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.

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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…

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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.

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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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It is Really Hot Outside, and It’s Only Getting Hotter

If you’re still arguing about the validity of Climate Change, you must not get outside all that often.

As Kirk Mitchell writes for the Denver Post, this is a good time to be an air conditioning salesman:

The Mile High City tied an all-time heat record in June and hovered around 100 degrees, topping out at 98, on Thursday,  according to National Weather Service forecasters.

Had temperatures reached 100 Thursday, it would have marked the third time this year that we sweltered in triple-digit heat. By comparison, temperatures only reached 100 twice between 1910 and 1920, NWS meteorologist Bernie Meier said…

…On Thursday, Denver surpassed 90 degrees for the 35th day this year, a pace slightly ahead of the hottest year in the city’s recorded history in 2012.

July 20 is typically the hottest day of the year in Denver, but it looks like we won’t be breaking a new single-day temperature mark today — not that it would be a surprise if it happened. Denver has reached temperatures as hot as 105 degrees just four times in recorded history — all since 2005 — and the last 105 degree day came on June 28 this year. NWS chief meteorologist Nazette Rydell tells Mitchell that the June 28 temperature record is “the story of the year.”

Here are a few more troubling numbers related to rising temperatures:

Already this year, eight daily high temperature records have fallen or been tied, according to NWS data. Record highs were set April 12 (79 degrees), April 29 (83), May 10 (90), May 25 (91), June 5 (95), June 6 (95), June 9 (95) and June 28 (105)…

…Denver isn’t the only location undergoing a heat wave. Much of the world had one the warmest Junes in history, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. [Pols emphasis]

No, Mr. President, we can’t “invade” the sun.

As we’ve said before in this space, arguing about the existence of Climate Change is kind of like trying to prove that water isn’t wet. The only “debate” left on the subject is about the extent to which humans are causing these extreme changes, though more than 97% of scientific experts are 100% convinced that this is absolutely a people problem.

The other three percent of scientists seem to have an undue influence with the Trump administration. As NBC News reported earlier this week:

Reports of climate science being scrubbed from U.S. government websites arrived early in President Donald Trump’s tenure. And the hits keep coming. From the Environmental Protection Agency, to the Energy Department, to the State Department and beyond, references to climate change, greenhouse gases and clean energy keep disappearing.

But even as some corners of the Trump administration sow a cyber garden fertile for the fossil fuel industry, a pair of websites funded by the federal government have proclaimed an unvarnished view of the dangers of carbon-driven climate change.

The two sites, Climate.gov and CLEANet.org, have expanded to more than 700 entries and collectively drew more than 68,000 page views in May, a more than 50 percent increase from the year before. And the lessons delivered by the two sites — about the threat posed by a planet warmed by human actions — extends well beyond that core audience. That’s because both sites are aimed at teachers, who say they use the taxpayer-supported websites to create lessons on everything from increasing CO2 levels to threatened biodiversity to the potential of solar power.

Meanwhile, people around the world are suffering from extreme temperatures. At least 14 people have died in Tokyo because of record highs. Sweltering heat is punishing Texas and the South-Central United States. California is bracing for another heat wave next week that is forecasted to create temperatures as much as 18 degrees above normal for several days. And lest we forget: There are wildfires currently burning in the freaking Arctic Circle!!!

Use lots of sunscreen, wear a hat, and drink plenty of water. And start thinking harder about supporting politicians who aren’t pretending that this isn’t happening.

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Trump’s EPA, Colorado Springs’ Pollution: Dirty Deeds Afoot?

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

A story published Friday by the Colorado Springs Independent, a frequent source for the straight dope on happenings along the Ronald Reagan Highway when the Phil Anschutz-owned newspaper of record for that city turns a blind eye, is causing considerable concern among Colorado Springs’ neighbors to the south along the city’s principal drainage Fountain Creek. It’s a situation we’re discussed a number of times as Pueblo has sought to hold the Springs accountable for unchecked stormwater and sewage pollution surging into Fountain Creek–but under Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, the story may be taking a sinister turn:

Despite protests from fellow plaintiffs, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to revisit a possible settlement with the city Colorado Springs over alleged Clean Water Act violations caused by the city’s longterm neglect of stormwater management, according to documents obtained by the Independent.

The renewed negotiations come as U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch scheduled an August trial in the lawsuit on May 22, the day after the state’s lead attorney in the case was reportedly fired for a reason the Colorado Attorney General’s Office won’t discuss.

