Who Needs Jordan Cove? Not You, Colorado

As the Denver Business Journal’s Greg Avery reports, Gov. Jared Polis is pulling the state of Colorado out of a partnership initiated by former Gov. John Hickenlooper to actively pursue the export of natural gas from the Western United States to Asian export markets via an as-yet unbuilt liquefied natural gas terminal at Jordan Cove, Oregon:

With the shift to a new governor this year, the state has changed its stance after previously partnering with Utah, northwest Colorado governments and others in advocating for developing the infrastructure and export terminals to ship the region’s abundant natural gas to overseas, especially to Asia.

“We are no longer actively involved in this energy project,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, which oversees energy policy and advocacy of the state government. “The administration’s stance is one of neutrality on exports.”

…Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2017 supported the effort, and advocated for issuing a federal permit for a liquid natural gas export terminal project, known as Jordan Cove, proposed on the Oregon Coast, that could connect to pipelines carrying natural gas west from Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and fill ocean-going tankers.

To be clear, Gov. Polis isn’t announcing that the state is opposed to the Jordan Cove scheme–in fact he says that if the plan moves forward, the state will still work with the companies involved. The state of Oregon has blocked permits needed for the project to move ahead, though the fight is by no means over. But given Colorado’s policy embrace under the new governor of a 100% renewable energy powered future, actively promoting the state’s fossil fuel reserves for export abroad simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

For self-interested residents of Colorado, the question of whether to support the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and the final pipelines to connect Colorado’s gas supply to the West Coast for export to Asia is simpler than it appears. As we’ve noted with the Keystone XL pipeline and other projects to facilitate energy exports, there is simply no economic benefit for local retail energy consumers–who will pay substantially higher prices for the same natural gas once it becomes an exportable commodity. Demand for exported natural gas also means the pace of drilling expansion is no longer a function of local market needs, meaning Colorado suffers all the harm from increased drilling just so Asia can delay their own necessary fossil fuel reckoning another few years.

With so many downsides to a project to benefit a single industry that consistently overstates its importance to the state’s overall economy, especially when factors like the harm to tourism and other land uses from energy exploitation are considered, Jordan Cove is a project whose perceived usefulness to either Colorado or the global economy is the product of dated thinking. The pressing challenge of climate change and the ambitious goals Colorado has set to do our part to reduce the impact of climate change mean that leaning on natural gas as a “bridge” to a renewable energy future is a luxury the world can no longer afford.

Colorado’s new governor gets this, and policy is catching up accordingly.

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It’s a Big Deal: Enviros Celebrate Climate Action Plan Passage

A press release from Conservation Colorado yesterday celebrates the passage of House Bill 19-1261, the Colorado Climate Action Plan legislation that commits the state to large reductions of greenhouse gas emissions–90% less than 2005 levels by 2050:

Today, the Colorado legislature voted on final passage of HB 19-1261, the Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution. Once signed, HB 19-1261 will:

  • Create a framework to tackle climate change by setting science-based goals to reduce carbon pollution, the underlying cause of climate change, of at least 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

  • Direct the experts at the Air Quality Control Commission to create cost-effective regulations for the goals.

  • Ensure ample opportunity for public input on the best ways to meet the pollution limits in order to ensure a fair outcome for Coloradans across the state.

Coloradans are already seeing the negative impacts of climate change every day. It manifests as poor air quality affecting our health, extreme wildfires, disrupted growing seasons for agriculture, shorter ski seasons, and reduced river flows for rafting and fishing are changing how we live our lives and threatening things we love about our state. In fact, 62% of Coloradans – a full 12 points more than the next-highest Western state – say climate change is a serious problem.

We’ll reprint statements celebrating final passage of the Climate Action Plan from a number of local conservation and advocacy groups after the jump. But before that, we’d like you to take just a moment to consider the  opposition to House Bill 19-1261 from Sen. Vicki Marble, putting the bookend on another memorable session for Colorado’s most headline-grabbing-and-not-in-a-good-way Republican Senator:

MARBLE: Is global warming a settled science? Is anything a settled science? [Pols emphasis] I don’t think so.

Between this and Sen. Ray Scott’s jubilation over “massive improvements in our climate” earlier this month, we can now say, as certainly as the global scientific community says about the reality of human-caused climate change, that Colorado Republicans are not credible on matters of basically any kind of science. Fortunately for those of you who expect laws to be made by lawmakers who are intellectually qualified to debate the subject matter of said laws, as of last November Republicans like Sens. Marble and Scott no longer make up a majority in the Colorado Senate.

For all the debate over the tenor of this mercifully concluding legislative session, and the acrimony against majority Democrats for having the audacity to keep their 2018 campaign promises, what’s been missing from the commentary is an acknowledgement of the ignorance that stalled progress in the upper chamber of Colorado’s legislature for the past four years under Republican control.

Here it is, folks. Anybody who wants to defend them has the floor.

(more…)

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There’s Stupid, Then There’s Sen. Ray Scott (R)


As the Colorado Independent’s Alex Burness reports, while everyone with a college education in Grand Junction (and plenty of students too) hangs their heads in shame:

Climate change has led to “massive improvements” and “the planet is a thing that heals itself,” state Sen. Ray Scott argued Thursday morning.

Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction, was speaking against Senate Bill 96, which would require the state to collect greenhouse gas emissions data from oil and gas wells, coal mines and other sources of planet-warming gases. Reports on emissions would be released annually, which supporters hope would help guide climate change policy.

“I will argue that climate change is occurring, but in the reverse order,” Scott told his colleagues on the Senate floor. “Anybody in this room and I can have a discussion about what was our climate like 100 years ago or 80 years ago or 50 years ago or 20 years ago. We have made massive improvements in our climate. Massive improvements.”

The clip above summarizes Sen. Scott’s singularly idiotic floor speech against Senate Bill 19-096 this morning, which can be most charitably described as a low-information conflation of particulate and other visible forms of air pollution with greenhouse gas emissions responsible for human-caused climate change. Legislation like the Clean Air Act, which Republicans of course vociferously oppose, has indeed led to a reduction in many dangerous forms of air pollution including a lot of the stuff one can see.

But of course we’re talking about the climate, not the “brown cloud”–and unless you’re stoked about the desertification of the Front Range and millions of climate refugees fleeing to high ground like Colorado from flooded coastal cities across the globe, it’s really, really hard to argue that we’re looking at anything you’d call a “massive improvement.”

Don’t spend too much time trying to figure his meaning out. All that matters is Sen. Scott doesn’t have a clue.

