Congressional Field Hearing set for “Shale City”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Grand Junction, CO. – Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by virulent anti-public lands crusader Rob Bishop of Utah, will be in town on June 1 to hold a “field hearing” on oil shale and LNG export.  The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is reporting:

The congressional district encompasses the nation’s second-largest known natural gas reserve in the Piceance Basin, as well as the world’s richest deposits of oil shale.

Interest in oil shale has picked up and “we need to look at what role, if necessary, the federal government should play in it,” Tipton said.

The hearing also is to take up the Jordan Cove project, which would include construction of pipelines that would carry natural gas from the Piceance Basin to export terminals at Jordan Cove on Coos Bay, Oregon.

For well over a hundred years the foolish have been separated from their money chasing dreams of oil shale.

The dream to economically mine the sedimentary rock known as “oil shale” (which is neither) to manufacture dirty fuel, is one that regularly proves the old saw, that oil shale is the “fuel of the future…and always will be.”

But dreams die hard, at least for those willing to do the bidding of powerful interests hoping to make a buck.

The Western Slope will “Lubricate the World.”

When he came it was known only as “the Junction”, because a railroad just nosing its way though the wilderness had selected it for a minor division point. Great mountains of shale extended in all directions from it: one could throw a slab of shale on a camp-fire and watch the oil ooze from it, and see the slow flame which consumed the oil.

“Some day the oil wells are going to run dry,” John Abbot declared. “There will be no other source but this shale. We have whole mountains of it. One day Western Colorado will lubricate the world… We will name this place Shale City.” So it was done. – from Eclipse, by Dalton Trumbo

That old saw about oil shale always being the “fuel of the future,” could have already been familiar in the time Trumbo described in his thinly fictionalized novel about the early history of Grand Junction. Abbot, the novel’s protagonist loses everything in the end which has been the way oil shale has gone, over, and over, and over again.

(more…)

Associated Press, CNN Blocked from EPA Meeting

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

As CNN reports, you should absolutely be worried about the First Amendment under the Trump administration:

The Environmental Protection Agency blocked reporters from several news outlets from a national summit on Tuesday where Scott Pruitt, the agency’s chief, was speaking.

Journalists from CNN, the Associated Press and E&E News, a publication that covers energy and environment issues, were barred by the EPA from entering the event, which was focused on harmful chemicals in water. A handful of other reporters from other news organizations, however, were allowed inside the event for Pruitt’s opening remarks after having been previously invited by the agency the day before.

In a statement, Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesman, said the agency barred reporters from attending due to space limitations inside the venue. He said the EPA was able to accommodate only 10 reporters and that it provided a livestream “for those we could not accommodate.”…

…A report published by The Hill, however, said a handful of seats in the press section remained vacant by the time Pruitt began speaking. Another reporter told Politico there were dozens of empty seats in the room, and a photo obtained by CNN also showed space for cameras.

This report from the Associated Press is particularly jarring:

Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building. When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building. [Pols emphasis]

Reporters for the AP, CNN, and E&E News were eventually allowed to cover the meeting after a backlash from multiple media outlets. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters later that the administration would “look into the matter.”

Former High-Level Employees Say Anadarko Ignored Safety Risks Prior to Firestone Explosion

In April 2017, this home in Firestone exploded, killing two people and severely injuring two others. Investigations later linked the explosion to oil and gas drilling operations.

The oil and gas industry has been spinning its wheels in the last year trying to flex its political muscle (that’s right, we just worked two cliches into one lede) as Colorado voters increasingly ignore the industry’s attempts at upgrading its image. And that was before new reports from an updated class-action lawsuit related to last year’s deadly explosion of a home in Firestone that casts Anadarko Petroleum Corporation in a particularly-evil glow.

We’ll explain how this may have a significant impact on the 2018 election in a moment. But first, here’s Blair Miller of Denver7 summarizing a growing story that was first reported by the Colorado Independent and the Denver Post:

Several former employees of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation say the company knew of safety risks involving thousands of its oil and gas wells in Colorado, but ignored the risks as it expanded operations here before a leaking pipeline exploded in Firestone, killing two people and injuring two more.

The claims were made in a November amended complaint in a class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. Southern District Court of Texas, on which Denver7 first reported last year when it was filed.