Margaret “Meg” Parish, first assistant attorney general in the Natural Resources & Environment Section, wrote several scathing letters to the EPA in recent months, calling the EPA’s action “shocking and extraordinary” and expressing “deep concern and disappointment” that the agency would unilaterally reopen settlement discussion without consulting co-plaintiffs. Besides the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), those include Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The move was particularly alarming, she noted, because the state and EPA had signed an agreement in which both agreed not to communicate with the city without the presence of the other.

The EPA is a lead plaintiff in the long-running litigation over Colorado Springs’ pollution of Fountain Creek, obviously possessing resources local municipalities do not have–especially smaller, poorer communities like Pueblo versus Colorado Springs–to force polluters to work in good faith to clean themselves up. What’s happening here could be interpreted as an end run around the upcoming trial, allowing Colorado Springs to settle on terms vastly more favorable to the city than the trial would likely produce. It follows a request last year by GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn for the EPA to drop the lawsuit entirely.

What changed between the EPA working in good faith with Pueblo and other downstream communities to hold Colorado Springs accountable for stormwater and sewage pollution? Donald Trump became President, appointing the most controversially permissive EPA administrator in the agency’s history in Scott Pruitt. The recent completion of the Southern Delivery System, which pipes Arkansas River water north to Colorado Springs, facilitates future growth in Colorado Springs while increasing the treated sewage flows into Fountain Creek. And now you have the Republican city administration of Colorado Springs cozying up with this new EPA, seemingly in opposition to the parties the EPA was charged with assisting.

When Lamborn’s request to the EPA to terminate its involvement in the lawsuit agaist Colorado Springs was reported, Lamborn’s fellow Republican Rep. Scott Tipton who represents Pueblo stood up for his constituents–reminding Lamborn that “the lawsuit was filed by both the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for a reason.”

Now that it appears the treachery is moving from the planning to the operational stages, it’s definitely time for Pueblo’s representative in Congress to throw down! If Tipton’s split loyalties between his constituents in Pueblo and his party allow Colorado Springs to escape accountability for polluting Fountain Creek, it’s a very serious problem for Tipton’s re-election.

However this situation resolves, it’s a hard lesson in how times have changed–and how elections matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— former Anadarko government relations executive Chris Castilian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Get More Smarter on Monday (April 9)

Your taxes are due next Tuesday. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress this week about the social media giant’s failures to protect against outside efforts to influence U.S. elections. From the New York Times:

When he goes before Congress this week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, will issue a broad apology for letting the website be used as a conduit for fake news, election meddling by foreign entities, hate speech and privacy abuses, according to a copy of his testimony released on Monday.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in comments published by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Facebook is entering a week of intense scrutiny in Washington, with Mr. Zuckerberg scheduled to testify before congressional committees on Tuesday and Wednesday. The company is confronting a surge in criticism over how it handled the private data of as many as 87 million users that was harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm tied to President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Zuckerberg’s testimony will likely further the storyline of Cambridge Analytica and its involvement in campaigns here in Colorado.

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) narrowly avoided a Primary challenge when Roger Edwards failed to reach the 30% threshold for ballot access at Saturday’s CD-6 Republican assembly.

 

► To Trump, or not to Trump? That is the question for many Republican candidates in Colorado in 2018. It’s also a question for many Coloradans who voted for President Trump but worry now about their own business interests because of Trump’s trade war with China.

 

Republicans are growing increasingly concerned about potentially losing control of the House of Representatives in 2018 and may start directing more resources toward maintaining their thin majority in the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, Republican House leaders are jockeying to succeed Paul Ryan as Speaker amid growing rumors that the Wisconsin Republican will not seek re-election this fall.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Repealing Fuel Economy Standards–Because Trump Can!

Gas guzzlers.

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

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

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

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

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

ThinkProgress explains the backstory:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pruitt Next To Get Pink-Slipped?

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stay Classy, Jon Caldara (Die in a Fire Edition)

Early Wednesday afternoon, a large fire broke out at an apartment construction site in the Uptown neighborhood of Denver. It’s unknown as of yet how the fire started, but it quickly exploded into a three-alarm blaze that forced the evacuation of neighboring buildings, literally melted nearby parked cars, and resulted in two deaths and numerous injuries, including injuries to responding firefighters.

After the fires were under control, two bodies were pulled from the rubble, believed to be construction workers who were caught in the rapidly-spreading conflagration.

For some reason, Jon Caldara, the head of Colorado’s leading conservative advocacy group the Independence Institute thought Wednesday’s tragedy would be appropriate to use in a lame joke about climate change. It’s not the first time Caldara has crassly used local disasters as political punchlines, like back in 2013 when he faked an excuse about the deadly floods in September of that year to help him beat a charge of election fraud.

