The “Great Oil Shale Giveaway” – Will Colorado Let It Happen Again?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Public Lands: Among America’s Best Ideas

One of the arguments privateers make for seizing America’s lands from the public and fencing them off to private industry is that they would be managed better.

Privatizing land that should not be under government control would both ease the financial burden that inappropriate federal holdings inflict on taxpayers and the U.S. Treasury and encourage local interest and investment in conserving America’s land resources.

Looking down the East Fork of Parachute Creek on the public lands of Colorado’s Roan Plateau.

And one of the counters to this dubious claim are the many examples where this has not been the case – where loss of public lands has meant loss of public access, public use, public oversight, and ultimately a harm to the public good.

And in most cases, perhaps to the surprise of few, where privatization of public assets, sale of leases, specific “transfers” and other such wishes come up, a particular, and powerful private interest often stands to directly benefit.

The main fork of Parachute Creek carves a dramatic canyon through the marlstone cliffs of Roan Plateau.

Take as an example Colorado’s Roan Plateau. These highlands start just west of the Grand Hogback and continue for a hundred miles, merging with the Tavaputs Plateau and into Utah.

They include some of the best wildlife habitat, and remarkably still-wild land, in the Lower 48. Where the public lands end atop the Roan Plateau–over which the land-use battles were waged for most of the first decade of this century–the private lands begin.

The road up Parachute Creek, as it heads out of Silt, quickly becomes private, and heads onto what until recently was Encana land. Rising to the east the Roan Plateau’s private lands soon end, and public lands begin. But west for miles and miles, the lands have been taken from the public and handed over to profiteers at a unfathomable loss to the American taxpayer. And herein lies a cautionary tale.

History ought to provide enough of a lesson for Americans about what’s at stake. Take the Roan’s now  “patented” private lands, that stretch for many miles across some of America’s best hunting grounds and habitat. Many of these (now) private lands have been traditionally open to hunters, but now are at risk of being closed to this economically vital public access. The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent reports:

On Thursday, Winn hosted an informational meeting to discuss how the new owners may affect public hunting access to units 22 and 32 in southern Rio Blanco County. His goal was to show that this is an issue that more than a few hunters care about.

“When I heard there was still a chance I decided I had to do something to show it is not just a few hunters,” he told the crowd of dozens of hunters. “My initial goal was to get awareness to the issue and show that there is interest from the community.”

For years, previous owner Encana had allowed hunting to take place on its private property on the Roan Plateau, several thousands of acres known as the “Girls Claims.” But when Caerus Oil and Gas acquired the property, that agreement could no longer be expected to continue.

The Viceroy deplanes. No word on his awaiting steed.

Under the Trump administration the royal-minded Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, seems intent–in the minds of many–at turning over public lands and resources to private interests, including to oil and gas development, and to coal and uranium mining.

The companies benefiting from Interior’s newly permissive attitude toward leasing, mining, and fracking the public’s lands, may choose to involve communities in their plans, or not. Secretary Zinke is carving out the public from that role as well. And while these moves may please some of his party’s, and perhaps his own future, big-dollar donors, invariably the American taxpayers have the most to lose.

(more…)

Outdoor Retailer Show Puts Anti-Environmental Pols on Notice

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

If this past weekend’s #PinkWave wasn’t enough to get the attention of Colorado’s elected leaders about what may be coming their way in November, let the Outdoor Retailer Show’s massive presence in Denver this week be their next reminder.

Climate change and stopping the Trump environmental roll-backs were among key issues that brought out hundreds of thousands of women, and men who support them, across America last weekend.

The outdoor industry’s primary convention—expected to draw 28,000 attendees and bring in over $50 million dollars (that’s for each of the twice-annual event)—should be a wake-up call to our state’s elected officials: Colorado cares about the environment—and we will support leaders that act to protect our public lands, rivers, clean air and water, and who act to address climate change. Others, not so much.

And this reminder is not only for our federal representatives, not only in response to the Zinke and Pruitt roll-backs as poorly as they may serve the public, and much as those may drive the national narrative. This time we are coming for every level of government–from county commissioners and state legislators, to gubernatorial candidates, and, yes, to U.S. Representatives and Senators.