But in the updated filing, six former employees of Anadarko, including some who worked in Colorado, claim that the company’s Colorado operations were a “ticking time bomb” and that when they told other company brass about concerns, those were brushed aside.

“I have no ax to grind. But, you know, people died, and it made everybody reevaluate whether this was the company they thought it was.”

— former Anadarko government relations executive Chris Castilian

Susan Greene of the Colorado Independent talked with several former Anadarko employees about Anadarko’s apparent negligence. Their comments are stunning. Former Anadarko government relations executive Chris Castilian — once a deputy chief of staff to Republican Gov. Bill Owens — is identified in the updated legal filing as “FE1” (“former employee #1). From the Colorado Independent:

…Castilian said the company didn’t inspect much more than “a tiny proportion” of the wells it acquired from Noble. He said executives were fully aware of the safety risks and made a spreadsheet ranking several hundred wells as risky and problematic. Even then, the complaint alleges, they were intent on keeping wells in production for financial reasons stemming partly from the fact that they lease most of the land on which Anadarko operates in Colorado. Contractually, most of those leases expire if the company isn’t using a well. So, as former employees tell it in the complaint, the company kept faulty wells in production to avoid having to renegotiate leases, presumably at much higher prices.

Castilian attended executive meetings at which these decisions were discussed and said executives overrode workers’ safety concerns by prioritizing repairs on wells and equipment that supported active production over repairing those closest to development. Citing him as a source, the lawsuit says that “A well’s potential safety risks, and whether it was located in a residential area or near a school, played no part in whether it was chosen for remediation.” [Pols emphasis]

Former Anadarko government and public affairs manager Robin Olsen is the person named “FE2” in the lawsuit, and her comments are equally damning. Again, from the Independent:

The lawsuit cites Olsen saying that one single employee was responsible for checking the safety of all of Anadarko’s flow lines in the Wattenberg Field in Weld County when there should have been 12 to 20 safety workers. It also cites her saying that she took environmental and safety concerns to her boss, Vice President for Corporate Communications John Christiansen, about 12 times between late 2016 and early 2017, warning him that there would be problems if the company didn’t address them.

In January 2017, an Anadarko well blew out of control, spilling 28,000 gallons of oil and wastewater near Hudson north of Denver. Executives blamed the spill on workers rather than on their own decisions to cut safety and repair efforts. The suit cites Olsen saying that Anadarko did not inform state regulators about key safety problems that led to the spill.

Also, according to the complaint, Olsen said Christiansen told her to “keep quiet” and that her job “was to shovel shit, and to clean up the messes” the company’s employees made. [Pols emphasis]

The Independent also talked to a former Anadarko safety manager, who wished to remain anonymous, who said “that he has struggled with anger, guilt, and anxiety since the Firestone blast, constantly wondering where else his crews didn’t have the resources to prevent disaster.” The former safety manager prays daily for the families impacted by the Firestone explosion and has often considered reaching out to Erin Martinez, a survivor of the blast.

“But what would I say? What would I tell (her)? That those tightwads in corporate couldn’t give a shit about the guys who worked on those wells or the people who lived near them?”

These are incredibly powerful comments that reflect horribly on Anadarko Petroleum and the oil and gas industry as a whole — an industry still reeling from the Firestone explosion and other subsequent spills and accidents that received plenty of press coverage. Oil and gas interests have long played a major role in Colorado politics — usually more aligned with Republican candidates — but that influence seemed to weaken after industry-backed candidates and ballot measures suffered heavy losses in the November 2017 elections (a trend that was confirmed with additional failures in April 2018).

Anadarko and Noble Energy are the primary investors in the public relations “organization” Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), which has had a heavy-handed role in promoting oil-and-gas-friendly candidates in recent years. The industry is also putting a lot of money in support of Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Walker Stapleton, who pledged his undying support for oil and gas drilling in his campaign announcement last fall.

Christopher Osher of the Denver Post profiled CRED and the $80 million in political investments from the industry in a big story in July 2017. Castilian explained the idea behind CRED to the Colorado Independent as “purchasing a social license to operate in Colorado.” But the Firestone explosion and the subsequent lawsuits are changing the calculus for the oil and gas industry, which may now need to focus most of its attention on repairing a tattered reputation instead of trying to pull political levers.

