Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 16)

Greetings, comrades! Let us commence with today’s lesson plan. 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’s administration is crumbling faster than Cory Gardner can flee a constituent. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, news that Trump passed highly-confidential information to the Russians just might be the proverbial back-breaking straw on this here camel:

In a number of conversations Monday evening with Republican House members and GOP strategists, there was a widespread feeling that this time Trump might have gone too far…

…consider the following five things Trump has done since coming into office: 1) Twice failed to enact a travel ban 2) Engaged in an extended argument over crowd size at his inauguration 3) Falsely accused then-President Barack Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower during the election 4) Took 18 days to get rid of national security adviser MIchael Flynn after being informed Flynn was compromised by the Russians 5) Fired Comey, even as he was overseeing the Russia investigation.

Any ONE of those are the sort of thing that would be a major slip-up in any other administration — and might lead to defections from within the president’s own party.  All five of them — plus the new revelations regarding classified information being shared with two top Russian officials — is something close to an avalanche of political malpractice.

How much more can — or will — congressional Republicans take?

If you’re looking for answers as to why Trump would have divulged such sensitive information to the Russians, there aren’t a lot of plausible answers.

If you’re looking for a response to this growing crisis from Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)…well, good luck with that. But Gardner has certainly painted himself into a corner with his previous bold declarations about national security.

Actually, if you’re looking for a response from any Colorado Republicans, you’re not alone.

 

► Things would have to improve at the White House before you could even begin to use the word “disarray.” From the Washington Post:

This time it did not even take 24 hours for Donald Trump to throw his staffers under the bus and contradict their denials.

The president revealed highly classified (code word) information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during an Oval Office meeting last week, potentially endangering a coveted intelligence asset, compromising a crucial alliance and undermining the war effort against the Islamic State.

After The Post broke the story, senior White House aides quickly denied it. “I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” said national security adviser H.R. McMaster. “This story is false,” added Dina Powell, his deputy.

Then, on Twitter this morning, Trump essentially acknowledged that The Post’s reporting is accurate, defended his decision to share the information and complained about the leak that allowed what he’d done to get out.

Working for Trump at the White House certainly appears to be nothing short of awful. It can’t help that Trump’s approval ratings continue to drop and the public is demanding a special prosecutor to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.

 

► Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, also the second-longest-serving Attorney General in Colorado history, is apparently no longer on a short list to become the next FBI Director. We’re sure Suthers is absolutely (not) despondent to learn that he won’t be next in line to manage this particular shit show.

 

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Firestone GOP Lawmakers Plan Oil and Gas Apologetics Tour

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Via the Longmont Times-Call’s John Fryar:

State Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, are initiating a set of summer “energy summits to address oil and gas pipeline safety,” Marble announced in a news release this morning.

Both lawmakers represent the Firestone area, where a house explosion last month killed two people. Investigators have concluded the explosion was caused by gas that entered the basement through a cut flow line near the home.

After investigators confirmed that the home explosion in Firestone was indeed caused by a disused oil and gas production flowline connected to an improperly shut off well, Democratic representatives from Boulder County introduced House Bill 1372–a bill to require energy companies to map their pipelines, one of the suggestions made by a task force convened by Gov. John Hickenlooper to look at energy policy in the state.

Republicans including Rep. Lori Saine of Firestone opposed this legislation, claiming the bill was “a spiking of the political football.” House Republicans were able to kill HB17-1372 by running out the clock at session’s end before it could reach the Colorado Senate.

With that in mind, these should be lively “energy summits”–assuming real Firestone residents are allowed in.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 10)

It’s still early, but President Trump hasn’t fired anybody today. 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 on Tuesday fired the man in charge of the investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. If you’ve watched, read, or heard any news since last evening, you are probably aware that FBI Director James Comey is out of a job. As the Washington Post reports, Trump’s decision to fire Comey is backfiring bigly:

To put it mildly, the optics of firing Comey are terrible. Trump looks like he does not actually want to get to the bottom of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and the potential wrongdoing of his own staffers.

In one of the hastily-arranged damage-control interviews, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made an especially revealing statement that underscored why so many people are worried. Asked by Tucker Carlson on Fox News how Comey’s termination will impact the Russia investigation, she replied: “I think the bigger point on that is, ‘My gosh, Tucker, when are they gonna let that go?’ It’s been going on for nearly a year. Frankly, it’s kinda getting absurd. There’s nothing there.” “It’s time to move on,” she added. “Frankly, it’s time to focus on the things the American people care about.”