That the Outdoor Retailer Show is in Denver and not in Salt Lake City is itself a shot across the bow of anti-environmental politicians. As the Outdoor Industry Association, the entity that puts on the twice-yearly show, was considering its move from Utah, it made it clear that it was driven by the hostile policies of its host state’s elected leaders.

As the Salt Lake Tribune reported about a meeting that the OIA had with Utah Governor Gary Herbert:

Colorado has been a top destination spot for outdoor adventures for over a century. The appeal of its great outdoors remains a key feature for residents too, both life-long and newly arrived.

“It is clear that the governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats — that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses. We are therefore continuing our search for a new home as soon as possible.”

The show’s owner, Emerald Expositions, said in a news release that it would not include Utah in its request for proposals from cities hoping to host the trade shows, which bring about 40,000 visitors and $45 million to Salt Lake City each year.

“Salt Lake City has been hospitable to Outdoor Retailer and our industry for the past 20 years, but we are in lockstep with the outdoor community and are working on finding our new home,” said Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer.

The relocation of this multi-million-dollar boost to the state economy, a twice annual event, followed Utah’s relentless push to privatize public lands, gut public lands protections, grease the skids for energy development on public lands, and weaken protections for cultural and natural sites.

“Our end goal is to provide protection to Bears Ears, for example. We just don’t think a monument is the best vehicle to do that,” Herbert said.  

(more…)

Oil & Gas Exec: North Fork Farmers are “Eco-Elitists”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Personal Attacks and Attempts to Discredit Critics Likely to Backfire on Industry

Anyone that follows my work, here at ColoradoPols or IRL, is likely to know I am an environmentalist, activist, and outspoken about my opinions. I’m even being harassed with a SLAPP action by a Texas-based oil and gas company, that wants to drill in the North Fork Valley where I live, and that didn’t like me posting in a Facebook comment what was being widely reported elsewhere. But I’m not one to be backed-down by bullies. So I’ve kept at it.

Fall comes to the North Fork. Photo by EcoFlight.

Two months ago, I wrote a blog here, on The Wilderness Society including the North Fork Valley as among 15 places on America’s public lands that are“Too Wild To Drill” in its report with that name.

The North Fork of the Gunnison River makes its way out of Colorado’s wild forests in the Thompson Divide area, through the fertile North Fork Valley, finally joining the mighty Gunnison River just after it roars out of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Locally referred to as the North Fork, this river emerges from some of Colorado’s most spectacular high-country wildlands and sustains a thriving farming and ranching community and Colorado’s highest concentration of organic farms.

(more…)

Trump Don’t Care: Administration Pushes Coal Over All

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Administration Guts National Monuments, Moves to Reverse Clean Air Rule

Teddy Roosevelt on the Western Slope. Colorado’s National Forests and public lands have been at the forefront of federal land and environmental policy for over 120 years.

Present needs and present gains was the rule of action — which seems to be a sort of transmitted quality which we in our now enlightened time have not wholly outgrown, for even now a few men can be found who seem willing to destroy the last tree, the last fish and the last game bird and animal, and leave nothing for posterity, if thereby some money can be made.

From the Biennial Report of the State Fish and Game Commissioner to the Governor of North Dakota, December 1894

Spooky Gulch, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, 2010.

It was an even sleepier bend in the road in 1989, although the state park was already there, where the Burr Trail joins Utah 12. In the shadow of Boulder Top—that I would learn a few years later in a geology class at “the U” is a sort of kin to Grand Mesa, a basalt-capped plateau more resistant to the erosion of eons than the landscape all around.

My love of the rock, of the desert and canyons, sprang from time spent near Boulder Town. All through the early 90s, I began to wander deeper and further into that fantastical land: Calf and Deer Creeks, the Gulch, Hole-in-the-Rock road, and Fiftymile Mountain.

In 1996, when President Clinton designated the area as part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, I was already familiar with many of its wonders, and aware that I knew so very little still. So I have returned time and again.