Denver Oil Refinery Could Be Killing Us All

The Suncor oil refinery in Denver spews yellow smoke in this photo from late 2016.

Bruce Finley of the Denver Post reports on some positively-terrifying news about an oil refinery in North Denver:

Suncor Energy’s oil refinery is spewing 8.5 tons a year of invisible hydrogen cyanide gas over low-income north Denver neighborhoods, state records show.

Community groups in Globeville, Swansea and Elyria this week petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to require Colorado health officials to set a limit that protects people and at least require Suncor to disclose emissions of the gas to local emergency responders.

CDPHE air quality control officials in January approved a change to Suncor’s air pollution permit that exempts the company from a federal requirement to disclose hydrogen cyanide emissions. The officials set an emissions limit of 12.8 tons a year — higher than the 8.5 tons Suncor reported it emits — for the purpose of letting Suncor use a legal loophole that lets companies with permitted limits avoid disclosure of those emissions, a state document shows.

The Suncor facility releases 8.5 tons per year of CYANIDE FUCKING GAS into the air just north of downtown Denver. If you aren’t familiar with “hydrogen cyanide,” this single paragraph sums up just about everything you need to know:

Hydrogen cyanide is a colorless gas smelling faintly of almonds that at high exposure levels attacks the brain and heart, causing rapid breathing, convulsions and loss of consciousness, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Lower level exposures are linked to breathing trouble, headaches and enlarged thyroid glands. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established under the 1997 global Chemical Weapons Convention, classifies hydrogen cyanide as a chemical weapon. [Pols emphasis]

By comparison, the Post reports that the only other source of hydrogen cyanide in Colorado is from a Pueblo plant that produces aircraft parts. State records show that the Goodrich Corporation plant releases 942 pounds of hydrogen cyanide into the air every year — about 17 times less than what belches out of the Suncor facility in Denver.

Officials from both the EPA and CDPHE declined to discuss the Suncor emissions with the Post, but that silence probably won’t last long. Public perception of the oil and gas industry shifted significantly after last year’s deadly explosion of a house in Firestone, and this news is certain to prompt a whole new wave of criticism and concern. For political candidates like Republican gubernatorial hopeful Walker Stapleton, this is not a good time to be declaring your undying support for the fossil fuels industry.

Yes Virginia, Cancer-Causing Chemicals Cause Cancer

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

As the Greeley Tribune’s Tommy Wood reports, something you really shouldn’t have to guess about has been shown once again to be correct in a new study conducted by the School of Public Health at the University of Colorado–all those hydrocarbon compounds being spewed into the air around oil and gas drilling sites that we have known for decades can cause cancer, surprise! They really do cause cancer:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission mandates new oil and gas wells be set back least 500 feet from a residence and 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings like schools and hospitals. But the study found that people who live 500 feet from an oil and gas site have a lifetime cancer risk eight times higher than the acceptable limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study also found that risks of respiratory, neurological, hematological and developmental health issues are greater in people who live near oil and gas sites…

The study focused the emission of non-methane hydrocarbons, a group of compounds that includes harmful pollutants such as benzene, from oil and gas sites along the Colorado Front Range. Benzene has been proven to cause multiple forms of leukemia, cardiovascular disease and bone marrow disease. The study found average benzene concentrations were 41 times higher within 500 feet of a well than they were a mile away. Furthermore, according to the study, benzene concentrations are twice as high at night, when more people are likely to be home, because the emitted pollutants don’t disperse as quickly in the colder night air.

The study also corroborated existing data from Colorado that showed children living near oil and gas development have higher risks of childhood cancers and congenital heart defects, as well as data from studies in Pennsylvania and Texas that found a connection between proximity to oil and gas development and miscarried pregnancies, low birth weight, premature birth, asthma, fatigue and migraines.

What this study tells us is that, although there are most likely some circumstances in which oil and gas drilling close to homes and schools do not result in hazardous situations, it certainly is possible for harmful exposure to dangerous chemicals at a distance of 500 feet from a drilling site. There’s no guesswork about the toxicity of benzene, which has been known for decades to be carcinogenic as well as a source of numerous more immediate health effects due to exposure.