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Rifle’s David Bernhardt Bellyflops Into The Swamp

David Bernhardt (left).

As the New York Times reports–not that there was ever much doubt, but another Colorado Republican oil and gas attorney has won the job of Secretary of the Interior after David Bernhardt of Rifle was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a mostly party-line vote:

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, as secretary of the interior. The confirmation of Mr. Bernhardt to his new post coincided with calls from more than a dozen Democrats and government watchdogs for formal investigations into his past conduct.

Senators voted 56-41, largely along party lines, in favor of Mr. Bernhardt’s confirmation. Two Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, crossed party lines to vote in favor of Mr. Bernhardt.

As interior secretary, Mr. Bernhardt, who has already played a central role in designing many of Mr. Trump’s policies for expanding drilling and mining, will now serve as the nation’s senior steward of its 500 million acres of public land and vast coastal waters.

Colorado’s U.S. Senate split on the confirmation of Bernhardt, with Sen. Cory Gardner voting as pledged for Bernhardt’s confirmation and Michael Bennet voting against. Conservation Colorado’s Kelly Nordini issued this response to the vote:

“Being a Colorado native does not give David Bernhardt special qualifications for running the Department of the Interior, and shame on Senator Gardner for letting the fox guard the henhouse simply because he’s from the same neighborhood. Senator Gardner made a huge mistake with his vote today, given Bernhardt’s troubling record and spiraling conflicts of interest. Westerners love their public lands and the environment and Bernhardt cannot be entrusted to protect them on our behalf.

“Senator Gardner likes to talk about protecting public lands for future generations, but today’s vote to confirm a former oil lobbyist puts the public lands we love at risk. [Pols emphasis] This is yet another instance of Senator Gardner telling Coloradans one thing and then doing the opposite.”

Confirmation of Bernhardt by the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate will not end questions about his ethical record both at the Interior Department going back to the bad old Jack Abramoff days, as well as his private practice as an attorney representing big energy producers and other polluters creating major conflicts of interest. Colorado has been fortunate to have more than our share of locally grown Secretaries of the Interior in the last two decades, but we’re obliged to note that the last Republican Interior Secretary from our state Gale Norton left office under a cloud–soon after her departure waltzing through the revolving door to work for Royal Dutch Shell.

Bernhardt will take office under a cloud, so at least the worst case scenario won’t come as a surprise.

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Oil and Gas Reform Bill Clears Final Hurdle, Now Awaits Governor’s Signature

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg

One of the most heavily-discussed bills in Colorado completed its journey through the state legislature on Wednesday. Senate Bill 181 was given final approval by the State Senate — including all amendments added by the State House — and now moves to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis, who is expected to sign the legislation within the coming days.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, one of the prime sponsors of SB-181, announced the bill’s success in an email message earlier today:

SB181 marks the most sweeping and comprehensive reforms to oil and gas laws our state has seen in over 60 years! Health and safety will finally be the top priority in the regulation of oil and gas. Local governments will finally be able to have a voice in what is happening in their communities.

Here’s a quick summary of what the bill accomplishes:

♦ Puts health and safety first by clarifying the mission of the regulator, the COGCC, is to regulate (not foster) the oil and gas industry.

♦ Empowers local governments to have decision-making authority over the siting of oil & gas activities in their community and allows local regulations to be stronger than state requirements.

♦ Strengthens protections for wildlife, dramatically increases air quality and emissions standards, and addresses & prevents abandoned orphan wells.

♦ Protects property owners from forced pooling by increasing the threshold of consent required before forcing other mineral interest owners.

♦ Enhances worker safety by raising safety and training standards.

♦ Reforms the COGCC by reducing industry representation and influence on the commission.

9News has more on the final passage of SB-181, which included more than 30 hours of public testimony.

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Colorado Democrats Look to Clear the Air. Literally.

The mountains are still there. Probably. (photo of Denver area in early March, via Streetsblog Denver)

Carbon. Mercury. Sulfur Dioxide.

These are fine things to be discussing in a chemistry class, but not to be inhaling into your lungs in copious amounts. Concerns about air quality and Climate Change were a top priority for Colorado voters even before a disgusting gray soup settled over the Denver Metro area in recent months. At one point in early March, Colorado’s air quality measured more than three times worse than moderate air quality levels in Beijing, China, where people regularly walk around with masks over their nose and mouth.

On Thursday, Democrats in the State House of Representatives introduced legislation that is intended to clean up Colorado’s air quality: House Bill 19-1261, “Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution.” The bill sets goals for reducing carbon pollution by at least 25 percent by 2026, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 by directing Colorado’s Air quality Control Commission to “reduce, prevent, and control air pollution throughout the state of Colorado.” As House Speaker K.C. Becker tells the Denver Post, HB-1261 contains no new fees for pollution and would have little impact on oil and gas operations that follow methane regulations.

House Bill 1261 is sure to draw opposition from some critics who will try to compare it to the “Green New Deal” proposed by Congressional Democrats, but Colorado’s legislation is focused solely on reducing carbon pollution in our state in an effort to reduce adverse health effects such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Even your phone knows that Colorado’s air quality sucks.

From a purely political perspective, this bill follows many of the promises made by Democratic candidates in 2018; its goals are widely supported by Colorado voters, as poll after poll has confirmed. A full 90% of Coloradans support increasing the use of clean, renewable energy in Colorado, and 62% believe that Climate Change is a significant issue. Polling conducted after the 2018 election further validates this approach.

As Kelly Nordini pointed out in a December opinion piece for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, voters were clear about their concerns in November:

When asked which policy issue was “most important in your vote for governor,” 42 percent of independents selected “energy and the environment” as one of their top two choices – the most of any issue tested. Coming in second place was health care at 35 percent, followed by education at 32 percent.

In other words, it wasn’t the economy, healthcare, education, immigration, or taxes that rose to the top for Colorado’s independents as they headed to the ballot box. The most important policy issue for this key voting bloc was energy and environment, with a strong plurality of the state’s independents going for pro-environment candidates.

Of course, Gov.-Elect Jared Polis won the Colorado governor’s race in a landslide against State Treasurer Walker Stapleton by running as a fierce advocate for Colorado’s environment, pledging to transition Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, pushing for common-sense safeguards on oil and gas drilling, and calling for protecting the state’s parks and public lands.

Breathe easier, Colorado — your legislative leaders are paying attention.

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Anadarko and Noble Aren’t Trying to Save Pollution Rules They Helped Develop

(We’re SHOCKED! — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Some of the world’s largest oil-and-gas companies are calling on the Trump Administration not to weaken Obama-era regulations on methane pollution, which is a significant cause of global warming.