(more…)

Trump Ministers Wage War on Taxpayers and the Environment

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Trump War on the Environment continues, with a steady barrage of roll backs, anti-science flak, funding attacks, and rhetorical bombast that threaten our most cherished public lands, bedrock public health protections, and century-old conservation laws. Easing the way for corporate interests to profit from the public lands, the Trump administration at the same time is making it harder for the American public to enjoy them. The Interior Department, we just learned, is planning to hike fees for America’s most iconic public lands—including Rocky Mountain National Park—to $70 for a visit, which the administration denies will cause any hardships. Not for human persons anyhow. A few pennies in added costs for corporate-persons, however, doing business on the public lands is a different matter.

Rifle native, top-shelf attorney, and Deputy Interior Secretary Bernhardt doesn’t think he’d have any trouble affording a $70 Park fee, according to media reports.

Although no health, safety, or environmental regulation appears safe from the armies of corporate lobbyists and lobbyists-cum-administrators, a particularly fierce animus has been directed to anything with Obama’s name on it. The Clean Power Plan, National Monuments like Bears Ears, and other Obama-era rules aimed at recouping costs for American taxpayers, clamping down on harmful pollution, expanding public involvement, and preventing waste of resources have all been in Trump’s cross-hairs.

Obama Derangement symptoms may be further sign of the psychological rot at the heart of this administration, may reveal the profound, perhaps existential, threat to our Republic the Trump regime poses.

The need to undo a predecessor’s accomplishments does fit in with the behavior of an insecure autocrat. And either by design, or in the vacuum of leadership a naked emperor brings, the administration’s ministries are following suit, ruling by decree.

Consider how the environmental and land agencies are behaving under Trump. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior, for instance, seem to prefer executive fiat to public process, silence over science, and conflicted interests over competence. Under the Trump regime the media is the enemy and the public interest is elitist.

Trump Secretaries Zinke and Perry looking clean and morally straight in the swamps of DC. Zinke believes questions about government contracts are elitist, and Perry thinks fossil fuels decrease sexual assault, per recent agency communications and  reporting.

It all brings with it the appearance of the swampiest of tin-pot dictatorships. Interior Secretary Zinke, it has been revealed, flies his own flag over the Departmental Palace when he is holding court, handing out coins to his admirers. EPA Administrator Pruitt has an around-the-clock security detail and has built himself a private phone booth.

And this royal demeanor extends, many observe, to the actual management of the public’s lands and treasures—the former seems for plunder and the latter for friends.

Take the Bureau of Land Management’s methane rule, put in place by Obama to prevent the waste of a public resource, widely popular, practical, and effective. Thousands of stakeholders across America, including oil and gas companies and some industry groups, agree that this rule is an effective way to reduce methane waste.

(more…)

North Fork Valley: Too Wild To Drill

 Monday Update:

The recent decision to proceed with large-scale oil and gas development in the upper headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison river, at Bull Mountain, is gaining national attention, with coverage by AP and an article in the Denver Post.

BLM Approves Master Plan for Drilling in North Fork Valley

The Bureau of Land Management has approved a plan for oil and gas development in the works for nearly a decade in Colorado’s North Fork Valley.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — The Bureau of Land Management has approved a plan for oil and gas development in the works for nearly a decade in Colorado‘s North Fork Valley.

The Daily Sentinel reported Thursday that the master plan calls for eventually building 146 wells about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Paonia (pay-OWN’-yuh) to the south of McClure Pass…

Paonia is home to many organic farms and wineries. Opponents have said the BLM has failed to take into account the cumulative impact of several existing and other proposed drilling development on water consumption and the valley’s agriculture and recreation industries, among other things.

Citizens for a Healthy Community, a Delta County conservation group, has called the decision “unacceptable” although not unexpected. Opposition to the project, and the industrialization of these important public lands and community watersheds,  is wide-spread in the valley.  A Facebook group is keeping the community updated at Facebook.com/ProtectNorthFork.


Too Wild To Drill

Colorado’s North Fork Valley has been included in The Wilderness Society’s Too Wild To Drill report for 2017. The Wilderness Society issues a new version of the report every few years to call attention to vulnerable places on public lands.

In the 2017 edition, places highlighted include the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge–one of the most remote and wild places left in the world, and Colorado’s North Fork Valley. Many locals are concerned that oil and gas development and the impacts it brings are not compatible with the emerging economy of the valley.

