Local Control Initiative TV Spot Running in Denver

A brief release from RBI Strategies yesterday:

Coloradans for Local Control today aired their first cable TV ad. The ad focuses on the proximity of fracking to homes and playgrounds, and the need for local control.

Fracking is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years spreading into the residential communities located on top of the Niobrara. Local governments must be able to listen and respond appropriately to community concerns and balance industrial activities with residents' quality of life, health, property values and long-term economic vitality.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

The spot focuses on the proximity of oil and gas wells to schools and homes and asks viewers: “Would you want to live here? Want your kids to play here?

“Right now, you and your neighbors can’t stop it,” the female narrator continues. “With local control of oil and gas drilling, you have the tools to protect your neighborhood.”

As FOX31 Denver first reported last month, Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, is putting his considerable wealth behind the campaign, which is likely to make life more complicated for two of his fellow Democrats on the ballot this fall…

As the likelihood of a ballot measure allowing local communities to regulate industrial land uses including oil and gas drilling within their boundaries increases, we're seeing previews of the likely opposition approach: driving a wedge between conservationist Democrats and top-line Democratic candidates, and the false conflation of a local control measure with an "all-out ban" on fracking statewide. Addressing the former, we would argue that Gov. John Hickenlooper is much more compromised on energy than Sen. Mark Udall, yet even Hickenlooper will be seen as sufficiently preferable–on a wide range of issues–to whoever wins the GOP gubernatorial primary to turn out the Democratic vote just fine. As for Udall, he can demonstrate a stark contrast with his opponent on energy issues favorable to conservationists, and is perfectly safe staying neutral on this "state issue" if he chooses.

The second attack on this initiative is frankly much more dangerous, and as we've discussed in this space, deceptively conflating a local control initiative with an unworkable statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing in the public's mind is becoming an everyday occurrence. It's easy to understand why: a total statewide ban on fracking won't pass. Colorado is an energy producing state, and that's not going to change. This measure is about local communities, at their option, protecting themselves. Just like a number of Front Range residential cities have already done.

If the voters can be made to understand what the initiative actually does, it will pass.

On Energy, There’s Plenty Of Stupid To Go Around

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

On Tuesday, we discussed the silly-season "challenge" by GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall to "oppose any ban on hydraulic fracturing" in Colorado. Gardner cited a recent study of the hypothetical economic impacts of a total statewide ban on "fracking," which is not being proposed by anyone in Colorado today, and used those hypothetical numbers to claim that "100,000 Colorado jobs" are "at risk of being completely eliminated" by Udall's "refusal to oppose a ban on fracking." Gardner is blatantly misrepresenting the results of this study of a nonexistent statewide ban on fracking, claiming they could be the result of a much narrower proposed ballot initiative allowing local communities to regulate drilling within their boundaries.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels follows up today:

Less than two weeks after Republican Congressman Cory Gardner said he didn't take stands on local election issues — whether it was legalizing pot or seceding from Colorado — he blasted opponent Mark Udall for not saying where he stands on a fracking issue that could be on the November ballot.

Bartels makes an excellent point that Gardner has disclaimed any opinion on numerous "state issues," like secession and marijuana legalization. More recently, this stated desire to "stay out of local issues" has helped Gardner flip-flop on the Personhood abortion ban initiatives he had proudly supported in 2008 and 2010. Which makes it more than a little hypocritical to "call out" Udall for not taking a position on this "state issue."

But there's a more fundamental problem that Bartels completely misses in her story: there is no ballot measure coming for a statewide ban on fracking. Gardner's "challenge" to Udall specifically invokes the job losses that a University of Colorado study claimed could result from a statewide total ban on hydraulic fracturing–not the local control initiative(s) actually working their way toward the ballot.

Once you understand that, this whole debate seems awfully…well, pointless.

The only thing we have to add here, as gently as we may, is to suggest that Sen. Mark Udall has little or nothing to gain by trying to outdo Cory Gardner on support for the energy industry. The fact is, as Bartels notes in her story, that Udall is pretty friendly to energy interests overall, and has been for many years. In "response" to the standoff between energy producing Russia and energy transporting/consuming Ukraine, Udall went out of his way to hype the idea of liquid natural gas exports, trying to squelch Gardner's own LNG export pandering–even though the U.S. lacks export facilities for LNG and Ukraine lacks import facilities. This was all rightly called out as misleading by a significant number of experts.

Bottom line: nothing that Udall says or does is going to sway support in the energy industry for Gardner, one of the most beholden members of Congress to energy interests in the entire nation. Udall doesn't have to play this game, and the votes he needs are not in the energy business. The sooner he realizes that, and focuses on refuting Gardner's false statements instead of trying to keep up with him, the better off Udall will be.