As Sanders pretended on Fox that the Russian probes have found nothing, CNN reported that federal prosecutors – as part of the ongoing Russia probe – have now issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

President Trump is apparently steaming mad about all of this. Trump supporters have been busy trying to spin Comey’s firing as totally-not-a-scandal, though nobody is really buying what they’re selling (see: Anderson Cooper with Kellyanne Conway on CNN Tuesday night):

cooper-eyeroll

 

► Colorado Democrats, including Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver), are calling for a special prosecutor to take over Comey’s Russia investigation. Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, have been relatively quiet about Comey’s firing. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) finally issued a statement Wednesday morning that was almost entirely focused on finding the next FBI Director. From the Denver Post:

Gardner, a Republican, thanked Comey for his service and said there were thousands of immensely qualified FBI agents.

Uh, okay…but how about the fact that Trump just fired the man in charge of investigating him? Anything on that, Senator?

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) also declined to call for a special prosecutor/investigator, but did manage to admit that the timing of Comey’s ouster is a little weird while pointing out that the sky is blue and the grass is green:

“I think it may create the appearance that Comey was fired due to his role in the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

“I think it may create the appearance…” You figured this one out all by yourself, eh?

 

► The Colorado legislature has reached the end of the 2017 session. We’ll have plenty of wrap-up coverage on the legislative session here at Colorado Pols, including rundowns on charter school funding, the Hospital Provider Fee, and who is pointing fingers at whom.

 

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Senate Defeats Attempt To Scuttle Obama Methane Rule

Sen. Cory Gardner.

A big surprise out of Washington, D.C. this morning–and we mean that in a good way for a change–as the Washington Post reports:

The U.S. Senate narrowly voted down a resolution on Wednesday to repeal an Obama-era rule regulating methane emissions from drilling on public lands — with three Republicans joining every Democrat to preserve the rule.

The 51 to 49 vote marked the first time since Trump’s election that Republicans have failed in their attempt to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn Obama-era rules.

Thirteen earlier resolutions, based on the 1996 law that allows Congress to overturn rules within 60 days of their adoption, all succeeded…

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) unexpectedly voted no against a motion to proceed with consideration of the resolution, along with GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.). Two Democrats who had considered backing the rule’s elimination — Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — voted against the motion as well.

In a floor speech after the vote, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), said “the very first victory” lawmakers have had in beating back a Congressional Review Act bill this year came from a combination of Democratic unity and a few Republicans’ willingness to buck their leadership. “Thank you so much for coming forward and seeing the common sense nature of this issue,” Udall said, referring to Collins, Graham and McCain.

Conservation Colorado celebrates in a statement today–and slams Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado for his vote to repeal the federal Methane Rule:

This is an incredible day for the environment and for citizens across the country who have been telling their members of Congress to vote for clean air. The vote should have been an easy one for the oil and gas lobby to win, but the power of citizen activism has broken through the political morass.

With that said, we are deeply disappointed in Senator Gardner’s vote. Despite more than 10,000 emails and calls from Coloradans and multiple protests at his offices on this issue, Senator Gardner managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by voting against Colorado’s clean air in what amounted to a futile vote for him. [Pols emphasis]

It’s obvious from this vote that Senator Gardner is much more interested in joining the Washington, D.C. political club rather than representing the values of Coloradans. This is not the leadership that Colorado needs, and we will double down on our efforts to make sure that Coloradans of all stripes know what a threat Senator Gardner’s voting record poses to clean air and environment.

Colorado already has rules requiring that methane be captured instead of wasted–beneficial both to air quality and our bottom line since royalties are paid on the energy that isn’t wasted here. Even though we have this protection already, air pollution doesn’t respect state boundaries. The federal Methane Rule the Trump administration wanted overturned via the controversial Congressional Review Act is based on Colorado’s rule.

All told, this is a huge win against the Trump administration’s campaign to roll back President Barack Obama’s legacy. Sen. Gardner, who pays so much lip service to being a conservation-minded “different kind of Republican,” had a golden opportunity today to join other Republican Senators in doing the right thing, show independence from Trump, and uphold the values on this issue of the state he represents.

And he didn’t.