The North Fork is the home of Big B’s Delicious Juices and Hard Ciders.

The North Fork Valley, named for the North Fork of the Gunnison River that drains it, is renown for its bucolic and natural beauty, the state’s highest concentration of organic farms, family ranches, a vibrant creative community, and a thriving local food, winery, festival, and agritourism scene.

“This report is a wake-up call to people who love the wild backcountry and national forests around McClure Pass. And to those of us who rely on the clean water that flows from these mountain watersheds. Oil and gas development will enrich private interests but take too much away from the North Fork Valley and its ecology, economy, health, and recreation. These public lands and our water sources must be protected.”

Jeff Schwartz, owner of Delicious Orchards Farm Market and Big B’s Juices & Hard Ciders.

As if on cue, this week the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued its long-expected Bull Mountain Master Development Plan decision, approving almost 150 new oil and gas wells on either side of the West Elk Scenic Loop, near Paonia Reservoir State Park. The October 4 notice in the Federal Register says, in part:

“The Selected Alternative approves a plan for the exploration and development of up to 146 natural gas wells, four water disposal wells, and associated infrastructure on Federal and private mineral leases within a Federally-unitized area known as the Bull Mountain Unit.”

Azura Cellars & Galley is an example of the massive investments that hundreds of valley businesses and residents have made over the years, and helps fuel a thriving agritourism industry.

The prospects of bringing new industrial, highly impactful uses to the North Fork’s public lands concerns many in the valley and beyond.

The Texas-based privately held company that wants to drill and frack in the North Fork, however, is pleased. Dennis Webb reports in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The Bureau of Land Management has approved a 146-well North Fork Valley oil and gas development plan that has been about a decade in the works and has been one of the flashpoints in the controversy over drilling there.

The agency approved what’s called the Bull Mountain master development plan for leases operated by SG Interests. The action included approval of a permit to drill just one of the wells, but the plan provides a framework for developing the nearly 20,000-acre area, with future drilling applications subject to site-specific review, the BLM said.

Robbie Guinn, an SG Interests vice president, said he’s pleased that the Trump administration got the environmental impact statement process for the project finished.

…He believes the project review had dragged out for too long.

Although the industrialization of this rural, agricultural valley could spell disaster for organic and specialty farming, and the burgeoning outdoor, agritourism and other amenity-based businesses in the valley, it is not just the visual scarring, in this highly scenic, highly prized landscape. Or the heavy and inevitable truck traffic, on an already busy and dangerous road. Or the loss of dark skies, clean air, and wild space–although all these impacts are grievous.

As early as the 19th Century, fruit from the North Fork was already winning national fame.

For over one hundred years the North Fork has been an orchard and argicultural community. It has also been home to coal mines for much of that period. One mine is still operating, due in part to favorable policy from the federal government.

Despite community pride in its history, most residents understand the coal industry is in long-term decline. And, as the economy changes, residents want to shape what comes next. Many see a future that relies more on protecting public lands and natural resources rather than in exploiting and developing them.

And this strategy of diversification and building for long-term viability has been working in the North Fork Valley. Despite a decline in the coal industry, real estate and new businesses are booming in Paonia, Hotchkiss, and the valley.

Economic development experts agree. The area’s clean environment, air, and water, and its rural pace and character with the superlative public lands, top quality farms, wineries, and organic agriculture, create quality products and the quality-of-life that attracts entrepreneurs, investors, and foot-loose economic activity.

“Based on its rich agriculture base, Delta County is well positioned to leverage the existing boom in organic food markets. …According to Better City’s research, Delta County is the hub of organic agriculture in Colorado, and ranks 44th nationwide. The proposed project would seek to create a strategic effort that combines marketing, infrastructure, and distribution. In addition, downtown revitalization – which will support new agritourist activity – was also identified as a complementary piece to this equation.”

Region 10: Better City presents economic development visions for Delta, Gunnison Counties

According to the Too Wild To Drill report, although many residents are building for this new future, the North Fork is facing a range of threats that could jeopardize that positive trajectory. This includes active fracking and drilling operations, and additional new oil and gas leasing and development, on key National Forest and public lands in the region. That sentiment is shared broadly by community members, businesses, and organizations.