Gardner Challenges Udall To “Oppose” What’s Not Happening

An unusual statement Tweeted earlier today by Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner's campaign:

gardnerfrackban

First off, it would be great if Gardner would publish his press releases in plain text on his website, instead of making graphics out of them. Then again, it's not as easy to actually quote him this way, and that might be strategic for a guy like Gardner.

But here's our real question: what is this "ban on hydraulic fracturing" that "has put nearly 100,000 Colorado jobs at risk of being completely eliminated?" We follow the local news pretty closely, as our readers know, and we know of no such initiative. That said, last week, the Denver Post did publish a rather silly article hypothesizing about just such a statewide ban:

A statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing would cost Colorado 68,000 jobs and $8 billion in economic activity over five years, according to an analysis released Wednesday…

Since 95 percent of the wells in Colorado are fracked, the study assumes that drilling activity would be reduced 95 percent.

68,000 isn't the same as "nearly 100,000," unless you're really generous with your rounding. But in reality, even that lower figure has no rational basis. Why, you ask? Because there is no statewide ban on hydraulic fracture drilling proposed by anyone in Colorado.

While five municipalities and Boulder County have adopted fracking bans or moratoriums, there is no statewide ballot initiative to ban fracking. [Pols emphasis]

"It is a worst-case scenario," Metro Denver EDC chief Tom Clark said. "We wanted the public to understand the size of the oil and gas in Colorado."

…The CU study, which began when there was a possibility of a statewide ban initiative, doesn't reflect the more nuanced proposals, said Brian Lewandowski, author of the Leeds analysis.

Folks, if anyone can show us evidence that a statewide ban on fracking was ever a "possibility," meaning real people actually working to place that on the ballot, we'll be glad to correct the record. Otherwise, this "study" is meaningless propaganda from CU President and oil millionaire Bruce Benson, and allied opponents of any local control over "fracking" anywhere in Colorado. You see, there are proposed ballot measures that would allow local communities to control oil and gas drilling, setbacks from existing development, and other industrial land issues within their boundaries–but to take these "worst case scenario" hypothetical numbers for a statewide total ban on "fracking" that no one is proposing, as Cory Gardner has done, and then claim this to be an actual threat that has "put Colorado jobs at risk," is misleading in the extreme.

We suppose Gardner gets credit for going after an issue other than Obamacare. If Gardner could just be minimally truthful while he does so, that would be a positive step for his campaign. Unfortunately, the facts in this case make a shameless liar of Gardner. Again.

Kochs in Colorado for Gardner

The Koch Brothers and their Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity are coming to a TV screen near year you. As Politico reports:

Americans for Prosperity has reserved nearly $850,000 in airtime for TV ads that will begin Monday.

A source tracking media buys told POLITICO that about $500,000 in time has been reserved in Denver and $340,000 has been reserved in Colorado Springs. The money is spread over three weeks.

This buy from Americans for Prosperity is the first major expenditure by an outside group in Colorado in 2014, but it certainly won't be the last. We haven't seen the ad, but no doubt it attempts to tie incumbent Sen. Mark Udall to Obamacare. None of this is a surprise, except for the details: $340,000 seems like a lot of money to spend in a Colorado Springs market, where a heavy Republican voter base should theoretically already oppose Udall. Perhaps Udall isn't as disliked in Southern Colorado as we all might have expected.

Beauprez: “I’ve Lived Off The Land All My Life”

chateaudbeauprez2
Chateau d'Beauprez, Lafayette, CO.

Here's a clip of audio from 2006 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's interview with radio host Jimmy Sengenberger that had us blowing soda out our nose when we got it yesterday evening:

Transcript–this clip comes just after Beauprez decries new emission standards passed by Gov. John Hickenlooper's Air Quality Control Commission. If you like, listen to the whole interview here.

BEAUPREZ: Everybody wants clean air, they want a safe environment, they want to be good stewards of the environment, and I'm certainly in that category. As a guy who's lived off the land all of his life, I want to protect that land and that environment. [Pols emphasis]

"Lived off the land all of his life?" It's true that Beauprez's parents were dairy farmers, but the reality is, Beauprez sold off the family farm. The Beauprez family farm is now an upper middle class suburban neighborhood. Beauprez's wealth derives not from farming, but from banking. Now, maybe the beautiful subdivision and golf course that sits on Beauprez's former farm is what he meant by "living off the land," but that's not what will come to mind for most people. As Todd Hartman reported in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News back in 2006:

[Beauprez] went on to sell the cows along with the family farm, converting it to a shiny 1,350-home golf course community in Lafayette. He took the profits from that deal and poured them into a failing hometown bank, building it into a 13-branch showcase that recently sold for $72 million. Beauprez's share: $16.5 million.