Despite this, mouthpieces for the oil and gas industry are tripping over themselves to smear this report’s author:

Lisa McKenzie, whose thoroughly debunked work is routinely cited by anti-fossil fuel activists, has published yet another study attempting to link health issues to oil and gas development in Colorado. And even though the study’s press release states plainly that “[t]he study acknowledged substantial uncertainties and the need for more research” — effectively invalidating its topline conclusion that, “Those living near oil and gas facilities may be at higher risk of disease” — this study is sure to catch like wildfire in ban fracking activists’ circles and add more misleading talking points to their collection.

If you take a step back from the reflexive vitriol unleashed on anyone who questions the safety of oil and gas drilling in this state, it’s a very simple and quantifiable point that benzene and other hydrocarbon emissions from oil and gas drilling sites are harmful to public health. Defenders of the industry assert that a setback of 500 feet is far enough away to disperse emissions to a safe level. Here we have evidence that no, 500 feet may not be enough distance to reduce the health risk to an acceptable level. And we’re not talking about a comparatively remote “health risk” like climate change, a favorite distraction of the industry to misdirect the debate–we’re talking about cancer.

We know which side the energy industry would have us err on. After all, they think their right to pull oil and gas out of the ground is just as important as the right of the people living on the surface to not get cancer.

Are you, average Colorado voter, comfortable taking this risk? With your own family’s health?

With that, we’ll return you to the oil and gas industry’s reflexive vitriol.

Senate GOP’s Queen of Bad Press Strikes Again

As the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy reports, GOP Sen. Vicki Marble’s jaw-dropping streak of embarrassing headlines remains unbroken:

Colorado Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, on Monday was found guilty of ethical violations centering on her role in a public meeting on energy paid for by Extraction Oil and Gas…

The complaint alleged Marble, whose district includes part of Weld County, received a benefit from a public meeting Feb. 15, 2017, at a C.B. & Potts restaurant in Broomfield that was paid for by Extraction Oil and Gas.

The commission also voted to fine Marble $2,242.36, which represents double the cost of the event.

The meeting was billed as giving residents the facts about oil and gas development in Broomfield. Marble’s name was on the invitation, and there was no disclosure that Extraction paid for the event, which fed up to 100 people.

With the possible exception of the recent sexual harassment scandal in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate, Sen. Marble has supplied that caucus with its worst press of any member for several years running. Marble’s scolding of a Cub Scout during an appearance at a Broomfield scout meeting made national news–and many of those outlets already knew Marble’s name from her previous headlines for blaming health problems among African-Americans on excessive chicken consumption.

Next to those lowlights, a finding by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission against Marble for letting an oil company spend a not-insubstantial amount of money to cover the tab at C.B. & Potts for a “town hall” might seem like small potatoes. But with tensions over the issue of drilling near residential areas running high along the northern Front Range, this ethical breach carries a larger significance.

Beware oil companies bearing gifts–and the politicians who fail to disclose them.

Why Paul Rosenthal Lost His House Seat

Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver)

Democratic State Rep. Paul Rosenthal will not be elected for a fourth and final term in November because his name won’t even be on the ballot.

As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Rosenthal failed the meet the threshold to get his name on the June Primary ballot at Saturday’s HD-9 Democratic assembly:

The three-term incumbent’s defeat is the first in Colorado for an accused lawmaker amid the #MeToo movement.

A sexual harassment complaint prompted a Democratic primary challenge from two women, Ashley Wheeland and Emily Sirota. The allegations played a role in the vote, according to interviews with delegates, along with Rosenthal’s break from liberal activists on homeless and energy issues…

…Rosenthal received only 24.7 percent of the assembly vote, below the 30 percent needed to make the ballot. Wheeland won 39.5 percent and Sirota won 35.8 percent.

It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback Rosenthal’s downfall as a result of the sexual harassment allegations made against him in recent months — which certainly played a significant role — but poor campaigning and some particularly bad votes in the legislature sealed his fate.

The allegations against Rosenthal contributed heavily to an initial Primary challenge from Emily Sirota, and soon thereafter Ashley Wheeland entered the race herself. Sirota quickly announced several high-profile endorsements and has been raising money at an impressive clip. Wheeland, meanwhile, is a well-known Democrat with strong ties to women’s rights groups (including Planned Parenthood) and the LGBTQ community. Both Sirota and Wheeland are strong candidates, and Rosenthal — who had never faced a serious Republican challenge in this heavily-Democratic House district — was completely unprepared for even token opposition.

