So Much For #RadiCalifornia: Electric Cars Go Bipartisan

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

The Greeley Tribune’s Trevor Reid reports on executive orders signed today by Gov. Jared Polis to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles in Colorado, including shifting funds from the emissions fraud settlement with Volkswagen to building out electric charging infrastructure:

Gov. Jared Polis signed Thursday morning an executive order to support a transition to electric vehicles.

The executive order establishes a work group of 17 members from 13 state departments to develop policies and programs supporting the transition to electric vehicles, as well as a revision to the state’s allocation of the remains of $68.7 million it received from the Volkswagen emissions settlement to support electrifying transportation including transit buses, school buses and trucks. The work group will report to the governor beginning July 1 on its progress.

Polis pointed to transportation as a key contributor to local air pollution, causing health complications for children and adults with asthma and other chronic conditions.

“Nationwide and in Colorado, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” Polis said.

Among the attendees at the press conference today was Republican Sen. Kevin Priola, who spoke immediately after Gov. Polis:

Sen. Priola’s high-profile appearance at today’s press conference in support of Polis’ executive orders to encourage the switch to electric vehicles, part of the new governor’s plan to move the state to 100% renewable energy sources, scrambles the politics for Republicans looking to take their inevitable potshots on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Republicans lambasted Polis for his “radical” campaign pledge of a transition to 100% renewable energy.

After Polis trounced his Republican opponent and Democrats triumphed in the legislature last November, here’s a swing-district Republican up in 2020 turning over a new (Nissan) Leaf.

As they say, elections matter.

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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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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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Republicans Revive Silly Threat of Secession

Frackistan!

The “Blue Wave” in 2018 led to significant Democratic victories around the country, but nowhere was this more evident than in Colorado, where Democrats now control all four major statewide offices — Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State — as well as both chambers of the state legislature. This big “Blue Wave” in Colorado has some rural Republicans mashing the panic button and returning to one of the sillier threats in recent Colorado political history.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel reports:

“We lost everything,” lamented Republican Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton.

He fears the Democrats “will just run rampant” when it comes to oil and gas and other policy matters, potentially prompting the revival of the secession movement that arose in some rural Colorado counties several years ago due to Democrat-led state actions at the time. [Pols emphasis]

“They don’t know how to act. They get power and act like little kids. I have a feeling if they go and start being stupid again like they were that time you’ll see that movement start up big-time,” he said.

Shawn Bolton

First off, let’s not overlook the irony of this quote. Republican County Commissioner Shawn Bolton of Rio Blanco County is mad that his team lost last week, so he wants to take his ball and go home. But Bolton says that it is Democrats who “don’t know how to act.”

In 2013, a handful of Colorado counties put a “secession” question on the ballot that failed in embarrassing fashion. The entire population of the 11 counties that sought to form the 51st state of “North Frackistan” represented about 7% of Coloradans.In the final vote tally, only about 41,000 people voted “YES,” which works out to roughly 0.0079 percent of Colorado’s population. Rio Blanco County was not one of the 11 counties that considered secession in 2013, but if you extrapolate the same percentage of support for its 7,000 residents, you end up with about 55 votes.

In 2014, there was briefly a second attempt to revive the secession idea that crashed and burned before it even got out of the garage. In other words, there is no succession “movement” that could be re-started because there was never a real movement in the first place. But that doesn’t make this topic completely irrelevant for 2020, because it revives a question for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) that he absolutely does not want to answer.

Everybody should have the opportunity to consider forming a new state.

At the time of the 2013 secession vote, then-Rep. Cory Gardner was still six months away from running for U.S. Senate. Gardner’s home county of Yuma was one of the 11 counties considering secession, and Gardner refused to offer a position on the subject. Here’s what the editorial board of the Denver Post wrote on November 1, 2013:

Ten of the 11 counties where voters will be asked to secede from Colorado next week are in the 4th Congressional District.

But if you want to know how the member of Congress from that district who lives in one of those counties stands on secession, or how he’ll vote, you’re out of luck…

…We understand that members of Congress may not want to weigh in on every local issue voters consider, but this is one of those times when his constitutents — and other Coloradans — deserve to know where a top leader from the area stands on such an important topic.

“When asked about the 51st state initiative previously, Congressman Gardner has said that he loves Colorado,” said spokesman Alex Siciliano.