But once again we’re compelled to ask–who does this? And why does the entire press and political establishment in Colorado take someone who does this seriously? And don’t tell us you don’t. Caldara gets earned media on a regular basis, and local luminaries line up to appear on his mostly-unwatched cable access show.

We all deserve better, not least the conservatives for whom this asshole purports to speak.

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Mike Coffman Sure Knows How To Pick ‘Em

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports on the latest meta-scandal to hit Colorado Republicans since Donald Trump’s election–new questions about political moonlighting by locally-based appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency:

A group of U.S. House Democrats wants EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to explain why two of his employees were given permission to do outside political work while on the payroll of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The officials under scrutiny are John Konkus, who works in the public affairs office, and Patrick Davis, an EPA senior adviser in Denver and the former director of Donald Trump’s campaign in Colorado.

According to a letter sent Monday by the House Democrats, Davis was given approval in February 2017 to work as the sales director for a company called Telephone Town Hall Meeting, which does outreach for legislators, political campaigns and other causes.

Now, being a curious reader you might rightly wonder what the former Colorado campaign director for Donald Trump’s qualifications might be for the role of “senior adviser” at the EPA. After all, the EPA as it’s been known since its creation is…well, a little different than Trump’s vision. But as it turns out, you don’t have to look any further than Rep. Mike Coffman’s glowing recommendation of Patrick Davis:

In an April 17 letter to Pruitt, Coffman said Davis had applied for the job and that the congressman urged “your favorable consideration of Patrick for this important post within the EPA.”

Coffman said that Davis’ consulting work exposed him to the issues facing Region 8 and that he had built “thousands of relationships in the region,” ranging from governors and senators down to state legislators and mayors. Davis also built similar relationships in EPA due to his work as part of the beachhead team, according to Coffman.

Coffman also said Davis has “close alignment” with the Trump administration’s priorities.

“His record in this regard is well established and he is ideally suited and capable of communicating and carrying out President Trump’s and your priorities as the EPA Region 8 Regional Administrator,” Coffman said. [Pols emphasis]

First off, knowing what we know today about Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s “priorities,” that says a mouthful!

But in Coffman’s case, Patrick Davis’ moonlighting scandal is doubly problematic. Back in 2007, then-Secretary of State Coffman stumbled into one of his more significant political scandals when his subordinate employee Dan Kopelman was found to be operating a voter data business on the side from his position as technology manager in the Elections Division. Coffman was forced to demote Kopelman under a heap of bad press, which thankfully for Coffman didn’t overly complicate his election to Congress the following year.

Doesn’t seem like Coffman learned his lesson, but each disgraced crony is a new opportunity.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 27)

Take a minute to give a polar bear a hug today. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Democrats in the State House are proposing a measure to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock from the legislature. We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

 

► DACA recipients in Colorado are optimistic for the first time in months after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Trump administration’s ruling from last fall. The Department of Homeland Security must continue to accept applications for DACA renewals beyond the March 5 date originally targeted as the end of the program.

 

► The United States Congress consistently polls as one of the most disliked organizations in the entire country. Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican majority:

Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress appear very wary of entering into a gun debate.

The House finishes work for the week this afternoon. The Senate GOP’s fast track effort to move a narrow, but bipartisan background check compliance bill was blocked Monday night, and the balance of the chamber’s week is scheduled to be spent on nomination votes.

Senate lawmakers in both parties are all over the map on what they want (or don’t want) to do.

Bottom line: If the first day back on Capitol Hill for lawmakers since the Parkland shooting was any indication, this time is not, in fact, different when it comes to the gun debate — at least so far.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan says that “We shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens.” This is a completely nonsensical statement, since everybody is a law-abiding citizen until they commit a crime.

Change may not come as quickly as some might have hoped…but change is coming.

 

► As Attorney General Cynthia Coffman continues her quixotic efforts to win the Republican Gubernatorial nomination, she keeps running into more questions than answers.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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EPA Chief Says Climate Change is a GOOD Thing

The Trump administration has been blasting a firehose of bullshit for more than a year now. The sheer amount of complete nonsense emanating from Washington D.C. is so overwhelming at times that it is natural to want to shrug off a few untruths if only for the sake of preserving some level of sanity.

But not all of this nonsense can, or should, be ignored. For example, take a look at what Scott Pruitt — the freaking head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — recently told a Las Vegas news outlet about Climate Change. From the Washington Post:

Pruitt has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus that rising levels of carbon dioxide from human-fueled activity are warming the planet.