Rosenthal didn’t even try to gather signatures to petition his way onto the ballot — a miscalculation that proved fatal to his re-election hopes — and he couldn’t rally support among his Democratic base because of some strange votes. Rosenthal was the deciding vote in 2016 that killed legislation intended to give communities more local control over fracking, and in 2017 he opposed a “Homeless Bill of Rights” measure that was not unpopular with his liberal base.

As Wheeland told Denverite in February, HD-9 is a changing area of Denver where voters are looking for more progressive candidates. In the end, Rosenthal just gave them too many reasons to choose someone else.

Repealing Fuel Economy Standards–Because Trump Can!

Gas guzzlers.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Jace Marmaduke reports on the latest head-scratcher from the Trump administration–a proposal from embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards:

The average Colorado household could miss out on up to $2,700 in gas savings by 2030 after a planned rollback of Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy standards, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists analysis.

Union of Concerned Scientists calculated a household’s potential savings if the standards were kept in place, even factoring in a potential increase in vehicle prices due to manufacturers updating models to meet the current federal standards.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced this week that he plans to relax the standards, which currently include an average fuel efficiency target of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

“The Obama administration’s determination was wrong,” Pruitt said in a press release. “Obama’s EPA cut the midterm evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality and set the standards too high.”

ThinkProgress explains the backstory:

In 2012, the Obama administration approved new auto emissions standards, with 2018 model year vehicles required to average 38.3 miles per gallon of gasoline and 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The 2025 target was set as part of a compromise reached between the Obama administration and the auto industry.

Environmental and energy efficiency groups accused Pruitt of siding with the fossil fuel industry by seeking to weaken the fuel efficiency standards…

“There’s no good reason for these standards to be sabotaged,” Evans said. The Alliance to Save Energy is a bipartisan alliance of business, government, environmental, and consumer groups that works to expand the economy while reducing energy consumption.

ThinkProgress reports that although the auto industry was good with these higher mileage standards when they were hashed out with the Obama administration, they’re just as happy with seeing them relaxed! As long as people keep buying cars, which we’re pretty sure under just about any foreseeable circumstance they will. After all, automakers won’t have to spend the money to improve their cars now. And while the oil and gas industry might say they’re all about efficiency, we suspect they’ll be just fine without it too.

Who loses? Well, who always loses when the the current generation stops caring about the next one?

But it’s okay, because Scott Pruitt–and Donald Trump–will be long gone.

The English is Not So Good Here

In every election cycle there is at least one high-profile campaign that, for whatever reason, appears to be snakebitten at every turn. We’re still more than six months away from the General Election, but the gubernatorial campaign for Cynthia Coffman is the clear frontrunner as the biggest dumpster fire of 2018. Here’s more proof for that claim…

The vast majority of digital ads that appear on Colorado Pols are propagated through the Google Display Network. We have nothing to do with the content or placement of these advertisements; our role is to provide the relevant audience and the space — in the form of banner ads at the top of the page and “hi-rise” ads on the right-hand side — in exchange for a portion of the ad revenue.

The reason we bring this up is because you might have seen an advertisement on this site touting Coffman for Governor that is paid for by the independent expenditure committee (IEC) “Stronger Colorado Ahead” (see image at right).

Now, if we had anything to do with the creation or placement of this advertisement, we would have suggested that someone at “Stronger Colorado Ahead” take an extra moment to proofread the text that accompanies the image of the Attorney General. The advertisement definitely uses English letters and words…just not in a particularly helpful order:

Cynthia Coffman is THE only conservative leader to win back the Governor’s seat in November

Huh? From the manner in which this is worded, you would be forgiven for thinking that Coffman won the race for Governor last November. We also wouldn’t have put the word “THE” in all CAPS, but that’s a secondary problem.

There are only two sentences of text in this ad. Here is the second:

Vote Cynthia Coffman for Republican Governor on April 14th

Vote Coffman for “Republican Governor.” Not “Democratic Governor,” or “Independent Governor,” or “Idaho Governor.”

The Denver Post reported in January that the “Stronger Colorado Ahead” IEC is largely financed by oil and gas interests. At the end of 2017, “Stronger Colorado Ahead” had raised significantly more money than Coffman’s actual campaign itself (which helps explain this story).

