…and You’re No Wendell Berry

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Invest in the Millennium”

The opening stanza of Wendell Berry’s poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front” is a good place to start this blog:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

Reading Greg Walcher’s column is part of my weekly ritual.

Greg Walcher, who many are familiar with as former head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (under Governor Owens), a one-time Congressional candidate, and long-time leader of the extractive-industry and Western Slope lobby group: Club 20, writes a weekly column in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Reading it is part of my Friday ritual.

Walcher’s column is widely panned as light on facts, heavy on conjecture, and harsh on any who think public health, other life on the planet, and environmental sustainability are more critical than padding private portfolios.

This week he writes about the heavy thumb of Washington holding back rural Coloradans who only want to cut things down, dig things up, and frack their way to freedom. To make his point, he quotes author, poet, farmer, and philosopher Wendell Berry, who–of course–never really meant what Mr. Walcher seems to want him to. Perhaps it seemed like a handy quote as his deadline loomed–would anyone even know better?

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Will Sen. Cory Gardner Vote Like the Anti-Environment House Republicans?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A good deal has already been written here at ColoradoPols.com about America’s largest cloud of methane pollution that hovers over the Four Corners region, including southwestern Colorado. It has been noted in blogs and op-eds and articles and exposés that this region lies within Colorado’s Third Congressional District, currently represented by Scott Tipton who himself hails from the region—and who behaves as if he’s not at all concerned about methane pollution clouding up his constituents’ lives.

Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator Cory Gardner will face his first re-election campaign in 2020. He will be a Republican facing what is certain to be a high-stakes race running in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton once and Barack Obama twice.

Solutions exist that can make a difference, today, to reduce methane pollution. This includes cutting down on the large amounts of methane pollution that come from oil and gas operations, as the State of Colorado has already successfully done for lands it helps regulate.

Mr. Tipton opposes these solutions. For instance, Tipton recently voted to invoke the Congressional Review Act and gut new regulations for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are proven to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands.

And soon the U.S. Senate will vote to follow this brash and ill-advised move, or to support the BLM methane venting rule, America’s clean air, and climate action.

All eyes are on Sen. Cory Gardner as a purple state senator to see if he will follow Tipton’s sooty suit, or if he will prove his purple state bona fides and vote to protect Colorado’s air quality. Sen. Gardner should stand up for clean air and climate action rejecting Tipton’s and the House Republicans’ radical attempt to gut the BLM’s methane venting rule.

First it should be noted that air pollution from oil and gas operations is a public health risk. Ensuring that oil and gas operators are required to do all they can to prevent methane leaks and to capture any methane that is leaking will reduce related pollution, including other harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

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Colorado’s Public Lands & Public Health Under Attack by House GOP

FRIDAY UPDATE (PK): The House GOP’s efforts to tear down the national BLM methane venting rules is up today.  The Durango Herald has joined with the Sentinel and the Denver Post in urging that Congress leaves this rule in place.

From E&E News (subscription) this morning:

Republicans in Congress are invoking their authority under the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules finalized during President Obama’s last months in office, including several regulations opposed by the energy industry. The Senate yesterday voted to kill an Interior Department rule designed to protect waterways from coal mining pollution…

The House today considers a resolution that would wipe from the books the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which aims to prevent methane venting, flaring and leakage during oil and gas production.

New Mexico rancher Don Schreiber said he is incensed by the possibility.

“The thought of people without a vulnerable exposure, without exposing their own lives, the lives of their families, their wives, daughters, children, to this threat is infuriating to me and so outside anything that’s reasonable or just,” he said.

 

…”Those insults to our health, air quality, wildlife and climate go on around the clock, and we’re on the sharp end of the stick,” Schreiber said. “We ride our horses right into those BTEX discharges.”

 

THURSDAY POLS UPDATE: Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah is reportedly killing this bill after intense backlash:

Over “fear it sends the wrong message,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz will abandon his bill that called on the Interior Department to dispose of or sell 3.3 million acres of “excess” public lands.

Chaffetz, R-Utah, had reintroduced the legislation in January, saying the disposal was “long overdue.” He’s backed off the plan since then, seemingly in response to the many conservationist groups that protested the plan on social media…

Chaffetz has introduced the bill every year since 2010, but it has never passed or gone forward to a committee hearing. The legislation accords with other Republican efforts in Utah to take control public lands, which account for about two-thirds of the state’s area.

“While there are national treasures worthy of federal protection, there are lands that should be returned to private ownership,” Chaffetz said in 2011.

