Clueless Climate Alliance Clamor Continues

We wrote earlier this week about Republican gubernatorial candidates who reacted with over-the-top anger to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision to join the U.S. Climate Alliance–a group of states committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Accords despite President Donald Trump’s unilateral pullout of the United States.

Since then, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has joined the pile-on in his own colloquial way:

We don’t know who Mark Train is, but we assume he doesn’t drive an electric car! Bah-dum-tish!

Ribbing aside, this is another chance to remind readers that we’ve never understood the intensity of the clamor against renewable energy from groups like the Independence Institute and their Republican message surrogates. The scientific consensus regarding human-caused climate change is really only challenged by a small subset of non-mainstream voices, who are almost always are revealed under scrutiny to be funded by interests with a financial motive to deny the overwhelming consensus.

This description sums up the Independence Institute pretty well.

What we’re trying to say here is that the only people who rage against renewable energy this much are paid to–or in the case of politicians like Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, supported politically by those who are. If you don’t have a financial interest in the fight against clean energy, there’s just no reason to badmouth it. Not even as price-sensitive consumers, since the cost of power from renewable sources has been dropping, steadily eroding that once-decisive factor. Consumers understand the benefit of using clean energy over fossil fuels, and are excited about new technologies to make them practical.

In all cases, whether it’s the GOP’s candidates for governor or the fossil fuel industry’s paid surrogates, these are extremely weak arguments, that the next generation will find laughable as they routinely set out for the West Coast in their electric cars and power their homes with renewable generation. Unless you’re already primed for these anti-renewable energy arguments by immersion in the Fox News/talk radio infobubble, in which case you’re the choir the Independence Institute is wasting time preaching to, it simply doesn’t work. It sounds stale, strained, and above all contrived.

Like the real Mark Twain once said, “do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.”

WOTD: Electric Utility Death Spiral

WOTD: Electric Utility Death Spiral

Partial Grid Defection: Produce 80-90% of your own electricity using your solar panel and backup batteries. Stay connected to the grid only for 24/7 reliability. This becomes cost effective by 2020.

Full Grid Defection: Produce 80-90% of your own electricity, and add diesel generator for emergency use. This becomes cost effective by 2030.

From Vox.com: Batteries are going to make rooftop solar invulnerable.

Utilities don’t make money selling electricity, they make money on their infrastructure. Customers pay a flat rate to cover both electricity and infrastructure.

WHEN A CUSTOMER INSTALLS SOLAR PANELS, IT HURTS THE UTILITY IN TWO WAYS. 

One, it reduces demand for utility power. Utilities generally don’t want lower demand. To justify building stuff, they need to be able to project higher demand.

Two, the more solar customers reduce their utility bills by generating their own power, the more utilities have to charge other, non-solar customers more, to cover their costs-plus-returns. This pisses the other customers off. And it incentivizes them to install solar themselves!

Cheap batteries neuter utility attacks on rooftop solar

Rooftop solar can be staved off temporarily with fees and rate tweaks, but as batteries get cheaper, those strategies will stop working. More and customers are going to generate, store, and manage more and more of their own power.

“In a low-cost storage environment,” McKinsey writes, the rate structures utilities are monkeying around with “are unlikely to be effective at mitigating load losses.” In other words, customers are still going to keep generating more of their own power.

That’s because batteries allow customers to circumvent utilities’ two primary tools for slowing the spread of solar.

If I look at my own situation, rooftop solar may be socially conscious  but it isn’t really economical unless my electrical needs were to increase (electric car?)
 

  • For one, the City of Fort Collins runs the electric utility and our prices are 20% or so less than the average in Colorado. 
  • For two, For about $10/month added to my bill, I can purchase solar electricity directly from the City Utility
  • For three, my electric use is already a quarter of average. I don’t have a TV or microwave, nor electric heaters or air conditioner. My whole-house fan runs on low & I have a new, energy-star refrigerator. Those are probably my biggest consumers of electricity.

Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

(more…)

Good News! June 23-30, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about healthcare and the resistance to the BCRA Wealthcare bill.  We’ve come too far to give up now. Keep our eyes on the prize:  A public healthcare system like every other industrialized country has.

Healthcare, the ACA, and the Senate Wealthcare bill

The Senate Democrats fought hard to keep the BCRA, aka Trump’s Wealthcare bill, from being voted on without hearings or public input. It was good to see some Senate backbone on display.

Hawaii’s Maisie Hirono led  filibustering on the Senate floor.

Our own Senator Bennet spoke at length,  outlining what’s at stake in this health care bill.

But – we don’t know what Cory Gardner really thinks about the Senate healthcare bill he supposedly helped to draft. Right now, he looks to be in the “Yes on BCRA” camp, because he pretends that insurance costs will go down with the Senate bill.  However, Cowardly Cory will not give his constituents the courtesy of in-person meetings or town halls to discuss his position. Even when said constituents try really, really hard.

To keep the heat on, keep contacting

Senator Bennet: Contact Us

Senator Gardner: Contact Cory*

More good news about healthcare in Colorado: we get to keep all of our insurance brokers next year, said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar. No Colorado counties will be without an insurance provider, according to the Summit Daily News.

(more…)

Good News! June 16-23, 2017

(Because Lord knows we can use some – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This was a hard week to write “Good News” for. Still, there was some.

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about the heat, voters, immigrant rights, cannabis, and beer. Farmer’s markets. Buying local. No sports news, because the only sports I halfway understand are basketball and baseball. Anything else, I’m the one looking at you to see when to stand up and cheer.

Environmental / energy

It’s freaking hot in Colorado, especially on the western slope , down south, and in Denver, but the head of the EPA won’t say if climate change is a hoax, although his boss says it is.

Good news: It’s not as hot as Phoenix’s 119 degrees . Even AZ Sen. McCain thinks this global warming thing is the real deal.   Plastic mailboxes are melting in Arizona – it’s that hot.  (Photo from reddit, via Buzzfeed)

 

MacGregor Ranch is piloting a program to work closely with the NRCS to cut underbrush and mitigate wildfire risk, since it is so freaking hot in Colorado. Drought and wildfires are the two main hazards Colorado experiences from climate change. Here’s the video from the pilot project.

Virgin Mobile and several other big retailers are planning to conserve energy by running their trucking fleets more efficiently.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, will shut down 37 of its mines that are no longer economically viable. The lost energy will be replaced mainly with solar.

Clean energy jobs remain the fastest-growing employment sector in Colorado  – with 62,000 added last year.  65% of those jobs are in energy efficiency.   This all helps Colorado to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.3%.    Rates for youth under 24 were at 6%, and for Hispanics at 5%, still lower than most other states.

There’s still some good fishing around Colorado. Get’em while there’s still water enough to fish in.

And you can drive to your fishing spot on roads you won’t have to pay an extra tax on, per the Colorado Business Coalition. Amendment 267 passed, funding $3 Billion for road repair and maintenance; however, $10 billion was needed. Where will that come from?

The “Dog Days” are  approaching. If you see poor Puddles panting in a hot car, you can break in to save the pet – but not legally,  in Colorado, until August.

(more…)

Good news! Week of June 11- 17, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine. And that’s fine. Something I’m missing? Add it in the comments.

LGBT:

Massive Marches may move us, but the  biggest and gayest parade this year in Colorado will be Pridefest, this Sunday June 18. Civic Center Park will host the celebration all weekend. For your daily minimum requirement of fabulousness, go to Pridefest Denver. (Photo from 2016 Pridefest, Wikipedia Commons)

Pridefest Denver 2016 -from Wikipedia commons

LGBT hero: One of the Capitol Police agents wounded in the recent terrorist attack in DC was Crystal Griner, a married lesbian woman. Griner and her fellow officers, including David Bailey , rushed the shooter, taking him down and preventing a massacre.