Sirota Uncovers Lanny Martin’s Colorado GOP Quid Pro Cash

Denver GOP donor and oilman J. Landis “Lanny” Martin.

A story from local investigative journalist David Sirota in the International Business Times is provoking a lot of discussion today–not just for its content, but the fact that a large out-of-state media outlet is calling attention to donations and wealthy local donors that local media can’t be bothered to report on:

A top fossil fuel industry official poured $40,000 into the Colorado Republican Party’s super PAC on the same day the state’s legislature began considering a bill to limit the oil and gas industry’s fracking and drilling near schools, according to state documents reviewed by International Business Times. Soon after the contribution from Halliburton board member J. Landis Martin, Republican lawmakers lined up against the legislation. They eventually killed it — days before a deadly blast at a home near an oil well in Northeastern Colorado…

Martin’s March 14th donation was one of the single largest individual contributions in the Colorado Republican Party’s modern history, and the second largest ever given to the party’s super PAC, according to data from the National Institute on Money In State Politics.

Colorado is one of 29 states with campaign finance laws designed to discourage fundraising during legislative sessions. Martin’s contribution, however, appeared to legally flow around that statute because it went to the Colorado Republican Party’s independent expenditure committee, which supports legislators — but not directly to the legislators themselves.

Martin told IBT the donation was unrelated to the setback bill, which would have clarified that the 1,000 foot limit between schools and new oil and gas wells started at the edge of school property, not at school buildings themselves…

“I don’t really follow the state legislature there,” said Martin, who is a prominent philanthropist in Colorado. He also told an interviewer in 2013 he moved to Denver in 1981.

Some of our readers will recall the name J. Landis “Lanny” Martin as the wealthy local oilman who held an under-publicized fundraiser at his Denver Art Museum penthouse for Jeb! Bush in the fall of 2015 starring former President George W. Bush. Noteworthy to us was the fact that local press actually colluded with the organizers to conceal the location of this fundraiser–which didn’t stop a lively contingent from Occupy Denver from shaking the windows of Martin’s penthouse for the whole event.

Martin’s donation to the Colorado Republican Party’s independent expenditure committee is not illegal, but the large size of the donation definitely makes it noteworthy. With so much scrutiny in the media on the opponents of oil and gas development in Colorado, not nearly enough attention is paid to the proponents and the lavish amounts of money they give their (mostly) Republican political allies.

Of course, it’s extremely difficult to say with certainty that any individual donation is in response to or exchange for any vote, but the reliability with which Colorado Republicans protect the energy industry in Colorado doesn’t leave much to ponder. Lanny Martin doesn’t need to know bill numbers to know exactly what he’s paying for. And with the issue again taking center stage in the wake of the Firestone home explosion, these kinds of “transactions” matter–no matter how jaded the local media may be.

Sirota and the IBT are reportedly not done either, so stay tuned.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 9)

Golfball-sized hail is just God cleaning out his ice maker. 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…

► Legislation introduced last week that would seek to compel oil and gas companies to provide public records of “flowlines” — pipelines that carry natural gas from wellheads to a collection point — has been defeated in the state legislature after a Republican filibuster. House Bill 17-1372, sponsored by Reps. Mike Foote (D-Lafayetter) and Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton), was essentially killed when House Republicans extended their arguments toward a midnight deadline for the bill to move along to the State Senate.

 

► State Sen. Jim Smallwood (R-Parker) officially killed his own legislation intended to eliminate the Colorado Health Exchange. As Ed Sealover reports for the Denver Business Journal:

The move was met by applause from Democrats on the Senate floor and groans from Republicans.

Smallwood said afterward that he wanted to spend the summer working on the bill in ways that could bring meaningful change to the state-chartered exchange, which has struggled financially. That could mean finding a way to garner bipartisan support for the measure, or it could mean finding a way for Connect for Health to attract more insurers and to make more significant steps in slowing the growth of health-care costs in Colorado, he said.

Senate Bill 3 was introduced early in the 2017 legislative session as a priority for Senate Republicans, but the GOP made little effort to actually move forward with the bill after encountering still opposition from vocal Coloradans amid Congressional blundering on repealing Obamacare.

 

► The Director of the FBI, James Comey, has apparently stepped in the mud (again). As CNN reports:

FBI Director James Comey erroneously told Congress last week that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband’s laptop — and the bureau is looking for a way to clean up his error, according to officials familiar with the matter.