But even though Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy basked in the media spotlight for helping fashion Colorado’s path-breaking rules on methane pollution, which served as the basis for Obama’s regulations, the two companies have yet to speak out against the Trump Administration’s plan to weaken the Obama rules.

Exxon Mobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell have taken unusually sharp public stances against the Trump initiative to roll back Obama’s rules for repairing methane leaks in drilling operations.

Gretchen Watkins, president of Royal Dutch Shell’s U.S. subsidiary, has called on the administration not only to retain the Obama regulations but tighten them.

“We need to do more,” she told the Houston Chronicle.

Calls to Anadarko and Noble, seeking to know if they are thinking of joining other oil-and-gas companies in speaking out against Trump’s proposal to rescind the Obama regulations, were not returned.

The absence of the two companies on the list of companies challenging the administration on methane pollution surprises some industry observers–as do reports that Anadarko is among the companies actually supporting the Trump rollback.

Not only did Anadarko and Noble proudly back Colorado’s first-in-the-nation rules, but they also brag about their stances on global warming.

In public documents, Anadarko touts its work on Colorado’s 2104 methane rules.

“Anadarko works with regulators to develop appropriate solutions at the Federal and state levels,” Anadarko stated last year in public documents. “For example, Anadarko supported air quality regulations in Colorado to detect and address methane leaks, thereby improving air quality and enhancing public trust.”

Both companies brag about their dedication to reducing methane emissions.

“Environmental protection is an integral part of Noble Energy’s commitment to operational excellence and we’ve made significant advances in reducing U.S. methane emissions,” Noble Vice President Gary Willingham stated in a company report.

Environmentalists say now is the time for Anadarko and Noble to walk their talk, as momentum seems to be building among oil-and-gas companies themselves, to push back on the Trump Administration’s initiative.

“For the first time, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies urged the Trump Administration to strengthen, not weaken, EPA climate rules requiring the oil and gas industry to cut methane pollution,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director at Earthworks, in a news release after Shell spoke out for tighter regulations. “Will the Trump Administration listen?”

Other oil industry companies have lobbied the administration to loosen the Obama-era methane rules, including the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies, conducts research, and advocates on behalf of oil and gas companies.

Both Anadarko and Noble are members of the American Petroleum Institute.

The shift of some oil-and-gas entities toward support of the Obama methane rules comes not only in response to public pressure but also to what appears to be a softening among Republicans and some GOP leaders on the issue.

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Vicki Marble Escalates Attacks on Kyle Clark


State Senator Vicki Marble (R-Broomfield) made quite the spectacle of herself over the weekend when she appeared to threaten 9News reporter Kyle Clark for having the audacity to inquire about an interview on the subject of her enthusiasm for another secession movement in Colorado. Marble’s thinly-veiled threats were picked up nationally by outlets like Newsweek, yet she seems in no hurry to put this problem behind her.

On Monday, Marble was a guest on the Jimmy Lakey Show on KCOL 600 AM radio, where she proceeded to trash Clark and accuse the 9News reporter/anchor of intentionally reporting false information.

You can listen to the full interview here; read on for the entire exchange, which we transcribed below. Be advised: There is a WHOLE LOT of crazy after the jump…

(more…)

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Please Stop Calling This Guy Credible, Dave Kopel Edition


A clip we were forwarded from last Friday’s episode of Colorado Inside Out:

This will destroy Weld County. It will wipe out their tax revenues and wouldn’t surprise me if they start another secession movement, uh over this because that’s it’s no longer an economically viable county, uh with what’s going to be done with it. And for their own survival, uh would be better off uh joining Northeast Colorado and uh then in Nebraska or Wyoming. [Pols emphasis]

That’s Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, calling with a straight face for Weld County to secede from Colorado in the event that Senate Bill 19-181 passes–legislation to increase local control of oil and gas development decisionmaking. We can start by fairly easily debunking the baseless claim that this legislation “would destroy Weld County,” since by definition a bill increasing local control over oil and gas drilling would give pro-energy areas of the state like Weld County the power to “drill baby drill” if they chose to. It’s not at all like, for example Amendment 74, which would have upended any sense of local control over oil and gas and every other zoning decision.

This is a nice way of saying that Dave Kopel’s statement above is completely ridiculous.

Let’s talk about that.

The Independence Institute is one of the more storied conservative advocacy groups in Colorado, a “stink tank” originally founded in the early 1980s by Tom Tancredo backed by New Right funders including the Coors family to provide an argumentative underpinning for the Republican politics that eventually reached their peak of control in this state during the 2002 elections. A combination of pseudo-intellectual white paper outreach to friendly lawmakers and political antics mostly carried out by their shock-jock longtime executive director Jon Caldara, the Independence Institute’s year-round agenda and well-paid ranks of staff have remained a force in Colorado politics even though the wins in the past decade have become few and far between.

Although Jon Caldara has willingly–some would say happily–sacrificed personal credibility to become the state’s pre-eminent conservative prankster, Kopel and the so-called “research” department of the Independence Institute are supposed to be a little more serious in their approach. That means Kopel isn’t personally out there trying to break election law or using children with disabilities as political props.

But when Kopel calls a good idea the biggest political joke of the last decade in Colorado, which dismally failed including in Weld County the last time they tried it, we feel like it’s okay to stop calling him serious.

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Even Donald Trump Supports Local Control on Fracking


Just a few weeks after he accepted the Republican nomination for President, Donald Trump sat down with Brandon Rittiman of 9News for a wide-ranging interview. As a reader pointed out to us today, Trump actually spoke in favor of local control on the issue of fracking:

RITTIMAN: And while we are on the top of state, local control, fracking is a big issue in Colorado. We actually had a couple of cities here where the voters said they wanted to ban or put a pause on fracking in their city limits. They weren’t allowed to do it by the courts. However you feel about fracking, should voters be able to vote?

TRUMP: Well, I’m in favor of fracking, but voters should have a big say in it. Some areas maybe they don’t want to have fracking. And I think if the voters are voting for it, that’s up to them.

RITTIMAN: Should they be able to ban it in their town if they vote for it?

TRUMP: It could be. It could very well be. I’d have to see the specific instance, but it could very well be. But fracking is something that we need. Fracking is something that’s here whether we like it or not, but if a municipality or a state wants to ban fracking, I can understand that. [Pols emphasis]

It’s impossible to say if Trump still believes this — or even if he believed it at the time, for that matter — but with a debate over oil and gas regulations continuing at the State Capitol, it’s interesting to remember that the man who now leads the Republican Party was at one point “feeling the pain” of local communities concerned about fracking.