(more…)

Jared Polis Shakes Up 2018 Governor’s Race


Big news this Sunday morning from the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews: Congressman Jared Polis of Boulder will run for governor of Colorado in 2018, setting up the biggest Democratic primary in Colorado politics since…well, Polis’ last primary in 2008:

Congressman Jared Polis plans to join the crowded race for governor this week, and in doing so, the Boulder Democrat will advocate a vision for Colorado that tests how far to the left the state has shifted politically in the last decade.

In an interview with The Denver Post, the fifth-term lawmaker said his platform will focus on three initiatives: getting Colorado to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, ensuring parents can access free, full-day preschool or kindergarten for children age 3 and older, and encouraging companies in the state to provide stock options to employees.

“This is a campaign of big, bold ideas, and I’m trying to make them happen,” Polis said. “We want a Colorado that works for everybody.”

Rep. Polis’ run has been anticipated by Democrats for some time, but the final go/no-go was kept pretty close to the vest until this past week. It’s a decision that Polis surely didn’t make lightly, and most certainly reflects polling he’s done showing this race to be winnable for him.

Polis’ great wealth gives him a built-in advantage in any race, but there’s more to a primary between Polis and nominal frontrunner Rep. Ed Perlmutter than who can raise the most money. Polis’ bold campaign theme of 100% renewable energy could resonate with a segment of the Democratic base that’s been discontented for a number of years in Colorado as the battles over oil and gas development along the urbanizing Front Range have escalated. Polis has been a leader in that complicated and fractious battle, and if he retains the trust of the environmental left going into this race it could be a crucial edge.

Obviously, Polis’ entry into the 2018 gubernatorial race forces all of us to reset our calculations here. But the biggest takeaway for today is the fact that Democrats are feeling very good about 2018, and there’s going to be healthy competition for what could be the fruits of an historic victory. Between Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter, Democrats have a choice of two of the biggest names in Colorado politics–and that’s got to feel better than a primary between a district attorney and a couple of unknown rich guys.

Game on, folks.

Good News! Week of June 3-June 10

(Get More…Gooder! – promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary, which I hope to publish every Friday, will be all about small victories in the big battles: People doing the right thing for the right reasons. Stories of bravery, generosity, caring, and integrity. Where possible, I’ve connected this to Colorado politics and stories.

This is a selfish project for me – I need to see those small victories and uplifting stories just to keep going as an activist. Without them, it’s too easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of bad news and attacks on democracy and civil rights, and simply stop trying to keep politicians accountable.

There are many “good news” items I haven’t covered; more possible categories for good news are: Race, discrimination, justice, bizarre news, animals, marches, town halls, community organizing, “the resistance”. Where another organization such as ProgressNow Colorado reports on “How to fight back this week”, I’m not going to duplicate coverage. As always, add your own “good news” stories and commentary.

(more…)

Cory Gardner’s Ceiling is Wayne Allard

This is what it looks like when Cory Gardner works on important issues.

Politics is no different than any other industry in the world in one regard: Everyone always wants to know about the “next” big thing. We all like to gaze at shiny new objects and project the next transcendent athlete or business leader or movie star.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has been labeled a “rising star” by local and national media outlets for many years, but given everything we’ve seen in the past couple of months, it’s time to rethink this outlook. Gardner has risen to the ranks of leadership in the Republican Senate, where he is in charge of GOP efforts to maintain their Senate majority in 2018. He is a young elected official in a legislative body where the average age is 61 years old. He is cherubic, camera-friendly and an expert in the art of using a lot of words to say very little. In short, Gardner is everything that Republicans think they want to project in a future leader…but it’s all theoretical.

The reality is hard to ignore: Cory Gardner is terrible at his job.

Now, before you start to disagree with us here, consider this question: Since Cory Gardner was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, what has he done that has worked out well?