You bet Bob Beauprez "lives off the land"–by selling it!

If that's not bad enough: Beauprez made this statement while attacking regulations on oil and gas drilling (listen to the whole interview for context). The land Beauprez "lives on," literally and figuratively, is located in Lafayette.

The same Lafayette that passed a ban on "fracking" last fall.

Could it get any more ridiculous, folks? We're inclined to think not.

Ukraine Makes Its Way Into Colorado Politics

We suppose it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. From Politico:

Momentum is building in Congress to wield the United States’ vast natural gas resources to break Vladimir Putin’s energy stranglehold over Ukraine — although some lawmakers acknowledged their efforts would have no immediate impact on the crisis in Crimea.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced bills Wednesday to make it easier to export natural gas to countries including Ukraine, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on its own legislation. Meanwhile, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is seeking new momentum for a bill he introduced last year that would give Ukraine, Japan and NATO members the same preferential access to U.S. gas as countries that have free-trade agreements with the United States…

…The legislation builds on days of pleas from lawmakers in both parties, including House Speaker John Boehner, for the Obama administration to unleash energy exports as a wedge against Russia, which supplies 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas using pipelines that largely run through Ukraine.

Sen. Mark Udall's bill will be followed up today by a similar measure from…guess who? Reports The Hill:

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) will introduce a bill on natural gas exports Thursday, a congressional source told The Hill.

Gardner, who recently announced his campaign against Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), will introduce details Thursday.

Dueling bills on Ukraine! Intense!

 

Broomfield Fracking Moratorium Victory Upheld

Fracking fluid.

Fracking fluid.

As the Broomfield Enterprise's Megan Quinn reports:

A Broomfield judge has upheld the results of the embattled Nov. 5 election.

Judge Chris Melonakis released his decision Thursday evening. In his decision, he said Broomfield acted in good faith when conducting the election and that the results should not be tossed out…

Though the election was far from perfect, it was not illegal, he said.

"The steps taken (by Broomfield) were a reasonable, if imperfect attempt to insure full extension of the franchise and prevention of voter fraud," Melonakis said in his ruling.

The biggest issue here was always the unusual razor-thin of the election, more than confusion with the first use of new residency rules passed under last year's House Bill 1303 or any other factor. The fact is, any time you have a hotly-contested question decided by just 20 votes, all parties with a stake in the outcome are going to push any circumstantial leverage they can find to tip the scales in their favor. Usual suspect Republican detractors of House Bill 1303 were only too happy to pile on–but today, Broomfield elections officials are the ones smiling.

The success of Broomfield's Question 300, however narrow, means that every one of the local moratoria and bans on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," for oil and gas that appeared on municipal ballots in Colorado last year was passed. That fact stands in stark contrast to the insistence by the oil and gas industry that their opponents are a small activist "fringe." These are not statewide bans, but decisions by local communities to restrict a dangerous industrial land use within their boundaries. Attempts by the oil and gas industry, and even Colorado public officials, to marginalize this pushback are increasingly without rational basis. The next question is whether a statewide constitutional initiative to empower local communities to take the same action can pass. Again, not an unrealistic statewide "ban on fracking," but an endorsement of local control.

If these results are any indication, the answer is "yes"–and it's a political reality that can't be ignored.

Reax: Colorado Approves Landmark Air Quality Rules

lion-lamb​FOX 31's Eli Stokols kicks off coverage from this weekend's session of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission:

Colorado will be the first state in the country to regulate emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as part of new air quality rules for the state’s booming oil and gas industry that were finalized on Sunday afternoon…

On Sunday afternoon, after voting down motions to weaken the rule based on suggestions from the industry — they wanted the rule applied only along the Front Range in ozone “non-attainment” areas and to exempt smaller wells altogether — the board voted 8-1 in favor of the new rules.

“I think that the vote was 8-to-1 tells you we felt this was a strong, fair rule,” said AQCC Chairman John Loewy.

The three largest operators in the state, Noble, Anadarko and Encana pledged to support the rules, which were outlined late last year by Gov. John Hickenlooper after he brokered a compromise that got them, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, to officially sign on.

The Denver Post's Bruce Finley with reaction from supportive members of the industry:

By passing rules aimed at reducing toxic emissions from oil and gas facilities, Colorado officials are trying to allow an energy boom while also protecting health and the environment. They needed to act because Front Range air already fails to meet federal health standards. The oil and gas industry is a growing source of volatile organic compounds that lead to the formation of ozone…

"This is the toughest regulatory landscape in the country, no doubt about that," Noble vice president Ted Brown said. "But we really believe this rule is smart. It is cost-effective. It ensures that oil and gas is developed in the safest possible way for communities and the environment."