—–

Rep. Tipton’s district includes some of America’s most prized, visited and awe-inspiring public lands, as well as North America’s largest cloud of methane pollution. House Republicans are preparing to sell some of Colorado’s public lands, and to gut protections for air and water.

As noted in a previous diary I wrote here, the Republican assault on the lands, water and air did not take long. First up under a “rule change” devaluing the public lands held in trust for all Americans. That was immediately followed by efforts to roll back whatever environmental protections are most vulnerable.

Among the rush to gut environmental rules and protections, we learn that Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz has proposed legislation to begin the public lands sell off.  Public lands that Chaffetz wants to put up for sale are in ten states, according to an article in The Guardian.

The 10 states affected are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Residents can see how much acreage is earmarked for “disposal” in their counties by checking a PDF on Chaffetz’s website.

January 2017: Public lands already going up for sale. And some of the most vulnerable environmental rules, not to mention bedrock environmental laws, are about to be gutted.

In addition to selling off and opening up more public lands for development, House Republicans are eager to gut protections for clean air and water as well. Through the Congressional Review Act certain of President Obama’s more recent regulations are open to attack by a simple Congressional majority.

Two that are among those most vulnerable to roll back are the Stream Protection Rule–which expands protections for streams and waterways from coal mining; and the BLM’s Methane Waste Rule–which tightens regulations around wasting (which usually means leaking or venting) methane from oil and gas operations, a leading contributor to methane pollution.

Diverse Destinations

Delta County showcases some of its public lands – who knows which ones the House Republicans are about to sell off?

Although Colorado already has methane rules in place, through action at the state level that also applies to most federal lands, our air isn’t protected from activity in adjacent states–like Colorado’s Uinta and San Juan Basins, oil and gas fields which are both in Rep. Tipton’s Third Congressional District and also both in neighboring states where Colorado’s methane rules don’t apply.

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Yes Colorado, the GOP Just Voted to Make Selling Off Your Public Lands Easier.

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EDIT: Cleaned up some typos and repetitive language. Also, Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Chair of the House Resource Committee calls the claim that this is an attempt to make it easier to sell off and transfer public lands, “Bullshit” in an E & E News article (subscription) today. Many observers remain highly doubtful of the Congressman’s claim.

—–

It was just three months ago when Congressman Scott Tipton indignantly denied he favored selling off America’s beloved public lands. And it was just three days ago that he voted to make it more easy to do so.

Which of America’s beloved public lands do Colorado’s Congressional Republicans think should be sold off?

The first response was during the campaign, when he accused his Democratic opponent Gail Schwartz of misrepresenting his record. As Charles Ashby reported in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel about a Schwartz ad:

In it, former state Sen. Gail Schwartz says Tipton wants to sell off public lands and make them available to private individuals and corporations.

That’s not even close to being true, Tipton said.

“I’ve been a longtime advocate of keeping our federal public lands and ensuring that the American people have continued access to them,” Tipton said.

“Never once have I advocated to sell them off.”

In the ad, called “Public Lands,” Schwartz said Tipton “wants to cut off access to public lands for generations to come, killing thousands of jobs,” adding that the land should remain open for ranching, hunting and fishing.

The second action was in the secret closed-door meeting, and subsequent floor vote on House rules.

As the Washington Post reported:

House Republicans on Tuesday changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, a move that will make it easier for members of the new Congress to cede federal control of public lands.

The provision, included as part as a larger rules package the House approved by a vote of 233 to 190 during its first day in session, highlights the extent to which some congressional Republicans hope to change longstanding rules now that the GOP will control the executive and the legislative branches starting Jan. 20.

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GOP Votes to Gut Independent Office of Congressional Ethics

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POLS UPDATE #3: Per Talking Points Memo, we learn that Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) voted NO on the proposal. No word on the other five members of Colorado’s delegation.

—–

POLS UPDATE #2: As Chris Cillizza asks for “The Fix,” WTF are Republicans doing?:

That so many Republican Members — 119 voted for the proposal — didn’t grasp how remarkably bad it all looks to a public already deeply skeptical of Washington speaks volumes about how sheltered many politicians still are from the constituents who elected Donald Trump president on November 8. Regardless of the merits (or lack thereof) of the OCE, the manner in which House Republicans scrapped it is remarkably tone-deaf and should worry any member of the GOP about what’s to come in this new legislative year.