Gardner is great at muttering nonsense answers to specific questions, but he falls apart in the face of follow-up queries. When confronted with difficult issues, Gardner turns off the ringer on his phone and crawls under his desk. Gardner pretends to support things he actually opposes depending on the political winds, and if you put him in charge of directing specific policies, you can rest assured that nothing will get accomplished.

If you put Gardner in charge of something as important as healthcare policy, you can’t get him to talk about it unless your goal is vague generalities. If you give Gardner a leadership role on foreign policy matters, he somehow wanders into the office of a murderous lunatic (seriously, this was really awful).

Gardner has made a career out of throwing rocks, targeting everyone from Mark Udall to Barack Obama, and his bomb-throwing persona has taken him to the highest levels of government (and dinner at the White House!). Gardner is great at telling people what is wrong with the United States. He is a maestro of partisan politics who excels at complaining about Democrats, and he doesn’t even pretend to be interested in what anyone else has to say. Unfortunately, Gardner doesn’t have a second act. He throws rocks. That’s it.

It is a function of both time and circumstance that nobody can be a “rising star” indefinitely. Gardner is what he is, and he has been this way for a long time. Take a look at something we wrote about this “rising star”  back in March 2013 — a full year before he made a surprise jump into the 2014 U.S. Senate race:

The problem for Gardner is that the “rising star” label can quickly be lost when it looks like you are more sheep than shepherd. He regurgitates nonsense conservative talking points that make no sense considering his own record, and the more you do that, the more you turn into someone like listless Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn. To be considered a “rising star,” you need to be seen as a “leader” (not a Lamborn). Gardner is quite clearly failing on that front, and he should be careful to prevent that label from becoming permanent.

Former Sen. Wayne Allard (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner

We wrote this paragraph four years ago, and it holds up just as well today. The only thing that has changed for Gardner is the title on his door; otherwise, he’s the same guy.

Gardner is a former staffer for two-term Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, the man who was succeeded by Sen. Mark Udall (whom Gardner defeated in 2014). Gardner is certainly louder than Allard — in part because today’s media landscape provides so many more opportunities to be seen and heard — but functionally, he isn’t all that different than Allard as a Senator. Gardner may have better name ID than Allard, sure, but we don’t recall that Allard was ever as disliked as Gardner is today (the polling speaks for itself).

Before Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, Gardner was being mentioned in some circles as a potential candidate to run for the White House in 2020. This always seemed premature to us, but that’s what often happens when you get labeled a “rising star” in politics — you can be an up-and-comer until you prove otherwise. That’s exactly where we are with Gardner.

Three years from now, Gardner will be facing a dogfight in his bid for re-election to the Senate. If he somehow manages to pull out a victory in 2020, he’ll match his former boss, Allard, as a two-term Republican Senator in Colorado. Winning two terms in the U.S. Senate is certainly no small accomplishment, and Gardner deserves plenty of credit if he can make it that far.

Syria, Nicaragua, the United States of America

UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver blasts the decision:

“Pulling out of the Paris Agreement won’t happen overnight, but this announcement’s impact will be immediate: It signals that the United States cannot be counted on to stick to its promises and is prepared to cede leadership in yet another area that is crucial to our future. After ridiculing international trade agreements, failing to stand up firmly for NATO’s Article 5 commitments and treating our traditional alliances with scorn, the president evidently is willing to renege on an accord to which all countries but Syria and Nicaragua have agreed. Why is he looking to alienate the United States? ‘America First’ is turning into ‘America Alone.’

“This step defies scientific consensus about the effects of climate change. It will imperil future generations. And it will empower other countries that honor the Paris Agreement, leading them to create opportunities for innovation and a surging clean energy sector while our country is left in the dust.”

Colorado’s U.S. Senators disagree via Denver7:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D)

“The President made a catastrophic mistake by putting a misguided campaign promise before the needs of our economy and the credibility of American diplomacy. Before this decision, the United States was on track to achieve energy independence, reduce its carbon footprint, and create good-paying jobs in rural communities—with Colorado leading the way. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement attempts to undercut the progress we have made.