According to Comey, Clinton’s emails had been forwarded to the computer of Abedin’s husband, former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner. But US officials told CNN last fall the majority of the thousands of emails reviewed by the FBI got to Weiner’s computer via a backup system for Abedin’s phone.

In Comey’s testimony, however, he suggested “hundreds and thousands” of emails had been deliberately sent directly from Abedin to Weiner’s computer. While some of those emails may have been sent directly from Huma in order to be printed, officials told CNN, the number was far fewer than the amount Comey described.

 

 

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Let Them Eat Methane: Rep. Lori Saine’s Shameful Indifference

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

As the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic reports, the conclusion last week that an abandoned oil and gas well was responsible for a massive explosion that destroyed a recently-built home in Firestone, killing two people, hasn’t persuaded Firestone’s representative in the Colorado General Assembly, Republican Rep. Lori Saine, that any legislative action is needed:

State Rep. Lori Saine, a Republican who represents constituents rocked by a recent fatal oil and gas industry-related home explosion in Firestone, strongly opposes a bill introduced Friday morning that would require the drilling industry to make available well flowline mapping data to regulators and the public…

Saine called a the bill a “knee-jerk reaction.” She said the minority Republican caucus in the House opposes the bill and she suspects Senate Republicans would also oppose it.

House Bill 1372 was introduced Friday morning and assigned to the House State Affairs committee, where it will be heard Friday afternoon. The legislative session ends Wednesday.

The sponsors, gas patch Democratic Reps. Mike Foote from Lafayette and Steve Lebsock from Thornton, are acting in response to resident concerns in the wake of the April 17 house explosion. Two men were incinerated in the blast while working on a water heater in a basement filled with unrefined odorless gas from an abandoned and uncapped oil and gas well flowline.

Hold everything, says Rep. Saine! There’s a process for this!

Oil and gas politics at the Capitol has long been a charged partisan business. Republicans consistently stand as a bloc against regulation.

“I see this [bill] as a spiking of the political football,” said Saine. “We already have a process in place… We have [line-]abandonment procedures in place They’re pressure testing the lines. I would just say let it work without adding another layer of complexity and confusion. Let the process happen…”

Unfortunately, as the Denver Post has been reporting ever since the explosion April 17th and in fact long before, both the process and the resources for ensuring public safety around oil and gas infrastructure are woefully inadequate:

Long before a pipeline leaked volatile gas into a Firestone home that exploded, Colorado’s overseers of the oil and gas industry were warned such pipelines posed major risks.

For years, they’ve known leaking underground pipes carrying oil, gas and processing waste regularly contaminate soil and water and potentially threaten thousands of people around the state, records show…[i]t wasn’t until last year that the state began any program to monitor the underground pipes connecting wells to tanks and other equipment in the field.

Just three state officials are tasked with ensuring the integrity and safety of thousands of miles of pipelines in Colorado connected to about 53,000 active wells and associated with an additional 36,500 inactive wells. [Pols emphasis] The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry, didn’t deploy those officials until 2016, leaving the vast majority of oil and gas pipelines still uninspected. Regulators say they don’t know where all the pipelines are located. And they leave it up to local jurisdictions to decide whether developers can build homes over them.

Yes, Gov. John Hickenlooper has ordered emergency pressure testing of all flowlines within 1,000 feet of most development. But it’s painfully obvious in the wake of this tragedy that the inspection program in place for this infrastructure is insufficient to protect public safety. Requiring energy companies to map out their lines and give that data to these beleaguered inspectors–not to mention the public–should be a no-brainer.

And yet here we have the representative of the dead and injured from this tragedy, which we now know was caused by exactly the unmapped infrastructure this legislation wants to see documented to protect the public from future tragedies, saying it’s a “knee-jerk reaction.”

Folks, with any other issue–and we’ll even go so far as to say in most other states–Rep. Lori Saine’s indifference in the face of tragedy in her own district would be political suicide. The fact that Rep. Saine can declare a basic and preliminary attempt to address this tragedy a “knee-jerk reaction” without a massive backlash shows how powerful the oil and gas industry is in this state–and how, with a few exceptions like the Denver Post’s excellent recent reporting, our local press is too servile to the energy industry to hold politicians like Rep. Saine accountable.

If this is not an outrage, what is?