“The closest you can come to a wilderness experience in a passenger car”

“Some places are simply too wild to drill. The federal government must resist pressure from energy companies and other special interests to open up our last remaining wild places for development. The Interior Department is required by Congress to manage, on behalf of the American people, almost 450 million acres of public lands for many different purposes, not just energy extraction. Yet oil, gas and coal have long had an outsized influence—and footprint—on public lands. It is long past time that we take some of these lands off the table.”

Jim Ramey, The Wilderness Society

Among the autumn drives that make lists wherever such lists are kept one can often find the West Elk Scenic Byway–which winds from Carbondale over McClure Pass into the North Fork Valley.

The drive: This byway circles the West Elk Mountains on a journey through PaoniaGunnisonCrested Butte and Carbondale. Touching three national forests, the drive crosses diverse landscapes of meadows, rivers, canyons and enormous aspen stands lit up in gold and orange.
Mileage: 205 miles

Pull over for: McClure Pass photos. Views to either side of the high mountain corridor spill out into a green, yellow and auburn canvas sprinkled with striking red scrub oaks.
Stretch your legs in: Curecanti National Recreation Area. The intersection of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with Morrow Point, Blue Mesa and Crystal lakes is an unbeatable spot for picnicking and sightseeing.

On the Crystal Valley side, the route is bounded by the Thompson Divide area to the north and the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness to the south. Past the Town of Marble turn-off, the highway leaves the Crystal Valley and climbs toward McClure Pass.

EcoFlight: 09_27_2017_CO_NorthFork &emdash; Sheep Mountain

The eastern end of Grand Mesa is draped in colorful aspen and oak, on a recent flight over the upper North Fork. Photo by EcoFlight.

Just over the pass the Grand Mesa starts in an expanse of high-country, then stretches forty miles west flanked in a riot of gold and red.

The Ragged Wilderness to the south, looming ridge atop bright slopes, the lightest dusting of high and early snow. Beyond, mesas and mountains fade into a western sky.

Southwest of the pass, the West Elk Loop splits. One arm heads over Kebler Pass to Crested Butte, and the other winds down into the valley, through Hotchkiss and Crawford, then over Black Mesa, past Blue Mesa, to join U.S. 50 by Cimarron.

The landscape along the route, the public lands that connect the Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys, hold some of Colorado’s best backcountry. This area is home to a complex of roadless National Forest, protected Wilderness, and other public lands running from Battlement Mesa along I-70 in the north, south into the Gunnison Basin, and then to the San Juans and Cochetopa Hills beyond. At the heart of this geography and habitat lies the upper North Fork Valley.

The National Forests and public lands that straddle McClure Pass include headwaters that feed three rivers–the North Fork of the Gunnison, the Crystal River and Roaring Fork, and the Colorado. These public lands provide key wildlife migration routes and important habitat. The hunting opportunities provided are among the best in Colorado.

EcoFlight: 09_27_2017_CO_NorthFork &emdash; Coal Mountain and Mount Lamborn

From Grand Mesa to the West Elk Mountains and beyond. Photo by EcoFlight.

But despite their superior qualities as a public resource, the National Forests and public lands of the North Fork Valley remain at risk.

Looming threats include the Bull Mountain development schemes, but many fear that is just the tip of the spear.

A patchwork of plans, directives, and designations–some written long ago with little relevance to today’s needs–have fueled decades-long battles over the area’s future and continue to present management challenges for these important public lands.

Despite its natural solicitude and quiet, where the loudest sounds are likely to be a bugling elk or a peel of thunder,  battles have raged here in the past, over the Clinton Roadless Rule fifteen years ago, the Colorado Roadless rule a decade ago, in a string of land use planning processes, and over oil and gas proposals. These conflicts continue today, with many of these public lands also coveted by oil and gas companies that are used to getting their way.

Taking a Stand at the Summit

In early September, residents and leaders from the Crystal and Roaring Fork valleys joined their neighbors and counterparts from the the North Fork at the top of McClure Pass, in a show of solidarity and in recognition of the single, wild expanse of public lands that lies between and cradles their communities.