“In Colorado, we will continue working to meet the carbon emissions targets set in the Clean Power Plan. The administration should reverse this shortsighted decision and work to protect our planet, economy, and national security.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R)

“The last Administration never submitted the Paris Climate Agreement to Congress and acted unilaterally. When Congress is bypassed, a president’s orders can be reversed by a future presidential action. The American people deserve to have a say in our energy future and Congress is the appropriate place to debate these important issues. I will continue to work with my colleagues to grow the economy, create jobs, and protect the environment for future generations of Coloradans.”

—–

Take that, world!

President Trump announced today that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement originally finalized in 2015. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump announced Thursday afternoon that he is withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement, a move that honors a campaign promise but risks rupturing global alliances and disappointing both environmentalists and corporate titans.

But Trump said he would seek to negotiate a new climate deal that is, in his view, “fair” to America’s interests…

…The U.S. exit from the climate pact could raise doubts about the commitment of the world’s largest economy to curbing global warming and make it more difficult to hold other nations to their environmental commitments.

All but two countries — Nicaragua and Syria — signed onto the 2015 accord, which was a signature diplomatic achievement for President Barack Obama. [Pols emphasis]

Trump was preparing to make his decision official in remarks from the Rose Garden at the White House. The atmosphere was celebratory, with a military band performing “Summertime” and other jazz hits as Cabinet members, White House staffers, conservative activists and other Trump supporters took their seats in the garden under the warm sun.

As David A. Andelman writes for CNN, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement has repercussions well beyond Climate Change:

“America First” is becoming increasingly America alone. Somehow, Donald Trump has managed, with a single, desperate and ill-conceived stroke, to sever the United States from the rest of the world.

I was astonished 18 months ago to witness at the Le Bourget conference center outside Paris the extraordinary spectacle of nearly 200 countries actually agreeing on one central aspect of life on our planet — the need to control the pollutants that are wreaking havoc on our decaying atmosphere and our climate.

Suddenly, now, it’s the United States against everyone else on Earth.

Syria. Nicaragua. The United States of America.

And everybody else.

New Firestone Findings, Second Explosion Deepen Gaspatch Crisis

Two new and concerning stories going into Memorial Day weekend promise to keep the controversy over oil and gas drilling in proximity to homes and other surface development in Colorado red-hot–the first being a frightening update from the Firestone neighborhood where a home exploded last month after unrefined gas from a leaking flowline seeped into the structure:

Two high concentration pockets of flammable methane gas have been found underneath a street in Firestone’s Oak Meadows neighborhood, where one house already exploded, according to the state’s vapor test findings.

Mitigation is underway, with PVC venting and extraction systems set up in both locations, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spokesman Todd Hartman confirmed.

“Monitoring point data indicate that methane in soil is not migrating to occupied residences,” a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission presentation says…

Both sites are located along a flow line attaching the oil and gas well linked to the house explosion and its production collection battery to the west.

The presence of additional seeps of methane in the immediate area of last month’s home explosion could be seen as confirmation of residents’ worst fears–mitigated by the fact that authorities are already on the scene dealing with the previous disaster, which could be the only reason these new seeps were detected. Testing continues to determine if other gas seeps are present in the area, and to what extent they could threaten the neighborhood built over the wells.

The second story? Another fatal explosion yesterday, this one just a few miles north of Firestone at an Anadarko-owned storage facility, as the Colorado Independent reports:

One worker was killed and three injured near Mead when an oil tank battery exploded [Thursday] afternoon.

The facility, which stores extracted oil and gas awaiting transport, is owned and operated by Anadarko Petroleum, which also owns the improperly abandoned gas flowline that investigators say caused the deadly house explosion in Firestone last month…

Mountain View Fire Battalion Chief Roger Rademacher said three workers working near the tank battery were injured and transported by ambulance. One has serious injuries and the two others are moderately injured. Sheriff’s officials confirmed early this evening that a fourth worker was killed in the blast.