Investigators Link Home Explosion in Firestone to Drilling Activity

Investigators continue to look into the massive home explosion in late April that killed two people and seriously injured two others north of Denver. As Cathy Proctor reports for the Denver Business Journal, the culprit of the home explosion is indeed a nearby gas well owned by Anadarko:

The Frederick-Firestone Fire Department on Tuesday said their investigation has linked the cause of a April 17 home blast that killed two men to gas from a line connected to an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. well in the vicinity.

“Investigators have reached the conclusion that the origin and cause of the explosion and subsequent fire … was unrefined, non-odorized gas that entered the home through a French drain and sump pit due to a cut, abandoned gas flow line attached to an oil and gas well in the vicinity that, while abandoned, had not been disconnected from the wellhead and capped,” said the department in a statement…

…Until today, there was no official finding that Anadarko’s operations had anything to do with the fatal blast.

Nevertheless, the tragedy — and Anadarko’s decision to shut down some 3,000 gas wells in the area — added fuel to the debates, underway across Colorado for years, about the proximity of oil and gas facilities and communities.

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 1)

If someone left a bouquet of May Day flowers on your front door today, we want to hear about it. Seriously. 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…

► Congress has come to agreement on a budget proposal that will keep the federal government funded through September. As the Washington Post reports, President Trump got absolutely rolled on the negotiations:

Perhaps the best negotiators are not the people who tell everyone that they are the best negotiators.

A spending agreement was reached last night that will keep the government funded through the end of September. This will be the first significant bipartisan measure passed by Congress since Donald Trump took office.

The White House agreed to punt on a lot of the president’s top priorities until this fall to avert a shutdown on Friday and to clear the deck so that the House can pass a health-care bill…

…But Democrats are surprised by just how many concessions they extracted in the trillion-dollar deal, considering that Republicans have unified control of government.

 

► Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are casting this week as the last real chance to approve a potential plan to repeal Obamacare. The White House is taking its usual blustery stance about having enough votes from Republicans to pass a bill out of the House, though the outlook is not so rosy when you ask Congressional leaders. It is unclear whether House Republicans have enough support from moderates to pass something along to the Senate, and there is little reason to believe that any potential legislation could move at all if it were to land in the Senate.

The main sticking point in the current healthcare negotiations revolves around pre-existing conditions. Trump maintains that any new Obamacare repeal “will be every bit as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare.” But in order to gain the support of right-wing Republicans, such as the Freedom Caucus, Congressional Republicans are actually trying to gut protections for pre-existing conditions.

 

► By the end of the day today, there will be little evidence left of a weekend snowstorm in the Denver metro area. But it did snow — quite a bit, in fact — and the weather didn’t stop a huge crowd from turning out in Denver in support of efforts to combat Climate Change. Thousands of people showed up at Civic Center Park on Saturday to take part in a march and rally that was also happening simultaneously in more than 300 cities around the world.

 

► Republicans in the State Senate are crowing about a new budget proposal in an effort to pretend that they are actually interested in governing. From John Frank of the Denver Post:

Colorado’s top lawmakers are negotiating a far-reaching measure in the final days of the legislative session that is designed to save hospitals from major budget cuts, generate $1.8 billion for road repairs and lower the state’s spending cap.

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, unveiled the details early Monday after days of closed-door negotiations with top Democratic lawmakers. But moments after he announced an agreement on the legislation, an aide passed him a note from Democrats that declared no deal.

We don’t doubt that many Democrats aren’t happy with this latest funding proposal, considering some of the nonsense included in Sonnenberg’s bill:

The latest negotiations include requiring the maximum federal co-pay for Medicaid, the government-funded health care program for people with low-income, as well as a cut to the business personal property tax for small business owners, up to $25,000. Other provisions would change how TABOR refunds are issued and funnel more money to rural schools.

Republican lawmakers continue to insist that there is plenty of money hidden away in government coffers that could pay for everything if they could just move some decimal points around here and there. Note also how Republicans would include a tax cut for businesses alongside a big new financial burden for low-income Coloradans.

 

 

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Firestone House Explosion Adds Urgency To Setbacks Debate

Denver7 reporting from the aftermath of a massive explosion last week in Firestone that completely destroyed a new home, killing two people and severely injuring two others–an explosion that occurred less than 200 feet from a 20-year-old oil well owned by Anadarko Petroleum:

A Houston-based company announced just over a week after a fatal home explosion in Firestone, Colorado that it would shutter production from 3,000 vertical oil wells in the area.