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A Few Sad Words For Ken Salazar, Statesman For Hire


Ken Salazar.

This week in Colorado politics has been dominated by the debate over Senate Bill 19-181, legislation reforming the relationship between local governments and oil and gas companies as well as changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission so that the agency is no longer required to “foster” the industry’s development over other considerations such as the public health and the environment.

After the “Potemkin Protest” at the Capitol Tuesday by hundreds of on-the-clock employees of the oil and gas industry–a turnout that still didn’t manage to outnumber the witnesses in favor of the bill in the subsequent legislative hearing–the energy lobby rolled out what could be their biggest metaphorical gun in opposition to SB-191: Former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. As FOX 31’s Joe St. George reports:

A renowned Colorado Democrat is speaking out against an oil and gas bill currently being considered by state lawmakers. In a press release, Ken Salazar said the bill is “too extreme for Colorado.”

…In the press release, Salazar described himself as a “proud Democrat” who has worked to protect the environment. However, he also said that when he was a senator, liberals and conservatives worked together to make the United States energy independent.

“Colorado has played a key role in securing that energy independence for our nation. Colorado is a leader of renewable energy. Colorado is also a center of oil and gas,” the statement reads, adding that more than 100,000 Coloradans work in the industry and it provides $1 billion in funding for schools and roads.

“S.B. 181 will wrongly bring our Colorado energy success story to an end,” Salazar said.

And there you have it–a former Democratic U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Interior, and sometimes shortlisted candidate for governor or another high office, blasting SB-181 as a threat to what he calls the “Colorado energy success story.” And in an interview with the Denver Post’s Nic Garcia, Salazar went even further, slamming Gov. Jared Polis and even threatening fellow Democrats with political retaliation from the industry:

“I love Jared Polis,” Salazar said Wednesday. “Part of what I fear here is that the way this bill is written, driven essentially by a Boulder view of the world, that it jeopardizes the Democratic control that we have here in Colorado. [Pols emphasis] And that was not supposed to happen. In my many conversations during the campaign, it was about governing for everybody. Governing for a centrist point of view, bringing people together, solving problems for the long term.”

The problem with all of this, which becomes especially problematic as Salazar openly attacks fellow Democrats, is that Salazar is now one of the state’s highest-ranking lawyers for the oil and gas industry. To the credit of every local outlet we’ve seen reporting on Salazar’s blue-on-blue broadside this week, nobody has missed this crucial data point:

And with that, this becomes a very different situation. There’s simply no way to separate the fact that Salazar is being paid large sums of money by the oil and gas industry from his attacks on fellow Democrats on that very same industry’s behalf. Any attempt to do so is intellectually dishonest. For everyone who supports SB-181 and also took Ken Salazar at his word when he promised to be a protector of “Colorado’s land, water, and people,” this is a bitter betrayal–even if it was predictable, which it mostly was.

But the implied political threat on behalf of the industry that Salazar works for is over the line and can’t be abided. This isn’t an elder statesman calling for moderation. It’s one man, Ken Salazar, cashing in his reputation in order to maximize his effectiveness as a mercenary for the oil and gas industry.

That sucks. It really sucks. But it must not be rewarded.

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The Hollow Argument of Going “Too Fast”


Opponents of legislation to prioritize health and safety in decisions about oil and gas development have focused their strategy on one very vague argument: That the process for deliberating Senate Bill 181 is happening too quickly. This is dumb.

Complaining that a legislative approach is “too fast” is an intellectually lazy and intentionally ambiguous approach often used by interest groups that have otherwise run out of talking points. It is a “problem” that never includes a solution, which is exactly why it is so often employed as a political strategy — and also why it shouldn’t be taken seriously by lawmakers.

As the Denver Post reported on Monday, the two main lobbying groups for the oil and gas industry have been griping about what they say is a lack of “a legitimate dialogue.” This is what the O&G industry considers to be “too fast”:

Whoa — hold on to your hat!

 

Senate Bill 181 will be heard in 6 legislative committees — three in the Senate and three in the House. It will be debated on the floor of both the Senate and the House, and legislators in each chamber will cast a vote in support or opposition. If the bill is amended in the House, it will return to the Senate for concurrence or conference committee. It is only after this point that the bill might end up on the desk of Gov. Jared Polis for his signature or veto.

“Too fast?” It takes 30 minutes just to sketch out the process.

If you are going to employ this “too fast” argument, you should be prepared to answer a perfectly reasonable follow-up question: What is the appropriate amount of time to devote to a specific piece of legislation? 

There are just 120 days in the legislative session, during which time lawmakers will discuss and debate hundreds of different bills. Senate Bill 181 will still be subject to dozens of hours of testimony from hundreds of people. Anybody who has ever attended a legislative hearing knows that the same handful of talking points are repeated by everyone who testifies, but Coloradans will still be heard.

“Too fast?” What’s your rubric? What is the correct amount of time to devote to a single bill? How many committee hearings do you need — a dozen? Two dozen? It’s worth noting that there have been more people testifying IN FAVOR of SB-181 than in opposition, and they aren’t whining about things going too fast.

As Tyler Silvy writes for the Greeley Tribune, the “too fast” argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny:

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg didn’t laugh, but he did say it was funny that industry groups were putting on such a public show, as they were all involved in the process, and nothing in the bill should come as a surprise to them.

Fenberg said he has met with anybody who requested a meeting, including COGA, the American Petroleum Institute, Noble Energy, Anadarko and Extraction, among many others…

…Fenberg has an idea as to why industry groups and Republicans are railing against the process, saying it’s more about stalling than anything

But don’t just take Fenberg’s word for it. Take a look at what Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley — one of the main O&G lobbyists — eventually admitted to the Tribune:

In a follow-up statement sent to The Tribune on Sunday night, Bentley acknowledged that industry groups met with Democratic leadership and offered potential solutions. [Pols emphasis]

The only speed that the oil and gas industry would actually endorse is a full stop, which is the playground equivalent of taking your ball and going home. Last fall, Colorado voters overwhelmingly supported a Democratic majority in the legislature and a Democratic candidate for Governor; Democrats are now doing what they said they would do, and they aren’t leaving anyone out of the discussion.

Complaining about “process” is the last refuge of those who have already lost the argument.