In mid-September, The Wilderness Society followed this gathering with its Too Wild To Drill report highlighting the threat the North Fork Valley’s and other public lands face from oil and gas development.

“We must protect our wildest places for future generations, and the upper North Fork is one of those places. Just up the hill we have world-class elk and mule deer populations, moose, bear, and even mountain goats, all thanks to the unspoiled streams, parks, and forests of the region. We can’t sell out this place for short-term oil and gas company profits.”

Alex Johnson, Western Slope Conservation Center

These public lands belong to the American people and are critically important for the watersheds they replenish, the wildlife habitat and migration routes they provide, and for the outstanding recreation–from hunting and fishing to epic mountain-biking, backcountry skiing, world-class photography, bird-watching, picnics, scenic drives, and family hikes–they offer. These lands are a rare and precious resource and all indications are they will be even more, not less, prized in the future.

People come from across the nation in hopes to get their Colorado elk from the North Fork.

Meanwhile more natural gas, as a commodity, is currently not needed in America. It is, in fact, glutted on the market. So much so that sugar-plum dreams of massive wealth continue to dance in industry association heads, over the prospect of being able to ship it off to our competitors in Asia–and drive the price back up for everyone.

The value of the North Fork’s public lands are not in their ability to make already wealthy oilmen wealthier.  It is not in the short-term boost it might provide in a handful of jobs–most not from the valley in any case, or in the revenue that might end up in Gunnison or Delta County coffers. It is certainly not for the energy resources, which are not needed in the current market.  Rather the value of these lands lies in their sustainable use and their ecosystem values.

This place is too wild to drill. The Bull Mountain project is not a wise decision, and the battle for the public lands here continue. For those of us that live, work, and love the North Fork, the stakes are too high not to fight to protect it. You can learn more and help at www.NorthForkValley.org.

 

EcoFlight: 09_27_2017_CO_NorthFork &emdash; DSC00856

Pete Kolbenschlag works as a consultant on energy, public lands, and climate issues from Paonia, Colorado. Photo by EcoFlight.

 

Trump EPA Budget Threatens Colorado Health, Economy, and Environment

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Based on his record as Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt has never cared much for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it seems. And he is running the agency that way now for the Trump administration. Pruitt has moved quickly to strip authority and expertise from the agency, and to install the foxes inside the hen house.

Pruitt seems to be intent on attacking science, weakening environmental oversight, and rolling back protections, reworking the EPA’s primary purposes to coordinate and implement the public health and environmental protections included in the variety of federal laws.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes U.S. EPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States which was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.

Meanwhile, even as Pruitt is proposing draconian cuts to programs and staff, he has been spending lavishly on his own behalf, joining the other swamp critters in the cabinet, who have also been jetting around on the taxpayers’ dime as a matter of convenience, if not from a sense of entitlement.


While in Oklahoma City that day, Pruitt was interviewed by The Oklahoman on several topics, including his travel. The interview came soon after a report claimed Pruitt spent 43 out of 92 days from March to May in Oklahoma or traveling between Washington and Oklahoma. Pruitt dismissed the allegations as overblown claims by activists aligned with former President Barack Obama.
The Oklahoman, Sept. 29, 2017

(more…)

…and You’re No Wendell Berry

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Invest in the Millennium”

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

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

From E&E News (subscription) this morning:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

—–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diverse Destinations

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

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

(more…)

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

—–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the Washington Post reported:

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

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

(more…)

GOP Votes to Gut Independent Office of Congressional Ethics

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

—–

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

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

—–

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

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

—–

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

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

As NPR reports:

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

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

(more…)

Polluters Trump Science with EPA Pick

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

(more…)

We Must Resist Trumpism In Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recently that was in Dillon, Colorado.

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

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

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

(more…)

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

The International Business Times reports:

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

 

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

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

(more…)

Air Quality is Being Harmed by Oil And Gas Development

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

The EPA Acts on Climate – Issues Historic Methane Rule

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate GOP Kicks Rural Colorado When Its Down

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

For instance, this happened today.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Tax Day, Tipton, and the Tired Rhetoric of an Entitled Industry

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Two things come with certainty we are told, and one of those comes with an annual deadline: Tax Day.  And without getting into the many issues of public spending, and tax policy, and philosophies of government–there is still a thread that connects them all: fairness. Who pays what for public resources, public benefit, public good.

