in Washington, D.C. It seems as though every eyebrow-raising junket that makes headlines in the last few years has had Rep. Gardner's name quietly listed on the roster. There was the posh Florida yacht getaway that sub the subject of a CBS hidden camera investigation. The high-priced junket to Israel that featured a member of Congress (not Gardner personally) un-cooly skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galillee. Most recently, Rep. Gardner and his wife Jaime Gardner went on a lavish paid trip to Ireland, where they took in the sights between four-hour "work days" focused on "energy development issues."

As the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports, Cory Gardner is not the only politically upwardly mobile member of the illustrious Gardner family. Wife Jaime is doing just fine:

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner has drawn attention for being a champion of oil-and-gas industry interests on Capitol Hill and for being well compensated, if indirectly, by the industry for his efforts. Energy industry representatives have paid the lion’s share of donations into his campaign coffers over the last three years and, in 2010, Gardner made national headlines when Koch Industries and British Petroleum threw him a swank DC fundraiser the same week BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was wreaking environmental havoc in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Tuesday, the watchdog Sunlight Foundation reported that the Gardner family is now making money more directly from the industry. In August, the oil-and-gas-industry-backed Consumer Energy Education Foundation appointed Gardner’s wife Jaime president. [Pols emphasis]

The main mission of the Education Foundation appears to be to push positive information about oil and gas to the public, to promote arguments against environmental regulation and to recruit students to work for the industry…

Jaime Gardner’s new employer is tied closely to the Consumer Energy Alliance, an oil-and-gas nonprofit group also dedicated mainly to messaging. Both organizations are run out of the same Houston office the houses oil-industry lobby shop HBW Resources. David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, is a member of the board for the Consumer Energy Education Foundation — the “principal officer” of both groups, according to Sunlight. Another high-profile HBW lobbyist is Michael Whatley.

Jaime Gardner.

Jaime Gardner.

Rep. Gardner has been a steadfast advocate for the energy industry during his entire career in elected office. Rep. Gardner sits on the powerful Subcommittee on Energy and Power on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Congress. He has proven an ally not just of the booming oil and gas industry in his district, but such far-flung interests as drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. That Gardner's wife is a power player in pro-energy politics, and was way back when Gardner was a nobody state legislator, shouldn't come as any surprise:

Jaime Gardner’s appointment as president came two weeks after the Gardners returned from a $17,000 five-day junket to Ireland, paid for partly by oil companies channeled through the nonprofit Franklin Center for Global Policy Exchange. Rep. Gardner was asked to speak on developing oil resources off the Irish coast.

Jaime Gardner has worked for years in various government positions tied to public land management and energy development. She has also worked for energy nonprofits in the past. She worked for the Department of the Interior during the Bush years as a Special Assistant for Alaska Affairs.

At the very least, Cory's detailed Alaska drilling product knowledge makes a lot of sense now!

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High levels of Endocrine Disruptors at Fracking Spill sites in CO

Not surprised in the least:

Surface and ground water samples taken from hydraulic fracking sites in a drilling-dense area of Colorado showed higher levels of estrogenic, anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic chemical activity than reference sites with limited drilling, researchers found.

Evidence of endocrine-disrupting activity in a selected subset of chemicals used in the controversial oil and natural gas extraction process was also shown in a study published online ahead of print in the journal Endocrinology.

Fracking Spill Sites Had Twice the EDCs

Water samples from drilling sites in Garfield County, Colo. that experienced fracking spills or accidents showed moderate to high levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) activity, while samples from sites with little drilling showed very little activity, wrote Susan C. Nagel, PhD, of the University of Missouri in Columbia, and colleagues.

"We found no significant anti-androgenic activity at any of our control sites and significant anti-androgenic activity at all of the spill sites," Nagel told MedPage Today.

Was just thinking about our nation's fights against cigarette-caused cancers, nuclear energy and its toxic waste, HIV/AIDS, global climate change and now fracking. John Hickelooper will surely join those who said none of these were a problem and we shouldn't worry and corporations know best. And we shouldn't believe those silly scientists with their facts and studies and stuff.

Thank you, Governor Hickenlooper.

Fracked: Blow Out in the Gas Patch–The Oily Money Flows Freely

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It is not yet clear—at least to the public that gets to share the air, water and land—what happened at the Black Hills Exploration and Production gas well on public lands in the Piceance Basin over the weekend.