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People vs. Payroll Power: “Petropalooza” Doesn’t Go As Planned


Speaker of the Colorado House KC Becker speaks at a rally for SB19-181.

Yesterday’s 12-hour hearing for Senate Bill 19-181, this year’s landmark legislation to return some control over oil and gas drilling to local communities as well as getting the state out of the business of “fostering” the industry over public health and safety, –the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:

Hundreds of people descended on the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday to speak for and against a sweeping reform of how the state deals with oil and gas drilling.

After rallies on the Capitol steps talking about how much they liked or disliked Senate Bill 181, proponents and opponents of the measure introduced by two Boulder Democrats — Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg and House Speaker KC Becker — came inside the Capitol and spent hours talking to the Senate Transportation & Energy Committee about the bill.

One by one, they told the seven-member committee how the bill either would negatively impact the production of a long-standing industry that has created thousands of jobs and generated millions in tax revenues or would take a bold step to protect the health, safety and welfare of Colorado residents.

FOX 31’s Joe St. George:

More than 400 people were signed up to testify for and against the bill.

Before the hearing, a rally took place on the west steps of the Capitol, which was attended by hundreds in the energy industry. Some workers confirmed to FOX31 their company gave them the day off to come to the Capitol and testify… [Pols emphasis]

“The sponsors of this bill hate everything about you guys. They hate your job and they hate Weld County,” said State Sen. John Cooke (R-Weld County).

It’s a point that needs to be restated as we have in previous years: the oil and gas industry’s “rallies” at the state capitol building, though attended by hundreds of people, are not authentic gatherings of concerned citizens but company-sanctioned events attended mostly by oil and gas industry employees who are earning their regular salary or wage to be there. It’s not really correct to state that workers “have the day off”–more like they’re on political duty and on the clock. The intended effect of the undeniably large crowds who show up for these rallies is to show grassroots support for the oil and gas industry, when in fact it’s the opposite.

But for all the deliberate organizing and literal “bussing in” of on-the-clock energy industry workers, something unexpected happened in the hearing for Senate Bill 19-181:

There were still more witnesses who testified in favor of SB19-181 than against it. That’s a very big deal: in every high-stakes political debate, a factor known as an “intensity gap” plays a central role–a fundamental difference in the passion for or against an issue exhibited by the opposing sides. In 2013, during the recall campaigns that resulted from the passage of gun safety legislation, intensity rightly or wrongly was on the side of the gun lobby and the low-information vitriol they whipped up against targeted lawmakers. Since 2013, a key dynamic we’ve tracked is the flagging intensity of gun rights supporters as their bogus predictions of doom failed to materialize.

Yesterday, the oil and gas industry showed that they have hundreds of employees who can be made to appear in one location. And that’s noteworthy. But opposite them were hundreds of grassroots supporters of stronger protections for local communities from oil and gas drilling, and excepting some activist organizations present were not paid to be there. And in the count that matters, witnesses for and against the bill in question, the unpaid grassroots prevailed.

If that’s not your biggest takeaway from yesterday’s dueling rallies and marathon hearing, it should be. Just like with the gun issue since 2013, the real grassroots intensity on oil and gas in 2019 has shifted to match the results of the 2018 Democratic wave election that swept this new majority into power. “AstroTurf,” for which a protest of paid employees amounts to a textbook definition, is no longer enough.

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The O&G Bill That Was So Secret Democrats Held a Giant Press Conference to Introduce It


We wrote earlier today about efforts by oil and gas interests to delay legislation intended to prioritize the health and safety of Coloradans over profits or other motives in regulating oil and gas drilling operations. The O&G industry is pushing hard to establish a narrative of Democrats crafting Senate Bill 181 in secret and “rushing” the bill through the legislature.

This narrative runs into trouble, however, when you remember that Democrats HELD A GIGANTIC PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING THE LEGISLATION just last week. Take a look at this headline from the Denver Business Journal in which the photograph used at the top of the story completely contradicts the headline:

This was such a big secret that dozens of people — including the House Speaker and the Governor — gathered for a press conference last Thursday. From the Denver Business Journal, 3/4/19

As we also mentioned earlier today, the O&G industry is panicking over their loss of control with Democrats in charge of both legislative chambers and a Democrat in the Governor’s office, which has them resorting to specious claims of a secret, super-fast bill process.

Headline aside, Ed Sealover’s story for the Journal does include a few telling quotes about how and why the industry ended up here in the first place:

Becker said at a Monday morning media briefing that she believes there will be plenty of time to discuss what is likely to be one of the most debated bills of 2019. It will have to go through the energy, finance and appropriations committees before getting to the Senate floor and then run another gauntlet of three committees in the House, giving people plenty of opportunity to comment on the measure, she said…

…But she also said pointedly that there was a lack of trust for some in the industry after the campaign for Amendment 74, which would have given property or mineral-rights owners greatly expanded ability to sue local governments for any decisions they make that could impair the value of their properties. Statewide voters defeated that measure, which Becker called “such bad policy and so destructive,” handily in November.

The O&G industry tried to pass a destructive measure in Amendment 74 so that they could have leverage in discussions with lawmakers. That didn’t work, so now the industry is left grasping at laughable straws like “secrecy” that are easily disproved.

Elections have consequences.

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Tonight: Colorado Mesa University Hosts Climate Change Denier

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Heartland Institute climate skeptic Billboard

Colorado Mesa University is hosting climate change denier Steve Goreham this evening, for a speech titled “Energy, Climate Change & Public Policy.”

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese promotes tonight’s speech at CMU by climate change denier Steve Goreham

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese promoted the event on her Facebook page.

Pugliese has publicly rejected global warming, saying, “It is not a proven scientific theory. There is not evidence to support it.” Pugliese did not return a call requesting comment.

Goreham is the Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute, a Koch-funded advocacy group that has disputed the reality of climate change and global warming for decades.

The organization’s claims are so dubious that esteemed scientific journal Nature felt the need to editorialize about its suspect assertions back in 2011, saying: “the Heartland Institute’s climate conferences…are curious affairs designed to gather and share contrarian views, in which science is secondary to wild accusations and political propaganda.”

(more…)

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Senate Does a Thing on Public Lands, But…


The U.S. Senate proved today that it is still capable of doing Senate things when it passed the largest public lands package in decades. What is still unclear, however, is the amount of funding guaranteed for the beloved Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

As the Washington Post explains:

The Senate on Tuesday passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country and establishing four new national monuments honoring heroes from Civil War soldiers to a civil rights icon.