—–

POLS UPDATE: After President-elect Donald Trump scolds congressional Republicans on Twitter, Politico now reporting:

Following a public outcry, and criticism from President-elect Donald Trump, House Republicans reversed course Tuesday on drastic changes to the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) offered a motion to restore the current OCE rules, and that was accepted by the GOP conference.

—–

In its first move to help President-Elect Donald J. Trump “Drain the Swamp” the House GOP caucus has voted overwhelmingly to “eviscerate” the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

The late evening vote, done behind closed doors with no roll call, gutted the OCE of all meaningful power.

As NPR reports:

The House Republican Conference voted Monday night to approve a change to House rules to weaken the independence of the Office of Congressional Ethics and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee — a panel controlled by party leaders.

Among the changes: Stripping the OCE of any ability to investigate complaints without the politicians’ approval; Gutting the Office of its ability to communicate with media or to inform the public, which funds the operations of government, including congressional salaries, staff and committees; and, Prohibiting the OCE from notifying law enforcement when it uncovers evidence of criminal wrong doing.

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Polluters Trump Science with EPA Pick

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Al Gore Climate Champion leaves Trump Tower after meeting on climate change. “I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued,” Gore reportedly said. Two days later Trump appointed an infamous climate change denier to head the EPA.

Do the media get whiplash? Just a day ago we saw none other than Al Gore, the chief apostle warning humanity of its reckless carbon-belching ways, saying vaguely complimentary things about his summons to the Trump Tower to speak with The Donald and First Daughter to be. Today we get a science-denying climate change villain put forth as nominee for Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

And while you can’t hide the sooty facts behind a pretty face, if media were a harp it might manage a tune of sorts. Played so well by the reality star, real estate magnate, alleged sexual predator cum leader of the Free World. Look there not here. Watch the pageantry, ignore the sleight of hand.

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We Must Resist Trumpism In Colorado

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“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”~Edmund Burke

The Dachau Death Train. German people that did not speak up in time were left with a terrible moral burden when they had to face the brutal reality their inaction enabled.

When I was about nine years old my parents took me to Dachau. We were living in Stuttgart, on a U.S. Army base and it was 1975. The Wall still divided Berlin into East and West, and Red Brigades like the Baader-Meinhof Gang were causing troubles.

The experience still stands as one of the most deeply formative of my life. I was distraught looking at the images of Nazis experimenting on humans, of the piles of corpses, of the cold and clinical way a modern society justified and turned a blind eye to hatred, scapegoating and murder.

So I do not tolerate Nazis well. “White Nationalism” raises a bile in my stomach and a resolve in my will.

Seeing it here in my beloved Rocky Mountain home breaks my heart. But I am not cowed, I will resist and speak out against Trumpism wherever it arises.

Church in Dillon, Colorado tagged with pro-Trump pro-Nazi graffiti in 2016.

Recently that was in Dillon, Colorado.

The Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon was targeted with offensive graffiti last night, marking the fourth reported case of political vandalism in the past two months. The graffiti, sprayed on the side of the church overlooking Dillon Valley, was wide-ranging, including satanic symbols, a swastika, a phallic symbol and “F*** Jesus Trump 2K16.”

In suburban Highlands Ranch we learn of a father called “f****t”  (and “Hillary voter”) by a store manager at Floor & Decors in front of his four-year-old son, then followed with his small boy by a pro-Trump customer to his car and further harassed.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports race-based harassment has spiked at schools in the district.

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AG Coffman Shouldn’t Impede Colorado’s Clean Energy Future

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Yesterday the lawsuit to stop the President’s Clean Power Plan from moving forward began its oral argument in the court. The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is the EPA rule that seeks to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the authority of the Clean Air Act.

The lawsuit is backed by some 27 state attorneys general, including Colorado’s Cynthia Coffman, and lots of fossil fuel and utility interests. Colorado Public Radio recently gave a rundown on the CPP and the lawsuit.

Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman signed on with about two dozen other states to challenge a key provision of the Obama administration’s fight against global warming. It seeks to reduce carbon emissions 32 percent by 2030.

Climate is in the news for lots of reasons. Based on all the election coverage and sideshow reporting it might be easy to forget that the world goes on, for instance pollution still happens, aside from all this.

Recent news we might tune into includes the conclusion by some scientists that our planet’s atmosphere passed the 400 ppm of CO2 for good—a threshold well past the 350 ppm that some have long tied to a planetary tipping point.

The International Business Times reports:

Now, scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory have revealed another sobering finding. This September — usually a month when the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their lowest levels in the northern hemisphere, the level of the greenhouse gas remained stubbornly above the 400 ppm.