From Gov. John Hickenlooper's statement:

"Colorado is proving once again that collaboration and compromise help solve important issues facing our state. The new rules approved by Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission, after taking input from varied and often conflicting interests, will ensure Colorado has the cleanest and safest oil and gas industry in the country and help preserve jobs.

“We want to thank the environmental community, the energy industry and our state agencies for working together so hard to take this significant step forward. All Coloradans deserve a healthy economy and a healthy environment, and we’re working to ensure that Colorado continues to have both.”

(more…)

Flip Flops, Pizza, and Industry NIMBYs

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado stands to become the first state to impose regulations on the sometimes copious amounts of methane that leaks during all stages of natural gas development and production.  Methane is a super potent greenhouse gas, contributing to climate change which in turn increases the likelihood and severity of extreme weather events from super fires to thousand year floods, from extreme cold to deadly heat. 

Now the silly pundits over at Fox News like to pretend that cold in the Winter means climate change is not happening, or that environmentalists are trying to fool America by referring to it as such rather than as Global Warming. 

Global warming, global weirding, and climate change are different terms that describe related parts of what is happening right now to our planet—Lifeship Earth.

Not so long ago the Natural gas industry loved talking about climate change, presumably because it was seen as a way to sell more of their product. 

(more…)

Doing Solar Wrong

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Xcel, our utility here in Colorado, has been busy recently fighting against rooftop solar, all-the-while arguing that they’re totally for solar but the incentives aren’t needed anymore / are too expensive.

They’re also running a bunch of TV and radio ads that talk about how they “do solar right”, bragging about the amount of solar energy they do, etc.

Here’s the thing: Xcel is a big, big utility that operates across a number of states, including Minnesota. And based on this story I read from Minnesota about their approach to solar there, I think it’s hard to take Xcel at their word that they’re really pro-solar.

Minnesota is looking to build a big power plant to serve Xcel’s customers. Xcel wanted to build a gas plant. Another company proposed to do a bunch of solar. The judge on the case decided they should go with the solar because, notably, it was a better deal than natural gas:

Minnesota soon could see at least a sevenfold expansion of solar power.

In an unprecedented ruling, a judge reviewing whether Xcel Energy should invest in new natural gas generators vs. large solar power arrays concluded Tuesday that solar is a better deal.

If the finding by Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman is upheld by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Edina-based Geronimo Energy plans to build about 20 large solar power arrays on sites across Xcel’s service area at a cost of $250 million.

In a 50-page ruling, Lipman said “the greatest value to Minnesota and Xcel’s ratepayers is drawn from selecting Geronimo’s solar energy proposal …”

 

So basically, not only is the project producing clean energy as opposed to the gas Xcel wanted to use, but it’s a better deal for ratepayers. And what’s Xcel do? Why, attack the solar plan of course:

Minnesota, power companies attack solar energy plan

State energy officials and power companies tried Tuesday to derail a proposed $250 million solar energy project designed to meet future electricity needs of Xcel Energy Inc. customers in Minnesota.

In regulatory filings, the Minnesota Commerce Department, Xcel and two other companies that want to build natural gas power plants urged state regulators to reject Edina-based Geronimo Energy’s plans to build approximately 20 large solar power arrays across Minnesota.

(more…)

Coloradans Overwhelmingly Voice Support for Proposed Air Regulations

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado is the quintessential swing state – with voters split about evenly between Republicans, Democrats and Independents. That can make for some fractious politics at times, but our diversity is part of what makes us great.

What makes us even better is our unity – and that’s what we saw today when, by a margin of almost 10-to-1, Coloradans of all stripes called on the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt new rules that would slash air and climate pollution coming from oil and gas development activities.

The AQCC opened its hearings on the proposed rules with a full day of citizen input, with people traveling from around the state (one drove six hours) to make their voices heard. Residents from rural communities, including many from the Western Slope, stood up, one after another, to tell the AQCC Commissioners that the proposed rules should apply statewide and that the handful of local officials opposing the rules are out of step with the citizens they’re supposed to serve. In response to those local officials, one citizen from Ridgway implored the Commission to protect all Colorado families and not “turn the West Slope into an air quality sacrifice zone.”

The Environmental Defense Fund couldn’t agree more. Air quality in western parts of Colorado is trending in a bad direction, teetering on the edge of violating federal health standards. The state health department issued nine ozone advisories last winter for Western Slope counties where oil and gas development is prevalent, meaning the air wasn’t healthy for kids, the elderly, active adults and people with respiratory illness.

(more…)

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. 

(more…)

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?

(more…)

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.

(more…)