OK, but does he love Colorado enough to stay a part of it?

Gardner is up for re-election in 2020, of course, and this is not a good topic for him. It would be very awkward to be running for a statewide office while continually dodging questions about whether part of that very state — the part that represents much of Gardner’s base — should break away from the rest of Colorado. If talk of another secession movement increases, so will calls for Gardner to explain how he voted on the subject in 2013.

“Secession” is a real threat for Gardner because of the political ramifications for his re-election. For everyone else, secession is like putting up a “Beware of Dog” sign for a chihuahua.

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The Oil and Gas Industry is Trying to Buy the Election…Like, Literally All of It

Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

As Westword reports today, the oil and gas industry is spending a positively obscene amount of money on the 2018 election in Colorado:

More than one in five dollars donated to all campaigns and political groups in state races in 2018 has been a direct contribution from a fossil fuel corporation. [Pols emphasis] And that sum does not include the industry’s additional undisclosed corporate spending.

The vast majority of the disclosed expenditures — almost $40 million — flowed into a PAC called Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, better known as Protect Colorado. [Pols emphasis] The group is a state issue committee that is registered to oppose “safer setbacks” measure Proposition 112. Protect Colorado has also provided most of the money for the Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage, the group advocating for Amendment 74.

While ads have derided Amendment 74 opponents for receiving money from outside Colorado, Protect Colorado has received a combined $13.7 million from Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy. Colorado’s PDC Energy has kicked in more than $5 million and Extraction Oil & Gas has given $3.3 million. More than half of Protect Colorado’s money comes from these four corporations.

Noble has also taken the unprecedented step of directly funding TV spots that explicitly urge voters to reject Proposition 112, but which the company claims are not political ads — and therefore not subject to state campaign finance disclosure requirements. The ads have aired on at least twelve Colorado TV stations in October, FCC records show.

It’s important to note here that the $40 million figure is a conservative estimate of the industry’s total election spending in 2018. The $40 million figure includes contributions of $750,000 to “Better Colorado Now,” the Super PAC created to back Republican Walker Stapleton for Governor, as well as $1.5 million in contributions to the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA). This figure does not include individual contributions from fossil fuel industry donors to Republican candidates for office in Colorado; needless to say, you can probably tack on a few more dollars there.

The majority of the oil and gas money seems to be funneled toward opposing Proposition 112 and supporting Amendment 74 (Westword also has a meticulously-detailed story on Amendment 74 and its connections to the O&G industry). Election spending from the oil and gas industry should be a much bigger story than it is, though we suspect it will get lots more attention in the weeks and months to come.

The ridiculous amount of money being spent by the O&G industry also says a lot about the short-sightedness of Amendment 75, the flawed ballot measure that supporters claim is about leveling the playing field for candidates competing against millionaire opponents. As Mitt Romney famously said about the Citizens United campaign finance ruling, “Corporations are people, too.” If that’s true, perhaps we should start treating them as such.

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“It’s a Cult” – The Society of Science-Denying Politicians

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hurricane Florence gathering in the Atlantic, several days before landfall near Wilmington, NC.

Its still too early to tell how damaging Hurricane Florence is going to be, and those aiding in the rescue under way and the recovery to come deserve our, and the government’s, full support.

But there is one thing we can almost certainly be sure of. Whether the storm lives up to its worst fears, or not, science-deniers will point to it to make fun of climate change.

“Oh,” they will say in the first case, “if it’s dry—blame climate change, if it rains—blame climate change. Well, the climate changes all the time!” Or they will say, in the second case, “Oh, see! No ‘super-storm’ ergo no climate change! Just more eco-hysteria!”

The usual brigade of followers and amplifiers will tweet and blog and push out whichever false narrative fits the ideology, and then we’ll get back to business as usual: Gutting the Clean Power Plan, slashing methane pollution regulations that protect taxpayers and the environment, walking away from the world, rolling back the clean car rules. The list of bad things done, and climate wrongs committed by this administration is noteworthy.

However you graph it, the trends are clear. Climate change is real.

For no string of extreme weather events, no list of new records replacing the last new records that replaced the ones before, no data of climbing temperatures and escalating droughts, can penetrate the bubble insulated by the love of cold hard cash. Their gain is your loss, of course. Remember, you can’t spell “trickle down” without “trick.”