The 662-page measure, which passed 92 to 8, represented an old-fashioned approach to dealmaking that has largely disappeared on Capitol Hill. Senators from across the ideological spectrum celebrated home-state gains and congratulated each other for bridging the partisan divide.

This is absolutely good news, but there’s a rub…and a pretty substantial one:

Perhaps the most significant change the legislation would make is permanently authorizing a federal program that funnels offshore drilling revenue to conserve everything from major national parks and wildlife preserves to local baseball diamonds and basketball courts. Authorization for the popular program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), lapsed months ago due to the partial government shutdown and other disputes. Liberals like the fact that the money allows agencies to set aside land for wildlife habitat. Conservatives like the fact that taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for it.

Congress is now set to reauthorize the fund in perpetuity, though it will not make its spending mandatory. [Pols emphasis] Congressional funding for the program has “fluctuated widely” since its inception in 1965, according to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report. Less than half of the $40 billion that has piled up in the fund during its five decades of existence has been spent by Congress on conservation efforts.

As Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities said in a news release this afternoon, the money question is a big ol’ matso ball:

“At the same time, it’s imperative that members of Congress reach across the aisle to devote full, dedicated funding to safeguard America’s conservation and recreation future. Year after year, Congress has shortchanged LWCF, appropriating less than half of what is collected for recreation and conservation projects across the country. With permanent reauthorization and full, dedicated funding, America’s parks will have the certainty they deserve.”

We’ll update this post as we get more clarity on the funding aspect of LWCF. Make no mistake — reauthorization of the program is a very big deal, but everyone might need to pump their brakes if it isn’t funded. It is also possible that the legislation will get funding attached to it once it goes through the House of Representatives.

In the meantime, there has been much rejoicing among Senators — particularly those from Western states — in the aftermath of today’s vote. Here’s Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

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Walker Wants Our Water

(He’s never running in Colorado again, that’s for sure – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton shared a new money-making strategy with his Twitter followers today: invest in water!

The article shared by Stapleton encourages investing “Like Dr. Michael Burry from the Big Short.”

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Dr. Burry is one of a handful of financial speculators who anticipated the 2008 mortgage crash and bet against the market, making billions off the massive losses in value sustained by millions of American families, homeowners and retirees.

Why water? Because it’s a limited resource that’s dwindling by the day! To make its point, the article addresses the shortage from a global perspective:

By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with 2/3rds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions. …Ask the residents of Flint, Michigan, who are experiencing firsthand the effects of America’s aging water infrastructure. Clearly there’s a growing and critical demand for access to freshwater and for related products and services. So how can an intelligent investor profit from it?

None of this is news to those of us in Colorado, where drought conditions have lowered reservoir levels to near-record lows. Last year’s snow-melt was so small that the Colorado River Basin received just a third of its average annual water volume. This forced the state to close the Yampa river to fishing and boating last summer and eventually to cut water to some users in September.

(more…)

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Nomination Of Former Oil Industry Lawyer Is “Fantastic News For Colorado,” Says Gardner


(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Reactions diverged wildly today to Trump’s nomination of Colorado native and former oil industry lobbyist David Bernhardt for Secretary of Interior, with a leader of a Denver-based environmental group calling Bernhardt an “affront to America’s parks and public lands” and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner saying his appointment is “fantastic news for Colorado.”

“I’ve known David Bernhardt for many years and have worked closely with him over the last two years to advance Colorado priorities,” Gardner, a Republican, said in a statement. “As a native Coloradan from the Western Slope, David knows how important public lands are to our state and has a keen understanding of the issues Coloradans face every day. From moving the Bureau of Land Management to the West to promoting conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Coloradans will be lucky to have David lead our Interior Department. I look forward to supporting him throughout the confirmation process.”

During his tenure at Denver law firm  Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Bernhardt served as a lawyer for oil and gas companies, which is one reason Jennifer Rokala, Director of the Center for Western Priorities, said Bernhardt shouldn’t be confirmed.

“David Bernhardt’s nomination is an affront to America’s parks and public lands,” said Rokala in a statement. “As an oil and gas lobbyist, Bernhardt pushed to open vast swaths of public lands for drilling and mining. As deputy secretary, he was behind some of the worst policy decisions of Secretary Zinke’s sad tenure, including stripping protections for imperiled wildlife. Bernhardt even used the government shutdown to approve drilling permits for companies linked to his former clients.”

Rokala’s statement directed reporters to a list of actions Bernhardt is undertaking at the request of oil and gas companies that he’s allegedly represented in some way and represent conflicts of interest.

“As senators consider Bernhardt’s nomination, it’s crucial they remember that the ongoing investigations into Ryan Zinke’s conduct intersect with policies that David Bernhardt has helped enact. Otherwise, we’ll see another Interior secretary fall into the same ethical abyss that ended Ryan Zinke’s political career. If a walking conflict of interest like David Bernhardt gets confirmed, oversight and true transparency will be more important than ever.”

Bernhardt is currently deputy Secretary of Interior, and would replace Ryan Zinke, who was praised by Colorado Republicans not long before he resigned under pressure and amid ethics investigations.

ColoradoPolitics reported today:

He met Zinke when he volunteered to help with the Trump transition team, then helped prepare Zinke for his confirmation hearings as Interior secretary.

Both of Colorado’s U.S. senators — Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet — voted to confirm Bernhardt as deputy Interior secretary in July 2017, but most of Bennet’s Democratic colleagues opposed the nominee, as did several environmental groups. The confirmation vote was 53-43

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Gardner Supports EPA Decision Not To Regulate Toxic Chemicals In Colorado Drinking Water

(Drink up! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Trump administration is refusing to regulate two toxic chemicals known to contaminate the drinking water of many Americans, including tens of thousands of families near Colorado Springs.

The decision by Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has angered many Republicans in Congress, but not Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner.

This is despite the fact that studies have shown that nearly 80,000 people living near Peterson Air Force Base, just southeast of Colorado Springs, are exposed to dangerously high levels of contamination and have been for years.

[Gardner] told POLITICO he expected there would be a federal role in regulating the chemicals, but he wanted to see the results of a health study included in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

“I think it’s very important that we get as much information as we can and then act appropriately,” he said.

The study Sen. Gardner is referring to won’t begin until August of this year and will take five to seven years to complete. Funded by the Department of Defense and conducted by the Health & Human Services’ Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the national study of eight sites near U. S. military bases may or may not include the Peterson AFB site.

The chemicals known collectively as PFAS have been largely phased out of industrial use in the United States, but are still found in the fire retardant foam used to fight petroleum-based fires.