 

This measurement all but ensures that monthly carbon dioxide levels won’t drop below 400 ppm any time in the foreseeable future.

Still the lawsuit and arguments are taking up a lot of the space for climate news. In the CPR story listeners learn that Colorado’s state leadership is split on the Clean Power Plan:

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Air Quality is Being Harmed by Oil And Gas Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The EPA Acts on Climate – Issues Historic Methane Rule

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Animated GIF shows the global temperature “spiraling upward” since the advent of the Industrial Age.

Today the Environmental Protection Agency is issuing its long-anticipated methane rules to crack down on oil and gas activity leaking copious amounts of this super-potent greenhouse gas.

U.S. News & World Report’s article notes that this is an historic accomplishment in the Obama administration’s fight to address the looming climate catastrophe.

The first federal rules specifically limiting methane emissions from oil and natural gas sites are expected to be finalized Thursday by the Obama administration.

The regulations would require oil and gas companies to improve how they detect and plug leaks at new and modified wells, pipelines, compressor stations and other industrial sites.

The subscription-based news service ClimateWire has a more detailed story up today:

The Obama administration today is finalizing a suite of regulations targeting emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds from new oil and gas industry operations, according to multiple sources.

U.S. EPA’s final rules are a key part of the Obama administration’s goal of lowering methane emissions from the oil and gas industry between 40 and 45 percent by 2025 compared with 2012 levels. The rules also represent the first time that EPA has directly regulated methane from a source.

Environmentalists believe that reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is a key part of addressing climate change.

“The Obama administration’s new national standard to cut methane pollution from oil and gas facilities is an important step to protect our climate and the health of nearby communities,” said environmental watchdog Earthworks’ policy director, Lauren Pagel, in a statement last night.

Methane, according to EPA, is a greenhouse gas that’s more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide. EPA’s recent inventory of greenhouse gases found that the oil and gas sector was the No. 1 source of methane emissions in the United States in 2014.

The oil and gas industry, never having ever seen a regulation of which it approves – despite how quickly its PR teams embrace them after they are implemented as indication how much it truly cares about not cooking the planet, or poisoning water supplies, or upsetting neighbors with noise, fumes, fugitive dust, flaring and spills—opposes the new rules.

Methane leakage from oil and gas fields is a major source of this pollutant, a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and human-caused climate change.

Indeed, in Colorado we already have methane capture rules in place, which industry has admitted they can comply with without much cost or trouble; but those too were fought by trade associations that, just a few short years ago, predicted mass calamity should oil and gas drillers be required to clean up their act.

Methane, as the articles note above, is a major contributor to the reality of human-driven climate change now threatening all aspects of our planet’s systems—from the spread of deadly disease, to declining ocean health, to the threat of massive wildfire in drying forests especially across the northern tier, even to the unravelling of the very Web of Life.

2015 was the hottest year on record. 2016 is on pace to break it.

The Obama administration has pledged to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas, both with this rule making and with another underway in the Interior Department to prevent methane leakage from energy development on public lands.

It has also put in place the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever federal effort to limit carbon pollution from power plants, with which Colorado is moving forward despite a temporary stay on the federal implementation of the plan.  That impasse led to one of several petulant parlays by Colorado Senate Republicans – which thankfully failed. The United States also helped lead the effort to complete the Paris Accords, an international agreement to limit temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.

As we head into the political season it is not only our planetary home heating up. The rhetoric will also be topping the charts. Elections matter.

Like the GOP foes he vanquished in becoming the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump denies the established science supporting the reality of human-driven climate change.

And while there may be many accurate charges to level that the Obama administration is taking one step back for each step-and-a-half it takes forward, that it waited so late to get started on these important rule-makings, that these efforts are but half-measures when we need to be doubling down on ending our fossil fuel addiction if we are serious about addressing this global crisis.

Make no mistake that the consequences of our selections this fall matter in a real and tangible way. One major party alone – almost in all the world – still denies the science that shows us the nature and veracity of this threat.

If you care about your future, and that of those who are coming up into it, weigh your vote carefully. If you support climate action, then support these rule-makings even if you also demand that the time to Act on Climate is past due, and that these are but tepid steps toward a sustainable world. They are steps forward all the same, and we cannot afford to take even one step back at this critical moment.