“Words cannot express how saddened we are that this occurred in a community where many of our employees, their families, and friends live and work,” Anadarko Petroleum Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Al Walker said. “We share the community’s gratitude for the courageous response of neighbors and nearby construction crews who quickly came to the aid of the family, as well as the first responders and others who made sure surrounding homes were kept safe.”

Anadarko confirmed the company operates 3,000 units of an older-model vertical well. One such unit, drilled by a previous operator in 1993, is just 200 feet from the site where a home that recently exploded was recently built.

The bodies of two community members were pulled from the rubble days after the April 17 explosion. Two others continue to recover in a hospital.

Anadarko’s acquisition of wells originally drilling by much smaller operators makes them responsible for defects in the drilling process they didn’t commit. It’s critical to keep in mind that the cause of the explosion in Firestone has not been conclusively determined–but the size and power of the blast would seem to rule out residential gas lines. That a new home was built less than 200 feet from an existing oil well is just another example of the problems the rapidly urbanizing Front Range faces dealing with both new and a legacy of oil and gas drilling.

And as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Peter Marcus reports, the timing of this disaster is notable given debate that took place this year in the state legislature:

 

“We should take a cautious approach until we know for sure,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, who sponsored legislation this year that would have required oil and gas operations to be located at least 1,000 feet from schools and other high occupancy buildings.

The legislation died on a Republican party-line vote…

“This whole situation is tragic. My heart aches for the family that lost loved ones and had others injured in the explosion and fire,” said Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, who also sponsored the failed setback bill in the legislature this year.

“Although the cause of the explosion is under investigation, in response Anadarko shut down a gas well only 170 feet from the blown-up home, along with 3,000 area wells. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation needs to get to the bottom of this. And the Colorado General Assembly needs to take action on the results to protect Coloradans.”

As Marcus correctly notes, a bill to increase setbacks between schools and drilling sites died in the Colorado General Assembly this year on a party-line vote. Citizen initiatives to increase setbacks and give local communities greater control over drilling within their boundaries have been stymied in recent years by intense opposition from the oil and gas industry and bipartisan political cover. The passage of Amendment 71 last year makes it much more difficult to use the initiative process going forward.

Overall the oil and gas industry has done a remarkable job suppressing opposition in Colorado, creating a political climate in which no one has the power to move anything unfavorable to the industry. Since Colorado voters weighed in by passing a landmark renewable energy standard in 2004, there’s been much less to celebrate. Small-scale agreements on emissions rules have come largely as a result of federal pressure on the state for noncompliance with air quality standards. And as we all know, federal oversight is no longer something Colorado can depend on. All told it’s a great position for the drillers to be in.

Except, you know, when houses start blowing up. Too much of that, and the politics can change awfully fast.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 26)

Get ready for the rain. Or perhaps snow. Or maybe just sun. 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…

► Congressional Republicans, at the urging of President Trump, are attempting to revive efforts to repeal-and-maybe-replace Obamacare…or at least hoping to pretend that they are sorta trying to repeal the health care law. From the Washington Post:

An influential group of House conservatives threw its support behind a new Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act, shifting the political pressure to GOP moderates to determine the effort’s fate.

The House Freedom Caucus, which thwarted Republicans’ first attempt to overhaul the health-care system under President Trump, announced its support for an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) allowing states to opt out of certain rules under Obamacare.

“The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original [Republican plan],” the Freedom Caucus said Wednesday in an unattributed statement.

“While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs,” the statement said.

The decision came as three conservative advocacy groups — the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Heritage Action for America — declared their support for the plan, even as they also admitted it does not fully repeal Obamacare. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve reached the point in the healthcare debate where Republicans are signing onto a deal to “repeal Obamacare” that doesn’t actually repeal Obamacare — though they still don’t appear to have enough GOP support to approve legislation.

 

► Meanwhile, as Sarah Kliff reports for Vox, Congressional Republicans are considering protecting Obamacare access for themselves even if they somehow repeal part of the law:

House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan.

The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on preexisting conditions. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

Republican legislators liked this policy well enough to offer it in a new amendment. They do not, however, seem to like it enough to have it apply to themselves and their staff. A spokesperson for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who authored this amendment, confirmed this was the case: Members of Congress and their staff would get the guarantee of keeping these Obamacare regulations. Health law expert Tim Jost flagged this particular issue to me.