Numerous studies linked these chemicals to kidney cancer, liver damage, increased risk of thyroid disease, decreased fertility and other health threats.

Last summer the Trump administration attempted to block its own Department of Health and Human Services from releasing an 852-page “toxicological profile” summarizing the “adverse health effects information for these toxic substances.”

In December 2018 the Colorado School of Mines released a study of people living near of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Research showed levels of a particular PFAS toxic compound, PFHxS, at ten times the national average.

This followed a 2017 health assessment by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) that found higher rates of cancer among the Peterson AFB communities of Fountain and Security-Widefield.

(more…)

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BREAKING: Colorado Supremes Say Big Oil Can Poison You


UPDATE #4: Gov. Jared Polis weighs in, and everyone seems to be on the same page:

While I’m disappointed by today’s ruling, it only highlights the need to work with the Legislature and the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to more safely develop our state’s natural resources and protect our citizens from harm. I’ve made transitioning to renewable energy a top priority because it is the best way to protect Coloradans health and safety, reverse the harmful effects of climate change that threaten our economy and our way of life, and boost our state’s economy by creating green jobs that can never be outsourced.

—–

UPDATE #3: Conservation Colorado’s statement:

Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, released the following statement:

“For too long, Coloradans asking for stronger health and safety protections have lost at the legislature, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and in the courts. That needs to change.

“Today’s Martinez decision is yet another reminder that we need to tilt the balance back in favor of Coloradans’ health and safety. With a new administration in place, we look forward to working with Governor Polis, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and legislative leaders to reform this broken system and put our communities first.”

—–

UPDATE #2: Statement on today’s ruling from the Colorado Senate Democratic Majority:

The Colorado Supreme Court today released its ruling on Martinez v. Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, reversing a Court of Appeals decision that state regulators must condition oil and gas development on ensuring protection of health, safety, and environment. In response, Senator Mike Foote released the following statement:

“While I am disappointed in the decision, it gives us at the legislature an opportunity to finally put health and safety first with oil and gas operations. It is well beyond time for us to protect Coloradans and our clean air and water. I am confident that my colleagues and I will come forward with legislation to do exactly that.”

Senator Mike Foote has been a champion of public health and safety when it comes to oil and gas operations in the legislature, sponsoring and cosponsoring legislation such as HB18-1352: Oil And Gas Facilities Distance From School Property. Unfortunately, many pieces of legislation that would have protected Coloradans died in the Republican-controlled Senate.

That won’t be a problem this year…

—–

UPDATE: The Colorado Sun reports:

This will hardly be the last word on oil and gas regulation in Colorado this year, though. The court’s ruling will likely motivate the Democratic-majority at the state Capitol to overhaul how oil and gas operations are permitted in Colorado…

“Communities all up and down the Front Range and on the Western Slope, they want to know that health and safety is getting a serious look,” said House Speaker KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat. “That goes for air quality, water quality, citing, smells, odors, and you know, explosions.”

“I don’t think the existing law right now — the way COGCC is implementing it — gives a strong enough consideration to those things,” Becker added. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Today the Colorado Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling in the landmark case of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission v. Martinez–a case brought to compel the Commission to only issue drilling permits once it has been determined that such drilling “does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health, and does not contribute to climate change.”

Today’s decision reverses a lower court ruling that sided with the plaintiffs, and the oil and gas industry is celebrating–for now. Here’s the meat of the decision:

The court reaches this conclusion for three primary reasons. First, a court’s review of an administrative agency’s decision as to whether to engage in rulemaking is limited and highly deferential. Second, the Commission correctly determined that, under the applicable language of the Act, it could not properly adopt the rule proposed by Respondents. Specifically, as the Commission recognized, the pertinent provisions do not allow it to condition all new oil and gas development on a finding of no cumulative adverse impacts to public health and the environment. Rather, the provisions make clear that the Commission is required to foster the development of oil and gas resources, protecting and enforcing the rights of owners and producers, [Pols emphasis] and in doing so, to prevent and mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts to the extent necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare, but only after taking into consideration cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility. [Pols emphasis] Finally, in declining to engage in rulemaking, the Commission reasonably relied on the facts that it was already working with the CDPHE to address the concerns underlying Respondents’ proposed rule and that other Commission priorities took precedence at this time.

Although the industry is celebrating this ruling as of this writing, the long-term consequences of this decision could be the energizing of opponents of oil and gas drilling just as the state comes under the unhindered control of Democrats. We’ll update with further legal analysis, but as we understand it the decision relies on the mission of the COGCC not just to regulate the production of oil and gas resources in Colorado, but to “foster the development” of oil and gas–a mission that under current law obliges the commission to rank public health and safety lower than the mission to promote the oil and gas industry.

All we can say is, if that’s the law, it’s law ripe for changing. Stay tuned.

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Adams GOP chair on school fracking setback deal: “COGA capitulated to the environazis”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Adams County Republican Party Chair Anil Mathai dismissed a unanimous vote by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to increase oil & gas well setbacks from schools to 1,000 feet as “[capitulation] to the environazis.”

Representatives from the oil & gas industry and environmental groups both praised the deal. Colorado Public Radio characterized it as “a rare moment of agreement between oil and gas companies and conservation groups.”

Neither side appeared to share Mathai’s view of the agreement, who also attacked “establishment Republicans.”

(more…)

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Happy New Year!


(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Now Get to Work.

When 2018 started, few expected great things – although it is doubtful anyone saw how far things would go, ending in complete political break-down – an infantile President being met with an infantile House unable to even perform the most basic duties of governance. Good riddance. Let’s finish the clean up in 2019 – 2020.

As the old year gets tired and we bid it goodbye, few will rank the rank political dysfunction that has gripped our nation a highlight of the year now past. As cities combust and flood and farms go fallow, there was a time–if we are to believe the history–when this nation could come together to solve problems.

So with new leadership coming in, and the pitch of urgency rising, perhaps this year will be a year we move forward on addressing climate change. With the Colorado State Legislature in Democratic control, perhaps we can take some real and bold steps toward meeting  soon-to-be-Governor Polis’ clean energy ambitions. Now we can finally make clear, perhaps, to the oil and gas companies spilling their oily cash all over our body politic that of course public health and safety and a sustainable future are the priority, and they always will be from here on out.

Maybe with some leadership we can turn to building for our future, not wasting energy fighting ill-conceived fossil fuel projects, but creating a more resilient economy. Maybe we can find the maturity to face the reality that an increasing demand on the dwindling resource that makes all this possible: water – means we need to get our act together.