Cynthia Coffman: Your Safety “Not The Only Consideration”

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports, sometimes legal briefs force the uncomfortable facts into unvarnished view. Today’s case in point: a legal brief filed in response to a landmark court ruling on the safety of oil and gas drilling by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, in which her office is obliged to state for the record something we suspect a majority of Colorado citizens would not want to know:

Coffman and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation are challenging a ruling that the commission is required to protect health, safety and welfare as a condition of allowing oil and gas development…

In this week’s brief, Coffman and her office wrote that while the state Oil and Gas Conservation Act, as amended in 1994, requires consideration of protection of health, safety and welfare, “it was not the only consideration, [Pols emphasis] nor did it supplant the Act’s objective of fostering oil and gas development.”

In an earlier filing asking the Supreme Court to consider the matter, Coffman said that under the appeals court’s view, the COGCC could “disregard the Act’s directive to foster responsible oil and gas development and enact rules that would entirely prohibit oil and gas-related activity unless it can occur with zero direct or cumulative environmental impact.”

The Denver Post’s Bruce Finley puts a finer point on the conflict:

She’s pressing the case that the phrase “in a manner consistent with” in Colorado’s evolving oil and gas law is unambiguous and means balancing industry interests with health and the environment — rather than ensuring protection as a precondition that must be met.

If the state Supreme Court justices agree, they could reverse the existing legal ruling that requires protecting people and the environment before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission can issue drilling permits.

The oil and gas industry has been in a state of slow-boiling panic over the Xiuhtezcatl Martinez vs. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission case ever since the appeals court ruling last year, and yesterday the industry-backed Mountain States Legal Foundation fired off a statement of their own titled “Environmental Hysteria Threatens All Oil and Gas Development in Colorado.” Apparently the notion that regulators should make public safety and health a primary consideration instead of “balancing” public health and safety with the “need” to “foster oil and gas development” is extremely bad for the oil and gas industry! Which seems weird given their catchy ads featuring pristine mountain landscapes and smiling healthy children.

For us, this situation is another example of how far removed the oil and gas industry and their mouthpieces are from the interests of ordinary Coloradans. If you ask the average homeowner in bedroom community sitting over oil and gas in Colorado–Erie, perfect example–whether the state should protect public health and safety first and foremost, or make public safety part of a “balance” of considerations that includes the industry’s God-given right and responsibility to drill baby drill, what do you think they’re going to say?

They’d say it’s crazy that access to minerals in the ground are as considered just as important as the health and safety of the people above ground. And outside a shrinking bubble within the fossil fuel political/industrial complex of Colorado politics, it’s hard to imagine anyone who would disagree with them.

If this doesn’t make a powerful, basic kind of sense to you, you need to quit drinking frack fluid.

Big Oil Loses Bigly In Erie Elections

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Anthony Hahn reports:

Final returns on Tuesday for Erie’s municipal election, billed in recent months as a referendum on the town’s renewed post-Firestone approach to oil and gas regulation, confirmed a wide-margin victory for mayoral candidate Jennifer Carroll…

“I think (the win) pretty simply means that people care about oil and gas and want their elected officials to take a stand,” Carroll said after the first wave of results were released Tuesday evening. “I kept my campaign classy and honest, I only talked about my ideals for Erie, and my focus was on residents and how I can engage them better. I think that resonated with them.”

Carroll’s win likely signals more of the same for the town and a more aggressive approach to local control over energy development as a deluge of drilling plans appears aimed at the region.

It comes despite some serious bankrolling from pro-oil and gas interests in the days leading up to the election. On Friday, paperwork unveiled that Vital for Colorado, a group with past attempts at influencing local elections, had poured more than $55,000 in election activists in support of “pro business” candidates.

We last discussed leading oil and gas industry political group Vital For Colorado following municipal elections in Greeley last fall. The group spent lavishly in support of pro-oil and gas candidates for Greeley City Council–but the effort blew up in their faces after one of the candidates they backed was found to be a convicted felon, which disqualified him from serving.

