Why Federal Policy Matters to Rural America

On Tuesday of this week I had the opportunity to testify at the Regional Field Hearing on the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan.  Here is the text of my testimony:

Thank you for this opportunity to testify today.  My name is Michael Bowman and I am a fifth-generation Coloradan.  I am testifying today in support of the proposed rules.

I'd like to talk today about the importance of federal policy and its effect on rural America.  128 years ago my great-great grandfather, Charles Moore, homesteaded in Phillips County, Colorado.  He was afforded this opportunity for a new life as a result of the 1862 Homestead Act.  He came west seeking this new life via railroad, thanks to the Pacific Railroad Act.  His great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren would be educated at Colorado State University, thanks to the Morrill Act.

His descendants endured the Great Depression, and then benefited from rural electrification that emerged from the New Deal and the Rural Electrification Act. 

In the decades that followed our family has enjoyed the benefits of a national farm policy that created the foundation for unprecedented wealth creation on the eastern prairies of Colorado and across all of rural America.  In my home county of Yuma alone, our 3,000 farmers have been the recipients of over one-half billion dollars in subsidy payments alone in the past 12 years.

Decades of federal policy have, indeed, created "the possible":  the full faith and support of our federal treasury encouraging the entrepreneurship and creativity of our fellow man.

From a Colorado perspective we now have a decade of proven leadership on the "power" of sound energy policy.  Amendment 37 set in motion our nation's first-ever citizens-initiated renewable portfolio standard.  An effort that was vehemently opposed by our rural electric community – yet an effort that has yielded billions of dollars in wind and solar investments in our rural communities.  Under the thoughtful leadership of then-Governor Bill Ritter we tripled the standard – to 30% by 2020 – to the second-most aggressive renewable portfolio standard in the nation.  In 2013 Colorado raised the renewable standard on our rural electrics to 20% by 2020.  Even though that effort was met with a disingenuous, rural electric-funded campaign "The War on Rural Colorado", it is a standard that will be easily met.

We didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones – and we won't leave the hydrocarbon era because we have mined our reserves to extinction.  We can and will transition for several reasons: the health of our fellow man, the demands for clean air and water for all our citizens, in the arid west, ever-shrinking fresh-water supplies – and because it is the most economical option before us.

For rural America, our farms and ranches, there is a natural marriage between the conservation goals embedded in our national farm policy and reducing carbon pollution.  Our vast soil inventory, managed for carbon sequestration, can become a carbon depository while simultaneously improving the production of our prairies and farmland.  Our vast biomass, solar and wind resources stand, waiting, to participate in the emerging opportunity.

But this will take bold leadership from our rural leaders – leaders who understand the power of their interdependence with their ever-increasing urban counterparts.

You will, no doubt, hear a lot of testimony over the next two days about the "War on Coal" and the "War on Rural America".  Let's be clear: the "War on Coal" is a geologic war, not a political one.  The only authentic "War on Rural Colorado" is the one that is self-inflicted.  One where we ignore the rich history that federal and state policy plays in our daily lives.

We have nothing but opportunity awaiting us; the chance to create a rural renaissance and fully participate in the Third Industrial Revolution.

To end I'd like to quote Maya Angelou:  "Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better."

It's time to "do better".

One Community Comment, Facebook Comments

  1. Zappatero says:


    In a semi-related matter, 80 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric (HCL) acid, nearly enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, emptied out of a tank where it was stored in Oklahoma:

    The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is overseeing the cleanup of the well, which was operated by Blake Production, an independent oil and gas producer operating wells in four states. The company’s owner, Blake Vernon said the company will compensate the landowner for the next six years for the loss of his alfalfa crop. The landowners’ lawyer Matthew R. Oppel said this may not suffice.

    “The spill occurred in the center of my client’s alfalfa field and while the property is currently used for agricultural purposes the Hawks hoped to build a home on their Turkey Creek property,” said Oppel. “Unfortunately the spill will not only affect the Hawks immediate use and enjoyment, but future development may be impossible.”

    Recent studies have also revealed a probable link between the wastewater injection process of fracking, in which leftover water used during fracking is injected deep into the ground, and earthquakes. In Oklahoma, these so-called “frackquakes” may be linked to the more than 2,500 small earthquakes that have hit the state in the last five years.

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