At the federal level, despite a GOP regime that has lost all mooring to fact or reality, Colorado’s House Delegation has also shifted toward climate action, with the election of Jason Crow and Joe Neguse. Rep.-Elect Neguse has made climate action central to his agenda in the 116th Congress.

So, while 2018 may be notable for its stark climate warnings coming right as the wheels of government seem to be coming off – the election outcome, and with  new state leadership, and new Members in Congress being seated, our work here will be crucial in 2019.

(more…)

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Climate Change is Real – Four Years On, Sen. Gardner Speaks


(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

2018 – The Year Climate Change Would Not Be Ignored

  

2018 was a notable year in regards to climate change. For one, a reporter at Colorado’s new news venture The Sun (also 2018) got our junior senator to comment on the record. Coming across a bit annoyed–perhaps–by the fact that no one seems to remember he already commented on climate change, as recently as 2014.

“I’ve said it before — I said it in 2014 — there’s no doubt pollution contributes to climate change,” the Colorado Republican told The Colorado Sun last week. “Climate change is real. I’ve been on the record saying that.”

That was in response to a question about Sen. Gardner receiving an award from the American Geophysical Union and blow-back he was getting for his votes on several environmental and climate-related matters, in regard to it. 

It’s still a relevant question for 2018, of course, because it is still an issue, and notable now due in part to several high-profile reports in the news and released this year. These include an international report, and one issued through thirteen federal agencies–over which Sen. Gardner has oversight. At least on paper (to whit: the U.S. Constitution, Article I).

The annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference COP 24 wrapped up earlier this month with the United States once again isolated among a small handful of rogue nations, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, resisting climate action.

That body, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released its Special Report on climate change in October 2018. This report was notable for the urgency it communicated. The short of it was that the world’s preeminent climate scientists give us just over a decade to transform our energy and power systems, and to take all other possible action to limit and reduce carbon pollution.

More recently, the 4th Annual National Climate Assessment, published by 13 federal agencies looked specifically at the United States. Like the international Special Report, the National Climate Assessment found need for urgent action, and forecasts dire impacts to the U.S. made worse by lack of it.  

And worse than inaction, is undoing the small steps that have been taken. In 2017 Sen. Gardner voted against both his constituents and a majority of the U.S. Senate to support polluters on public lands – when Congress tried (and failed) to gut methane waste rules for oil and gas development on public lands. Then Sen. Gardner remained silent this year, when Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke moved himself to roll back the pollution rules that Sen. Gardner and Congress were unable to undo.

That may not be a surprise as Sen. Gardner not only voted against the waste prevention rule but to confirm Sec. Zinke, along with a skulk of foxes to guard the public’s chickens, from Zinke and David Bernhardt at Interior to Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler at EPA.

(more…)

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David Bernhardt To Guard The Henhouse? Or Not?


Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

The Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner reports today that Colorado native David Bernhardt remains the top pick by President Donald Trump to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior, though the nomination is for whatever reason taking longer than expected:

President Trump’s search to replace departing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not conclude last week as it was expected to and could stretch into the new year…

Colorado native David Bernhardt, the Interior Department deputy set to become acting secretary next month, is still viewed as Trump’s safest bet to run the agency on a permanent basis, according to allies of his and sources close to the White House.

But Bernhardt has competition for the job, and Trump won’t make a decision this week, as the president is preoccupied with the government shutdown fight, the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and the fallout from his decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria.

David Bernhardt comes to the world of Republican natural resources plunder management by way of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, also hailing from Colorado. During the Dubya administration, Bernhardt served as “the top lawyer in charge of ethics and legal compliance for President George W. Bush’s Interior Department during a period plagued by scandal and ethical violations” including the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal that helped end Norton’s political career. Bernhardt stayed on after Norton exited through the revolving door to Royal Dutch Shell–just in time in preside over the fallout from another huge corruption scandal involving the Minerals Management Service and the cheating of American taxpayers by energy companies out of billions in royalties.

In short, Bernhardt is a prime example of the kind of sick joke Trump has made of his pre-election promises to “drain the swamp” of corrupt bureaucrats and the corporate lobbyists who love them, and he has the added distinction of being one of our own! It wouldn’t be a case of Bernhardt being less corrupt than his predecessor, just perhaps a little smarter about it. Call it the benefit of experience over Ryan Zinke, who served just one term in Congress before taking a Cabinet post and wasn’t very good at covering his proverbial tracks.

Maybe there is a more perfect fox to guard this henhouse, but we’d be hard-pressed to name them.

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We’re Killing the Earth…And It’s Killing Us Back


Humans are not going to win a fight against the rest of the planet.

As the Washington Post explains, ignoring Climate Change won’t make it go away:

Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record, scientists projected Wednesday, in the latest evidence of the chasm between international goals for combating climate change and what countries are doing…

…The expected increase, which would bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, is being driven by nearly 5 percent emissions growth in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated, along with growth in many other nations throughout the world. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while emissions by the European Union declined by just under 1 percent.

As nations are gathered for climate talks in Poland, the message of Wednesday’s report was unambiguous: When it comes to promises to begin cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, the world remains well off target.

“We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change,” [Pols emphasis] United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference, where countries will wrestle with the ambitious goals they need to meet to sharply reduce carbon emissions in coming years.

As the World Health Organization explains, the damage we are doing to our planet is being reflected back upon us in turn:

A WHO report launched today at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland highlights why health considerations are critical to the advancement of climate action and outlines key recommendations for policy makers.

Exposure to air pollution causes 7 million deaths worldwide every year and costs an estimated US$ 5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally. [Pols emphasis] In the 15 countries that emit the most greenhouse gas emissions, the health impacts of air pollution are estimated to cost more than 4% of their GDP. Actions to meet the Paris goals would cost around 1% of global GDP…

…“The true cost of climate change is felt in our hospitals and in our lungs. The health burden of polluting energy sources is now so high, that moving to cleaner and more sustainable choices for energy supply, transport and food systems effectively pays for itself,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “When health is taken into account, climate change mitigation is an opportunity, not a cost.”

President Trump has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t believe in Climate Change (or, really, in science in general), so the United States is probably going to need a new President if it hopes to see action to mitigate the problem. Climate Change as a political issue has not generally driven people to the polls in large margins, but as more information like the above studies become widely available, that may shift.

Perhaps it is time we stop talking about “Climate Change” as something that is being done to the earth and start framing it according to the harm we are doing to each other. What we’re experiencing now is “Human Change.”

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