By 6 p.m., police cars had blocked all access roads to the facility. A family, accompanied by a man in a hardhat, could be seen weeping near a road next to the site of the blast. They asked to be left alone and not to be photographed.

The unfortunate fact is that accidents involving oil and gas workers are much more common than disasters like last month’s home explosion in Firestone. Each year there are fatalities from accidents like the one at Anadarko’s storage facility in Mead yesterday. But coming so quickly after the Firestone home explosion and relatively close by, yesterday’s fatal explosion only adds to a freshly growing sense of unease among the public.

Against the backdrop of these events you have an energy industry working overtime to contain the public relations damage, and to mitigate possible regulatory responses that could impact profitability of energy producers. Energy industry PR responses to these events closely parallel lobbying by the gun industry following mass shootings: affected sympathy for victims, followed by expressions of futility in preventing such accidents.

To which we can only say, much like in 2013 when horrific mass shootings finally motivated Colorado lawmakers to take action on gun safety, there comes a point when the body count overcomes the lack of political will.

And that day may be fast approaching.

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 19)

The sun will come out tomorrow, according to weather forecasters. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump leaves the country today for his first big overseas trip as Commander in Chief. The Washington Post has a preview of Trump’s jaunt to the Middle East and Europe:

President Trump’s learning curve on matters of foreign policy and national security was steep even before the bombshell report this week that he had blurted secrets to Russian diplomats.

Trump’s first foreign trip as president, which begins in Saudi Arabia this weekend, is a test of the lessons he has learned about geopolitics as well as whether he can reset his chaotic administration…

…Trump will also visit the West Bank and is expected to again tout his efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump has backed away from a decades-old U.S. commitment to a sovereign Palestinian state, but held a warm meeting at the White House with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

From there Trump goes to Europe, for the NATO summit, a protocol-laden visit to see Pope Francis at the Vatican, and a gathering of the Group of Seven economic powers in Italy.

Meanwhile, longtime Washington D.C. observers can’t help but notice the historical parallels with a foreign trip taken by former President Richard Nixon in the midst of the Watergate scandal:

Those of us with long memories can’t forget President Richard Nixon making a similar trip to the Middle East in early June, 1974, at the very time the Watergate special prosecutor was in court seeking the actual White House tapes of presidential conversations and Congressional committees were looking into his possible impeachment.

Back then, ironically, Nixon visited leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Israel in an unsuccessful attempt to strengthen the ceasefire agreement that halted fighting in the Yom Kippur, Arab-Israeli war.

Nixon returned home to challenge and lose his Supreme Court argument over the tapes that set him down the path to resigning the presidency.

 

► Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made another visit to Capitol Hill on Friday to brief lawmakers on his decision to appoint Robert Mueller as a special counsel for investigating allegations of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign for President. But as the Washington Post notes, Rosenstein has left many important questions unanswered:

Rosenstein had briefed senators on Thursday at an event that left several key questions unanswered, including what Trump said to Rosenstein when he told him Comey would be fired and to what degree congressional investigators will maintain access to witnesses and documents given the appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel.

These matters did not appear to be resolved on Friday.

Here at Colorado Pols, we’ve added a new feature to keep you updated on the latest news involving the Trump/Russia scandal: “The Daily D’oh!”

 

► Attorney General Cynthia Coffman again demonstrated her loyalty to the oil and gas industry in Colorado by ignoring Gov. John Hickenlooper’s order to NOT appeal a court ruling requiring protection of public safety, health and the environment by the state as a precondition before allowing oil and gas drilling.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Hick Declines Oil and Gas Lawsuit Appeal; Coffman Goes Rogue

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Important news today from the Denver Post’s Bruce Finley, Gov. John Hickenlooper has come out against an appeal of an important recent court court decision obliging the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to stop issuing drilling permits pending a review to ensure their activity doesn’t impact he environment, public health, or climate change:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has ordered state authorities not to fight a court ruling requiring protection of public safety, health and the environment by the state as a precondition before allowing oil and gas drilling…

Hickenlooper late Wednesday sent an e-mail message to Deputy Attorney General Laura Chartrand instructing state attorneys not to proceed with an appeal of the ruling, which reinterprets the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, according to a letter sent Thursday to Hickenlooper by Coffman.