 

► President Trump is rolling out his tax cuts for billionaires plan tax reform proposal with a one-page document that doesn’t bother to include any specific policy information. Details, shmetails.

 

► State legislative efforts to find funding for transportation and infrastructure upgrades have been officially dashed thanks to three Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee. Elsewhere, legislators are entering the final few weeks of the 2017 session with a number of high-profile items on their to-do lists.

 

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Whither Jared For Governor?

Rep. Jared Polis.

Peter Marcus’ interview last weekend with Rep. Jared Polis, in which Polis muses about the possibility of running for governor, is not itself newsbreaking–but renewed speculation about Polis making a run for governor in 2018 is nonetheless provoking a fair amount of discussion this week and deserves a mention in this space:

“I’m going to be deciding in the next month or two whether or not to launch a statewide race for governor,” Polis, a five-term congressman for the 2nd Congressional District, told Colorado Politics in his most extensive interview on the subject.

Wearing a blazer and a polo shirt, Polis’ eyes light up as he talks about the possibilities: “I’ve been really focused on where I can make the biggest impact on improving our schools and protecting our environment and how to make these vast changes that are occurring work for Colorado families.

“There’s a lot of frustration out there because people feel that the deck is stacked against them.”

Polis’ entrance into the gubernatorial race – an open seat next year with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper being term limited – could shakeup an already crowded Democratic primary. He has name recognition and wealth.

There’s no question that Rep. Polis running for governor would shake up the race. We would speculate that Polis getting in would be very bad for the two “lesser” candidates running against Perlmutter, former Sen. Mike Johnston and former Treasurer Cary Kennedy, and would quickly reshape the primary into a two-man contest.

With that said, we’re inclined to give Perlmutter the edge in a matchup between himself and Rep. Polis at this point, in large part due to Perlmutter’s great skill at retail politics–as well as fundraising prowess to match Polis’ ability to self-fund. The caveat we are obliged to note is Polis’ leadership from the left on oil and gas issues, stoutly defending local residential communities in his district who have struggled with drilling inside their boundaries. There is significant pent-up frustration within the Democratic base on this issue, and that could be in Polis’ mind as he contemplates a primary bid against Perlmutter.

It’s important to remember that Polis has not committed to a run, and there are plenty of reasons why he wouldn’t ultimately choose to make the jump from his relatively safe congressional seat to the governor’s race. It’s possible that this is more about pressuring Perlmutter to make a clean break with Gov. John Hickenlooper’s fracking-friendly administration than it is about Polis really wanting to be governor.

Obviously, we’ll be watching closely for developments here.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 24)

Pop quiz: Name one of two top finishers in Sunday’s Presidential race in France. 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 is very angry that he is being judged on the first 100 days of his Presidency, but at least he still has a job. The Washington Post examines the fate of 15 top Trump supporters who didn’t even make it to 100 days in the White House.

 

► President Trump sat down with Julie Pace of the Associated Press for an extensive interview that was absolutely bizarre. Trump is very touchy about any attempts to summarize his first 100 days in office — which have not gone well by any serious estimation — so the President spends most of his time talking about that time he won the 2016 election and about how he is the biggest ratings draw on cable television.

As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Trump is starting to sound awfully similar to Uncle Rico:

At issue for Trump is that he continues to seem more interested in how he won the office than what he will do with the office. An occasional reminder of a time when you won is great. But Trump is bordering on Uncle Rico (of “Napoleon Dynamite”) territory here.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, watch this:

“Back in ’82 I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile,” Uncle Rico recalls. “If coach would have put me in fourth quarter we would have been state champions….no doubt in my mind.”

The point is: Dwelling too much in the past makes you a prisoner of the past. Trump won a historic upset. No question.  But, now he’s president. So, how he got elected — and how no one called it — is now less relevant than what he plans to do in the office.

Michael Kruse of Politico takes a look at “How Trump Succeeds Without Succeeding.”

 

► “Keyser’s Law” becomes official in Colorado.