The working theory, according to more great on-the-ground reporting by Dennis Webb at the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, is ‘down well communication,’ which is a technical term for a well blow out… only a different well, a half-mile away, from the well  being fracked. 

“COGCC is investigating the possibility the hydraulic stimulation of the horizontal wellbore communicated with the vertical wellbore.”

In this case an old vertical well from the 1980s, owned by Maralax Resources, and its old cement was not engineered to withstand the massive pressure forcing the cocktail of unknown, toxic chemicals, scarce western water, and mined sand into the earth, fracturing rock thousands of feet below.

Although it is not altogether understood, this isn’t the first time a fracking job too close to an old well resulted in a blowout. 

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Hick Triangulates Off Vicki Marble In Latest PUC Appointment

Former GOP Rep. Glenn Vaad.

Former GOP Rep. Glenn Vaad.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Gov. John Hickenlooper [Tuesday] appointed former state Rep. Glenn Vaad to the Public Utilities Commission, calling the former transportation department employee “a distinguished leader who has dedicated much of his life to public service.”

“He knows how to listen to all sides of an issue and work with varied interests to find common ground,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “Glenn is calm, courageous and a good addition to the Public Utilities Commission.”

Former GOP Rep. Glenn Vaad is no far right winger, and was defeated in 2012 in the Republican primary for the Colorado Senate District 23 seat by now-Sen. Vicki Marble–a primary Marble won with the support of Dudley Brown and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Since then, as is a matter of public record, Sen. Marble has proven a rather spectacular embarrassment to her fellow Republicans, which we have to imagine is a point of amusement for former Rep. Vaad.

As far as Vaad's suitability for appointment to the Public Utilities Commission, supporters point to Vaad's vote in favor of the 2010 "Clean Air, Clean Jobs" legislation to switch many Front Range coal power plants to natural gas. Bartels notes obligative groans from the coal industry. But in 2012, Rep. Vaad also voted to roll back Colorado's landmark renewable energy standard.

Bottom line: Vaad is certainly a more reasonable Republican than the one who defeated him for Shawn Mitchell's Senate seat. With that said, his performance on the PUC may or may not please Hickenlooper's increasingly energy-restive Democratic base. That will depend on how Vaad actually votes on the commission; and those votes will reflect on Gov. Hickenlooper as well.

Colorado House Republicans See Constituents As Impediments to Public Land Fracking and Drilling

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s Republican House Members Reps. Tipton, Coffman, Gardner, and Lamborn all just voted to cut Coloradans out of oil and gas decisions for public lands administered by the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It's no wonder that the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy bill (HR 1965) is lauded in glowing terms by the industry press, like The Bakken Magazine, because it promises to:

…streamline the permitting process for energy development on federal lands while increasing the amount of total development. The bill, sponsored by Congressman Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill focuses on two main areas of federal lands energy development: leasing and permitting [to drill]. 

Stripped of the self-serving industry frame, however, it looks more like Colorado’s Republican House Members all voted for legislation that would limit citizen input and force American taxpayers to pay thousands of dollars to petition their government.  It would also mandate leasing some of America’s best wildlife habitat for the still-fictitious resource of ‘oil shale;’ prohibit federal regulation or even study of fracking; and, generally ease the way for more drilling and fracking projects.  

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Embarrassment) puts it this way on his tax-funded website, calling the effort to eliminate public oversight:

…an essential part of the House Republicans’ all-of-the-above energy plan and would remove government hurdles and red-tape that block and delay development of our onshore oil, natural gas, and renewable resources. 

On the other hand DeSmogBlog puts it this way:

Lamborn’s bill also aims to prevent individuals from opposing any proposed drilling project by requiring anyone who wishes to file an official protest to a proposed project to pay a whopping $5,000 fee. Also, if the bill is passed, onshore drilling permits will be automatically approved if the DOI does not act on the permits within a 60-day period.   

The DeSmog description comes closer.  Public involvement is not ‘red tape,’ and not surprisingly Rep. Lamborn is an offensive twerp for suggesting that it is.  But DeSmog doesn’t get it quite right either, Colorado’s House Republicans don’t just want to limit the ability of citizens to have input on ‘drilling’ projects.  It’s worse than that. 

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