In cities where the rights of surface land users (meaning people) and mineral extraction rights are in fundamental conflict, the oil and gas industry is losing more elections they contest than they win. This is a shift that has been going on for some years in Colorado. Decisions by residential Front Range cities to assert greater control over oil and gas drilling within their boundaries, which have been generally overruled by the courts, have resulted in numerous defeats for pro-oil and gas municipal candidates despite the disproportionate amounts of money spent by the industry. This groundswell of opposition to oil and gas drilling in residential areas also provoked the industry to fund the controversial Amendment 71, which tries to impede constitutional ballot initiatives and thus prevent advocates of greater local control over oil and gas drilling from passing one. Unfortunately for the industry, Amendment 71 may itself be unconstitutional.

In all of these storylines, there is one consistent theme: local communities trying to protect themselves from heavy industry near their homes and schools, and the oil and gas industry trying to stop them from protecting themselves.

Unless you’re on the payroll of the industry, it’s an easy choice. And once again voters have made it.

Pruitt Next To Get Pink-Slipped?

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The Hill reports, the Trump administration’s busy chopping block is once again on stand-by:

Two Florida GOP lawmakers on Tuesday called for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to either resign or be fired by President Trump.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) appeared to be the first Republican lawmaker to publicly request Pruitt’s dismissal. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) echoed his call shortly after.

In a Tuesday afternoon tweet, Curbello said Pruitt’s “corruption scandals are an embarrassment to the Administration, and his conduct is grossly disrespectful to American taxpayers.”

“It’s time for him to resign or for [Trump] to dismiss him.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s latest strategy for beating the high cost of living reportedly involves the rental of a condo in Washington, D.C. for the decidedly sub-market rate of $50 a night. The condo just happens to be owned by the spouse of J. Steven Hart, the chairman of big-time energy lobbying firm Williams & Jensen. Especially for an administration that won office on the promise to “drain the swamp,” it’s about as swampy as arrangement as can be had.

And it’s just the latest in a series of ethical missteps for Pruitt, which included a taxpayer-funded junket to Colorado to record an ad for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in support of repealing Clean Water Act rules. Pruitt also chartered a costly private flight to Durango that he didn’t need, since Gov. John Hickenlooper was headed there in his executive Beech King Air and had offered Pruitt a seat.

In Donald Trump’s White House, the only unforgivable sin appears to be making the boss look bad. By that measure, Pruitt has got to be reaching the threshold for being put out to pasture. Replacing Pruitt is almost certain to be the environmental policy equivalent of John Bolton as national security adviser, meaning you’ll be wishing for Pruitt soon enough.

UN Conspiracy Whackadoos Push La Plata County Recall

UN stormtroopers coming for your guns and gas.

Summarizing a story that’s been brewing down in La Plata County in the southwest corner of our state, we’d like to draw your attention to a report from earlier this month in the Durango Herald about opposition to a proposed new land use code:

A faction of La Plata County residents who oppose the county’s proposed land-use codes believe the work is part of an international conspiracy led by the United Nations to create a “New World Order.”

“This is the Agenda 21,” said Ignacio resident Dan Percell, who received loud applause at the end of his speech from many of the more than 600 people who attended a Jan. 16 meeting about the land-use codes…

Percell and others are referring to a U.N. document called Agenda 21, which was developed and signed in 1992. Its stated purpose is to help guide local, state and national governments toward sustainable development in the “21st century” – hence the name.

Megan Graham, spokeswoman for the county, said the U.N. and Agenda 21 have had no role in La Plata County’s land-use code revision effort. [Pols emphasis]

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt.

The Colorado Independent’s Kelsey Ray explains how this rather unhinged opposition to proposed new land-use codes has evolved into an attempt to recall a La Plata County Commissioner by the name of Gwen Lachelt:

Late last year, the La Plata County Planning Commission released a long-awaited first draft revision to its land-use code, which hasn’t been updated since the late 1980s. County officials hoped that updating the code would make the development process cheaper and more efficient, and allow landowners to more easily predict what they can and cannot do with their land…

[A]t the end of January, three La Plata residents, including Peters, filed an official petition with the county clerk and recorder’s office to recall and replace Commissioner Lachelt. Petitioners have until March 30 to collect 7,505 signatures in support of the recall, in which case a special election will be called. In its stated grounds for recall, the petition claims that Lachelt “repeatedly leveraged [the] public office for her private gain” by appearing before Congress to advocate for environmental causes, and that her actions required the county to investigate ethics complaints against her.