 

► Construction defects reform legislation passed out of the State House on a unanimous vote on Monday. It is now up to the State Senate to approve HB17-1279.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Fractivists Roll “Frackenlooper” At Denver March For Science

Again via the Colorado Independent’s Kelsey Ray, we’re obliged to give the treatment Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper received at yesterday’s March for Science in Denver a mention–navigate to 13:00 in the video above to watch what happened:

As soon as the Governor took to the stage in Civic Center to address a crowd of thousands, a group of at least a dozen protesters marched up the steps with anti-fracking signs and banners, chanting, “Frackenlooper, don’t frack our future.”

Event security attempted to remove the protesters from the stage but most remained, partially blocking the crowd’s view with large banners.

Hickenlooper, who was introduced to both applause and boos as having “endeavored to make Colorado the most pro-business state with the highest environmental and ethical standards,” upheld the message of the March for Science.

“Science doesn’t need to be political, and politics doesn’t necessarily need to drown out other voices,” he said, through the chants. “I think the agenda that we’re facing in Washington now is trying to prevent science from getting the facts in the first place, and they’re looking at an unprecedented rollback of laws to protect our air and water.” He spoke about the importance of funding climate research and upholding the Paris Climate Accord.

Let’s be perfectly frank: Gov. Hickenlooper’s support for fossil fuel development in Colorado, especially natural gas as a so-called “bridge fuel” to renewable sources and as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, is very likely the most divisive issue amongst Democrats in our state today. Hickenlooper’s attempts to make peace between the energy industry and the coalition of environmentalists and local communities threatened by drilling have not succeeded and sometimes backfired–and this will likely go down as the greatest failure of his administration.

With that said, there is a huge difference between Hickenlooper’s nuanced position on energy development, which fully acknowledges the reality of climate change and sees renewables as the long-term solution, and President Donald Trump’s utter disregard for climate science–and contempt for anything other than science in pursuit of profit. This is much like the criticism Sen. Michael Bennet and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston come in for on education from the left, deserved even in the context of their own opposition to radical education policies espoused by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Bottom line: there’s room for disagreement among overall allies, but it shouldn’t even be in the same ballpark as the greater common enemy on any of these issues. You might have fundamental disagreements with Gov. Hickenlooper on energy policy, but you can’t deny that as governor, he’s taken plenty of actions in support of remediating human-caused climate change too. He’s not the environmental left’s ideal champion, but he’s no Rick Perry either.

With all of this in mind, we”ll turn it over to readers: did Hickenlooper deserve to get drowned out yesterday?

Independence Institute a National Laughingstock (Again)

Try not to laugh.

ThinkProgress picks up on the latest round of in-your-face doublethink from Colorado’s own Independence Institute, the ideological pole star of the far right in our state:

One thing Earth Day celebrations have been lacking is a recognition of fossil fuels — at least according to the Independence Institute, a self-described “action tank” based in Colorado that receives funding from a litany of prominent conservative dark money groups.

“Enviros celebrate by planting trees but they never celebrate the trucks that deliver the trees, or the gas that powers that truck, or the plastic handles of the shovels they use,” an email from the organization reads. “Shouldn’t Mother Earth be thanked for making Earth Day events possible?”

Budding artists are encouraged to send their original works in by April 21 with the main requirement that it “should showcase the awesomeness of fossil fuels.”

A little more from the Independence Institute’s email announcing this captivatingly twisted stunt:

Join us in celebrating Earth Day by submitting your original artwork in our EARTH DAY FOSSIL FUELS ART CONTEST! Your entry should showcase the awesomeness of fossil fuels. We will be announcing two semi-finalists on Earth Day, April 22. The semi-finalists’ entries will be displayed at our Founders’ Night Dinner on Thursday, April 27. Guests at the event will vote and the winner will be announced at the event.

Both semi-finalists will receive:
• $75 in gift cards
• 1 ticket to our Founders’ Night Dinner ($250 purchase value)

The winner will also receive:
• One $100 gasoline gift card, suitable for framing and showing off to your smug in-laws.

It’s an event in keeping with the Independence Institute’s “Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms” party–which literally features alcohol, tobacco, and guns (hopefully not in that order, we’ve never been). While most of the world applauds sensible regulation of things that are bad for you/the planet, there are always the guys who celebrate the bad things. In Colorado, that’s the Independence Institute.

Yes, there’s an argument that talking about these kinds of antics only validates them. In this case, however, the antics are sufficiently laughable as to make a joke of much more than one state-based activist group. Something about the Koch Brothers paying for a celebration of fossil fuels on Earth Day elevates this to the level of a nationwide punchline.