The COGCC on May 1 decided to fight the ruling. Hickenlooper contends that decision, based on a unanimous vote, was “only advisory” and that the COGCC lacks statutory authority to challenge a court’s interpretation of its mission.

But in a twist we might have seen coming, Colorado’s Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman isn’t going to cooperate with Gov. Hickenlooper’s request:

[Attorney General Cynthia] Coffman now is arguing that Hickenlooper is legally incorrect in trying to stop the COGCC, whose members he appointed…

“I understand that sentiment runs high surrounding oil and gas development in our state, even more so in the wake of the tragic house explosion that claimed two lives,” she wrote. “This appeal is not intended to be a statement on complex energy policy issues. Rather it is a legal challenge to a court decision that stands to have a profound effect on regulation and administrative decision-making by government entities.”

It’s a significant development for Hickenlooper to override a unanimous decision by the COGCC and recommend this case not be appealed. And since energy-friendly Gov. Hickenlooper is no “fracktivist” seeking to halt oil and gas extraction in Colorado, we have to assume that his recommendation to not appeal the decision means there would be a path for the industry to comply with the ruling and whatever remedy it prescribes.

Unless, of course, the industry has an even more energy-friendly Republican AG they can turn to! In the wake of the recent home explosion in Firestone blamed on neglected oil and gas well pipelines, Coffman’s stubbornness could be as politically damaging to her as it is beneficial to Hickenlooper to not be a part of it.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 18)

Snow? Again? What is this, Russia? It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Mueller!

It is not difficult to picture a sullen President Trump shaking his fist and softly mumbling the name of  former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the man who will lead a special investigation into potential Trump ties with Russia. The White House issued a bland statement last night in response to the news of Mueller’s appointment, but it wasn’t long before President Twitter took to social media to vent his rage.

From the New York Times:

President Trump lashed out on Thursday, saying he was the target of an unprecedented witch hunt, a day after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate ties between his presidential campaign and Russian officials.

In a pair of early morning tweets, Mr. Trump cited, without evidence, what he called the “illegal acts” committed by the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and the campaign of his former opponent, Hillary Clinton — and said they never led to the appointment of a special counsel.

“With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!” Mr. Trump wrote, misspelling counsel.

Moments later, Mr. Trump added, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

And yet, the bell tolls.

As Chris Cillizza summarizes for CNN:

Republicans — from Donald Trump on down — will now live or die by what Mueller finds out.  Full exoneration is now possible. But so too is full guilt or blame.  Republicans’ political fate — in 2018 and perhaps 2020 as well — is now largely in Mueller’s hands.

► Oh, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy reportedly expressed concern last summer that Trump was on Russia’s payroll. From the Washington Post:

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

 

► Colorado Republican officials had been largely quiet about President Trump as his administration unravels, but the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor appears to have finally shaken many of their media malaise. As Jason Salzman writes, Trump talk is also dominating the Republican gubernatorial primary.

 

► The oil and gas industry is directing millions of dollars to Colorado Republicans as concerns grow about the safety of drilling practices near communities. According to a new report, the amount of money pouring into GOP coffers from O&G interests provides the industry with enormous political clout — much more than had been previously considered.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

REPORT: Anadarko, O&G Industry Funneling Massive Amounts of Money to Colorado Republicans

The remains of a home in Firestone following a massive explosion on April 17.

Anadarko Petroleum said on Tuesday that it is permanently disconnecting several oil and gas pipelines around the Firestone area, where a home exploded in late April killing two people and seriously injuring two others. But as a staggering new report from the International Business Times details today, Anadarko is spending obscene amounts of money to ensure that Colorado Republican lawmakers disrupt legislative attempts at regulating the oil and gas industry in Colorado:

Days after a gas line linked to an Anadarko Petroleum well ignited a deadly home blast in Colorado, the company’s chief executive said the “terrible tragedy has left all of us with heavy hearts.” But even asinvestigators were picking through the wreckage, the company moved to fight a new bill that would have forced it to tell Colorado homeowners how close they live to oil and gas operations.