Senate GOP Kicks Rural Colorado When Its Down

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Its not news that Colorado’s economic recovery has been uneven.  As the Front Range booms much of the Western Slope has been left behind. Consider this article from the Daily Sentinel, today:

Colorado’s population rate ranked as the nation’s second-fastest in growth in 2014 and 2015, with most of the increases on the Front Range. While the state saw an increase of 101,000 people, most of those people located or were born on the Front Range.

The Front Range’s explosive population growth may not be news to some people, but Mesa County also experienced a modest growth rate of 3 percent, or 456 people, during that time.

That’s important to note because some counties in the state, like Delta County, experienced a population loss those years, said Elizabeth Garner, a demographer for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

And while the article works to put a good spin on that disparity (500 people!) the conclusion is unavoidable, communities in western Colorado that have long been linked to extractive industries are struggling.

For instance, this happened today.

 

 

The silo at Oxbow’s Elk Creek mine, which sat above the former ‘company town’ of Somerset came down.

Although the Oxbow mine was shuttered due to a mine fire (and not due to Democrats as much as some fossil fuel advocates claim otherwise) when it comes to coal the writing is on the wall. And natural gas and oil prices remain depressed. By fits and starts the era of fossil fuels is making way for something different.

This is certainly true in Colorado, where even conservative counties are realizing the key to future economic prosperity is diversifying the economy, not doubling down on the ways of the last century.

So it was rather upsetting, if not altogether surprising, when the Republicans in the Colorado Senate killed, for a second time, a widely supported bill (SB 81) put forward by Sen. Kerry Donovan to aid struggling rural economies with the transition that even they have come to realize is underway.

Why did they kill the bill? According to Sen. Ray Scott because “grants don’t create jobs, people do.”

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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.

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COGA Disappointed: Adams County Citizens Don’t Need Facts

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hoo Boy. Dan Haley, former Denver Post editorial page editor spun through the oil and gas lobbyist revolving door into president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, is “disappointed” that a conservation group is making oil and gas issues “political and partisan.”

Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a lobby group prone to suing local governments and which operates a Political Action Committee, is sad that some Coloradans view public decisions being made by elected officials and policy-makers as “political.”

Sorry if you spit out your coffee. Take a minute to clean up your keyboard and then follow me.

The source of Mr. Haley’s disappointment is data. Yes, accurate information portrayed on a map. Presenting information it seems is problematic as this Denver Post headline reflects:

Oil and gas leases, mineral rights cover 64 percent of Adams County

Environmental group creates easy-to-use repository of potential drilling activity in Adams County

Oh noes. Information that is easy-to-use! Red Alert! DEFCON1:  Send in the Strategic Communications Operatives. STAT!

Randy Hildreth, an oil and gas advocate with Energy-in-Depth a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, answers the call to arms, blasting such accessible portrayal of fact as fear-mongering.

Conservation Colorado’s effort to frighten Adams County residents is little more than a scare campaign that ignores the extensive considerations that go into permitting the location of an oil and gas well…

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Rocky Mountain Whistle Pigs and Reluctant Politicians

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It seems unlikely that any yellow-bellied “whistle pig” or other Rocky Mountain variant of the ground hog will be out today to cast a shadow. But I still think Colorado is in for a few more weeks of winter.  It’s going to take that long for the snow to melt in town in some places, with what we have already, and its only Ground Hogs’ Day.  If El Niño keeps up, there could be a huge snowpack in the high country come spring.

It is one of those counter-intuitive ideas that the combination of the cyclical weather pattern that drives moisture from the Pacific like a spigot across the West and climate change could be super-charging the storms, especially frozen ones.

The oceans are warming at a fast rate, capturing the vast majority of the globe’s increasing temperature over the past decades.

But it feels like winter, regardless of climate change or prognosticating rodents.

Animals do tell us something though, whether you embrace this odd relic in celebration of Imbolc or not. Including small mammals. And buried in snow or not, the science is becoming clear that climate change is a threat to many species, small and large.

On the occasion of Ground Hogs Day, the National Wildlife Federation has released a new report: “Big Climate Challenges Facing Small Mammals.”

Among the examples of animals in trouble from the impacts of climate change, the Canada lynx, pine martens, pikas, and snowshoe hare are all important species among Colorado’s healthy wildlife panoply.

“We know what’s causing climate change and we know the solutions. What we need now is national and local leadership to make smart energy choices and wise investments in protecting our wildlife and natural resources,” the report concludes.

The Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado sit in a transitional zone, highly susceptible to impacts from human-driven climate change. Climate change is already disrupting weather, driving insect infestations and wildfire, changing our forests, bringing drought and torrential downpours…

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