He’s now taking a different tack: Even if climate change is occurring, as the vast majority of scientists say it is, a warmer atmosphere might not be so awful for humans, according to Pruitt. [Pols emphasis]

“We know humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends,” Pruitt said Tuesday during an interview on KSNV, an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas.

If it gets too hot for you, just wear this hat!

Pruitt has regularly contradicted his own agency since taking over at the EPA early last year, but his comments on Climate Change have normally been about his disagreement over the role humans have played in warming the planet (nevermind that roughly 97% of the scientific community agrees that humans are causing Climate Change). But let’s set aside, for the moment, the argument over what or who is causing Climate Change; what is different here is Pruitt’s apparently growing belief that Climate Change may actually be good for humans!

Pruitt’s absurd statements on Climate Change may be largely supported by the White House, but even the Trump administration knows when one of its own has gone a bit too far off the edge. Just last Saturday, the White House withdrew the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to lead its Council on Environmental Quality after hearing a bit too much of Hartnett White’s claims that carbon dioxide is “the gas of life on this planet.” This probably doesn’t bode well for the hopes of another person rumored to be under consideration as the White House “science adviser.” As EE News reportsWill Happer is a strong proponent of the cockamamie theory that crops will benefit from Climate Change (though in one sense, plants probably would benefit from humans being dead).

To recap, the person in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency is saying publicly that Climate Change might be a good thing for humans. Really.

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Somebody please run against Jerry Sonnenberg

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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Annual Poll Shows Strong Disapproval for Trump Environmental Policies

From the annual Colorado College “Conservation in the West” poll.

New numbers are out from the eighth-annual “Conservation in the West” poll, which is conducted every year about this time via the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, and the results once again show strong support for conservation/environmental policies in the Western United States.

Since it was first conducted in 2011, the “Conservation in the West” poll has consistently shown strong support for outdoor recreation and conservation policies in the Western United States. Even so, Western voters are more likely in 2018 to identify as “conservationist” than in 2016, and the poll suggests significant opposition to environmental policies enacted by the Trump administration. According to a press release:

Overall, voter approval for President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of issues related to land, water and wildlife sits at 38 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. The administration’s approval rating on the issue was below 50 percent in every state surveyed—ranging from 34 percent in Nevada and New Mexico to 47 percent in Utah—with the exception of Wyoming.

Asked where the Trump administration should place its emphasis between protection and development, 64 percent of respondents said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. That is compared to 23 percent of respondents who said they prefer the administration prioritize domestic energy production by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.

Here in Colorado, 87% of voters believe that the outdoor recreation industry gives our state a significant economic advantage over other states, and 73% oppose efforts by the Trump administration to eliminate protections for national monuments. The oil and gas industry in Colorado has been getting significantly greater pushback in recent years from local communities, and last year’s deadly home explosion in Firestone might be a tipping point in that conversation as the 2018 election approaches. The oil and gas industry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on efforts aimed at influencing local elections in 2017; by and large, those efforts were unsuccessful, which is troubling news for industry apologists as Colorado prepares to elect a new Governor.

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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.  

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Felon Elected to Greeley City Council – Opponent Sues

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Eddie Mirick was just elected to the at-large seat on Greeley’s City Council.  Mirick  has a 1978 felony conviction for forgery, which he lied about when he filled out the paperwork to run for City Council.  The charter of Greeley, a “home-rule” city, specifically does not allow anyone convicted of a felony to be elected to City Council. Yet Mirick was elected, and City Council members have seated him, and are letting the court decide whether he will be allowed to serve.

Mirick’s eligibility to serve on City Council will be decided in District Court, pending the result of a lawsuit filed by the campaign manager of Mirick’s opponent, Stacy  Suniga.

Mirick (3rd from left) on Greeley for a Stronger Economy’s FB ad

The makeup of Greeley’s City Council will affect the balance of power between oil and gas interests vs. the public health of residents, in one of the most fracked cities in America.

Mirick is a veteran, and lives with physical disabilities. He is active in charities and community groups. And he strongly supports oil and gas development in Greeley.  Mirick benefitted from over $65,000 spent for cable TV ads from a shadowy Denver group: “Greeley for a Stronger Economy (GSE)*”.  Mayor John Gates, and two other candidates for Greeley City Council:   appointed member Brett Payton, who won his seat against opponent Lavonna Longwell by a grand total of 2 votes. (after recount), and Ward 3 candidate Michael Fitsimmons were also promoted by GSE advertising.

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