State records show that while CEO Al Walker said “the families and their loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers,” Anadarko was deploying its lobbyists to press Colorado lawmakers to block a transparency measure as it pursued plans for hundreds of new wells in the northeastern part of the state.

After Anadarko’s lobbying blitz, Republican legislators filibustered the bill, which would have required energy companies to disclose maps documenting the locations of their gas lines and wells. The GOP lawmakers killed the legislation a few months after Anadarko donated to a group backing their election campaigns. [Pols emphasis]

The sequence of events that unfolded after the Colorado explosion demonstrates the political power of the Texas-based company, which is Colorado’s largest oil and gas producer and has flooded Colorado politics with campaign cash. An International Business Times/MapLight review of campaign finance records found the firm gave more than $7.2 million to political groups operating in the state during the 2016 election cycle — an average of roughly $10,000 every day for two years. [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Lori Saine and Sen. Vicki Marble represent the Firestone area.

The April 17 explosion in Firestone created a new urgency to debates over drilling safety in Colorado — even longtime fracking advocates like Gov. John Hickenlooper demanded changes. Republican lawmakers killed off a proposal earlier in the 2017 session intended to increase minimum setback requirements for drilling locations, but the Firestone tragedy prompted a late-session bill (HB-1372) to provide more public disclosure of “flowlines” in and around residential areas. Despite the public outcry, Republicans were able to successfully filibuster that bill to its death.

Before the “flowlines” legislation was squashed, we noted in this space the disgusting indifference to transparency suggestions from Firestone Republican Rep. Lori Saine. Given the extraordinary amount of money that Anadarko and the O&G industry are directing toward Colorado Republicans, it’s hard not to be cynical about Saine and her upper-chamber counterpart, Sen. Vicki Marble. Let’s go back to today’s story from the International Business Times:

On the surface, state records suggest Anadarko’s contributions to Senate Republicans have been relatively modest. In 2016, the company gave only $50,000 to the Senate Majority Fund, the primary fundraising apparatus of the Senate GOP. But those records do not detail Anadarko cash that has flowed to “dark money” organizations, or nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors. [Pols emphasis]

For example, the Colorado Economic Leadership Fund (CELF) played a pivotal role in helping Senate Republicans retain their majority in the 2016 election — and little-noticed corporate filings reviewed by IBT/MapLight show Anadarko gave generously to CELF…

…CELF spent more than $372,000 to help re-elect Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and elect Kevin Priola, R-Henderson. The two senators represent swing districts seen as critical to preserving the Senate Republican majority that provided the votes to kill the regulatory bills. The fund also spent $37,500 to help State Sen. Randy Baumgardner in his 2016 re-election race. Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, is the vice chairman of the specific Senate panel that quashed the setback bill, which lost in committee by a single vote.

While it is impossible to know how much of CELF’s total operating money came from oil and gas companies, Anadarko and Noble Energy in 2016 together gave the group $535,000 — or 75 percent of the total amount that CELF spent on Colorado elections in 2016. [Pols emphasis]

Colorado Republicans would almost certainly not have a one-seat majority in the State Senate without these massive financial commitments. Money from the O&G industry isn’t just a piece of the pie for Colorado Republicans; without this cash infusion, there is no pie.

Every election cycle, tens of millions of dollars are spent by various groups with their own agendas — benefitting both Republicans and Democrats. But as the International Business Times demonstrates today, no other industry in Colorado so thoroughly dominates political spending on one side of the aisle like the the oil and gas lobby. The industry may have every right to exert such financial influence on the state legislature…but Colorado voters have every right to wonder whose interests Republican lawmakers are truly protecting.