“Only little people pay taxes.” Leona Helmsley ~ This year Tax Day is April 18.

So here is something to think about as you dig around for that last receipt hoping to save another $50 on your 1040.

Last year alone oil and gas companies, already profiting off developing resources from public lands, wasted enough methane gas that it could have put another $50 million or more into the U.S. Treasury, according to a report prepared by the Western Values Project.

That’s money that American taxpayers have to make up, even though the resources being wasted already belong to us.

So not only are we robbed of the royalty that gets vented and flared along with the gas, we lose a valuable energy resource too. The Durango Herald (covering a public  hearing held in nearby Farmington, New Mexico) reports:

“Oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands are now wasting more than $330 million worth of natural gas nationwide,” Salazar said. “And in New Mexico, that’s $100 million a year, each year, through the wasteful practice of venting, flaring and leaking. In fact, New Mexico is No. 1 in the country for the amount of natural gas being lost.”

Oil and gas executives think paying Americans for the waste of their public resources could be “crippling.”

Which brings us to another thing to consider this Tax Day. The Bureau of Land Management, which administers most of the public’s onshore minerals, is finalizing an updated rule to stop this disregard shown by oil and gas companies for our energy resources and for the American taxpayer.

Under the proposed new rule more money could be returned to the U.S. Treasury, less of America’s energy resources would be wasted needlessly, and methane emissions would be cut significantly, the Herald reports.

BLM officials estimated the tougher regulations would reduce methane emissions – a gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide – about 169,000 tons per year, and decrease volatile organic compound releases by 410,000 tons per year.

“The announcement … is consistent with the Obama Administration’s goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2015,” the Department of Interior said in a Jan. 22 statement.

The BLM rulemaking is a necessary and prudent update to regulations that predate the shale boom and the widespread deployment of fracking and horizontal drilling, practices that can release large amounts of methane.

(more…)

COGA Disappointed: Adams County Citizens Don’t Need Facts

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Rocky Mountain Whistle Pigs and Reluctant Politicians

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Co-opting the legacy – The Conservative Disneyfication of Martin Luther King

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

@ColoSenGOP took a brief respite from lobbing its normal stream of vitriol and invective at any and all who disagree with its narrow agenda, to praise Dr. Martin Luther King on the day many Republicans fought tooth and nail to never see made a federal holiday.

Today is the day we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life and mission: to challenge oppression, fight for the downtrodden, and call all of us to bold action in fighting injustice.

Although you might not know it from the social media feeds, the creation of this holiday in 1986 was not warmly embraced by American conservatives. In the revision of history Dr. King’s legacy has been watered down and de-radicalized, just as it has been warmly embraced by right-leaning politicians and pundits.

Meanwhile, King’s popular image—transmitted in elementary school lessons for the holiday—has been drained of its radical social critiques and has instead become a generic symbol of equality and kindness to all.

Take the tribute posted by the highly partisan twitter account of Colorado Senate GOP @ColoSenGOP — highlighting the need for equal justice.

And on his Facebook feed Senator Cory Gardner was also quick to appropriate Dr. King’s legacy.

Sen. Gardner praises Dr. King’s values without noting that King called on all people to make those values tangible in bold action.

Yes, Dr. King embraced the virtues singled out by Gardner, respect, tolerance, and love. But he was not just an eloquent speaker who mouthed nice words. Dr. King was an activist and he professed the need for radical action and not just happy talk and platitudes.

Unlike the conservatives of his time Dr. King stood for public sector unions, against the war in Vietnam, for racial and economic justice.

As part of his Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King advocated for a social and economic bill of rights which included a right to a minimum income and universal healthcare coverage.

Every man, woman and child should be guaranteed adequate healthcare under the social security system.”

Today calls for a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and other economic justice reforms are met, often by the same folks ‘honoring’ King’s legacy, with derision and ridicule.

Much as they were in King’s time and in the 1980s when the holiday was being debated:  “Communism,” they call it, “handouts,” and “identity politics.”