The recall petition did not mention the land-use code, which makes sense — all three commissioners, not just Lachelt, supported revisions to the code.

The “ethics complaints” citied against Lachelt were dismissed by the county as meritless, stemming from perfectly legitimate advocacy on her part for environmental causes. It’s not completely clear why local far-right activists would zero in on Lachelt, since all three commissioners supported the land-use code changes, but much like the 2013 recalls against state legislators over gun bills we assume she is just the most opportune target for backlash.

It’s unknown as of this writing whether this recall petition drive has much real support. Keep in mind that an attempt during the 2013 recalls to go after then-Rep. Mike McLachlan sputtered out without obtaining enough signatures. There’s much anecdotal beyond the UN conspiracy theory silliness that the whole effort is being driven by what local residents understand to be…less than credible voices. And it’s a tall order: just over 7,500 valid county voter signatures are required by the end of March to put the recall on the ballot, about 17% of the total number of registered voters in La Plata County. With that said, recall proponents haven’t filed any campaign finance disclosures, but Denver energy industry political mouthpieces have put this campaign on their radar–and they have the resources to manufacture plenty of trouble at the county level if they choose.

We hope, for the reputation of all the residents of Colorado’s beautiful southwest corner, there aren’t that many La Plata County residents waiting for the blue helmeted stormtroopers to come marching over the ridge.

Ultra-conservative CPAC conference has Colorado connections

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off today in Maryland. It features a lengthy list of speakers and panels, including NRA President Wayne LaPierre, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence. You can watch the livestream here. Coloradans, though, may be more interested in tomorrow’s program, which not only features former Congressman Bob Beauprez interviewing two Trump cabinet members, but also two live events taking place locally at Lakewood’s Colorado Christian University. Tickets for the Friday events at CCU are available here. Here’s a rundown of all the Colorado-related events:

Friday, February 23, 6:35 am MT

A Conversation with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Secretary Ryan Zinke, interviewed by former U. S. Rep. Bob Beauprez

Former CD7 Representative, twice-failed GOP gubernatorial candidate, conservative blogger and occasional right-wing radio host Bob Beauprez will interview two powerful members of President Trump’s cabinet: Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. No specific topics are listed, but issues such as fracking, the oil & gas industry and public land management are safe bets. If a discussion of federal vs. state responsibility for public land does occur, it’s always possible that Beauprez will reiterate his support for the failed “Northern Colorado” secession movement launched by conservative activists in 2013. It’s also possible that Beauprez will raise his fears of “creeping Sharia” with Secretary Perry, who has been accused by fellow CPAC speaker* Pam Geller of being overly friendly with Texas Muslims.

Friday, February 23, 11:50 am MT

Michelle Malkin: “A Time for Action,” Live from the Colorado CPAC Stage

 It’s unclear what specific action Michelle Malkin will advocate for during her ten-minute speech, but a review of her past positions and statements reveals some possibilities. She may suggest placing Muslim-Americans in internment camps, which she justified in her 2004 book, “In Defense of Internment: The Case for “Racial Profiling” in World War II and the War on Terror.”  She may call for Americans to mock the suicides of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, as she did in 2006, shocking her interviewer, Bill O’Reilly.  Perhaps she’ll pose for selfies with those who believe President Obama was a Nazi, as she did in this picture, taken at the Colorado state capitol in 2009.    

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Somebody please run against Jerry Sonnenberg

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Jerry Sonnenberg is winding up his first term in the Colorado Senate. He is up for re-election in 2018, and no one has stepped up to run against him.  Sonnenberg ran unopposed for his first Senate term, and for all four of his previous House terms, until he was termed out in 2014.  No wonder he doesn’t return liberal constituent’s phone calls – he feels pretty safe ignoring their concerns. What are they going to do, run a Democrat against him?

Sonnenberg has referred to a fellow female Senator as”eye candy” and tweeted that he’d like to lube his assault rifle with “Obama tears”. He legislated against eminent domain for water pipelines, and for eminent domain for oil and gas companies. He sponsored legislation to prohibit protesting at oil  and gas sites, and he is a climate science denier.

In an excellent piece by Win the Fourth (WTF),  the author makes the case for fielding a Democrat to run against Sonnenberg.

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