(more…)

Malheur Yeehawdists Aim to Give Grand Junction Back to Mexico

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

NEW NORTH MEXICO – Hooboy.  #YallQaeda spokesman reveals intent of bird refuge occupiers.

The Citizens for Constitutional Freedom hold daily press conferences to complain about the heavy burden of Uncle Sam from their free-to-them, federally funded, tax payer equipped facilities in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, designated in 1908 by GOP President Theodore Roosevelt.

The Oregonian is reporting:

BURNS – Protesters holding the bird sanctuary southeast of here want every county in the U.S. to start a process giving back federal land to the previous owners.

They expect that process to start in Harney County with a citizens group processing deeds, according to Ryan Payne, a self-styled militiaman and a key leader of the refuge occupation that started two weeks ago.

In an interview, Payne provided the most clear statement yet about what the occupiers want to achieve. They now call themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.

The public lands in western Colorado and New Mexico, a corner of Wyoming, and all of Utah, California and Nevada–prior to being part of the “federal estate” (or shrinking treaty lands) within the United States–were part of Mexico. As I wrote in another diary about the lands in the North Fork Valley, Colorado:

Where I sit today, along the arroyos that sweep down from the flanks of the Grand Mesa, maybe right atop where Friar Dominguez stood to look at the plain of the North Fork of the Gunnison 80 years before my forebear marched against Santa Anna, and when the valley was still claimed by Spain; this was all part of  Mexico, and ceded at the point of a bayonet in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Britain, France, Mexico and dozens of First American Nations will no doubt be thrilled to know they will soon again have title to vast tracts of the American West. No word yet on if Putin will rear his head in Alaska.

Of course the land only ‘belonged’ to Spain and then Mexico in the sense that they claimed it, their explorers and traders and trappers passed through most certainly on occasion, as had the Spanish friars in 1776, not too far from what became one leg of the Old Spanish Trail.

And other people already lived here too.  The Spaniards did not discover it. Indeed in western Colorado, and right here in the North Fork, people have made their home for 12,000 years or more.

This means that if the Bundy Boys are successful and avoid an extended stay in Florence, they may be surprised when they get back home to find their overseer is no longer a federal employee but a Federale.

Meanwhile, someone better contact Sen. Ray Scott and the Mesa County Commission. As much as both like to kvetch about the burdens of having to protect our shared public lands, clean air, and water supplies they might want to start brushing up on their Spanglish.

Then they can more effectively complain to Mexico City.

Take a Cup of Kindness for a Habitable Home

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

All the world recalls the horrors that awaited us on January 1, 2000 in the aftermath of the Y2K global meltdown.

The world didn’t end at Y2K. Or in 2012. All signs are that we, not all of us of course but collectively, will be here again next year, looking back at the year.

With the West gripped in a snowy El Niño and riders and skiers rejoicing for a fantastic season opener, on this side of the continent winter is here.

But the blizzards are mild in comparison to some of the weather that has been afflicting the nation. And how mild other parts have been most of the month is likewise newsworthy.

Snow. Cold. Global warming? Easily fooled by word games perhaps, some with a climate ax to grind like to point to the term ‘climate change’ itself as some grand conspiracy.  “The climate always changes, and it always has!”

Get it? Those tricky leftists and their scientists, and their scientific research institutions, scientific associations and national scientific academies (all around the world).

The presence of snow during winter is proof to this member of the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” that climate change is a fraud.

Republican Congressional leaders want American scientists and the entirety of the world leaders alike to know that they are not fooled. And besides Congress doesn’t have to listen to science anyways.

As my own congressman put it:

Is there climate change? I live in the shadow of some of the greatest climate change the world has ever seen. It’s called the Rocky Mountains. When the glaciers went back. – U.S. Representative Scott Tipton

Once again Colorado sits in the middle of the national debate around climate change and our need to act. For one, Colorado stands to be impacted dramatically from climate change. Agriculture, recreation including skiing, white water rafting, hunting and fishing, our water supplies, forests, and much more, all face certain impacts and an uncertain future given what we know and expect will happen from climate change in the Rocky Mountains.

(more…)