By ending the methane rule Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department admits taxpayers stand to lose more than $1 billion in wasted resources. Replacing the Clean Power Plan with the Dirty Power Scam could cost 1,400 American lives every year. And no matter that the methane waste rule has support from across the nation, and in Colorado. Earlier this year, a Colorado College poll found that 7-in-10 western voters support methane waste requirements for federal public lands, including most Republicans in all states surveyed.

In May 2017, a bipartisan group of Senators rejected a Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal the BLM methane rule. For this we can thank the hundreds of thousands of Americans who contacted Congress, and who resisted efforts to sell America out to oil and gas lobbyists. But we can’t thank Cory Gardner, Colorado’s junior senator, who voted against taxpayers and our climate, and voted to repeal the methane waste rule.

(more…)

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Bennet, Hick Try To Slow Trump Drilling Frenzy

Sage Grouse of the Greater kind.

AP reports via CBS4 Denver:

Top Colorado Democrats on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of rushing to open public lands to oil and gas drilling without giving the public nearly enough time to comment.

In letters to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper also asked the government not to go ahead with plans for oil and gas drilling on habitat for the greater sage grouse, a bird that Western states and federal agencies are trying to protect…

A joint federal-state program called the Sage Grouse Initiative, launched under the Obama administration, is trying to save the bird without resorting to the strict restrictions of the Endangered Species Act.

It’s ironic that, in barreling ahead with drilling in areas inhabited by the greater sage grouse, the Trump administration could thwart a somewhat controversial effort to protect the species without invoking the Endangered Species Act–by reducing the population enough to trigger the Act unequivocally! In the long run, it would be better for energy producers to cooperate with the current plan, demonstrate its success, and avoid much more stringent long-term oversight.

Unfortunately for the sage grouse, Donald Trump’s regulatory free-for-all isn’t going to last forever. And given the choice between short-term profit and long-term sustainability, energy companies will do what they will always do given the opportunity, undoing the best-laid plans of their apologists on both sides of the aisle.

The real moral of the story? Elections matter.

Sorry, that’s the answer for a lot of things right now.

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“Nuclear Option” Amendment 74 Makes Ballot

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

The Denver Post’s Ben Botkin reports on the other ballot measure to qualify yesterday for a vote in November in addition to a payday loan interest rate cap–formerly known as Initiative 108, now Amendment 74, which would dramatically alter the relationship between just about any kind of land use interest and local government:

Initiative 108 would amend the state constitution and require property owners to receive “just compensation” when government laws or regulations cause their property’s fair market value to drop.

Organizers submitted 209,111 signatures, and the Secretary of State’s office projects that 137,029 are valid.

Colorado Public Radio’s Grace Hood goes into more detail:

The initiative, which is expected to appear as Amendment 74 at the ballot box, would allow Coloradans to make a financial claim on property that’s devalued because of government action. The proposal would protect water and mineral rights in addition to physical property.

At its heart, Amendment 74 would adjust how “takings claims” work under Colorado law. Right now someone can only get compensation from a direct government action when it deprives them of nearly all of their property. The change to the state constitution would broaden that range so that property owners could get compensated if property is “reduced in fair market value” by the government.

With this measure moving from the theoretical to set for a vote, word of its potentially sweeping effects is spreading–and the Colorado Municipal League is sounding the alarm:

This suggested change to the Colorado Constitution would expose both the state and all local governments to untold legal exposure with unclear language referring to government regulations or actions which would “reduce” the “fair market value” of private property and subject taxpayers to “just compensation” to a private property owner. All types of ordinances and policies at the municipal level would be affected, like code enforcement, land use and zoning, licensing, and redevelopment. Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell shares, “This measure places words in our state constitution that are not clear. Both the state and taxpayers in cities like my own will be subject to frivolous lawsuits. As both a Mayor and CML President, I am strongly opposed and will be voting no.”

The net effect of this measure will be an unprecedented restriction on the ability of local governments to regulate land uses within their boundaries. As we’ve said before the biggest beneficiaries of this change would be oil and gas extractive industries, but it wouldn’t stop there–and could be invoked to make the formerly routine regulation of all kinds of things you don’t want in your neighborhood prohibitively expensive. The measure’s vague language makes costly intra-governmental litigation a certainty, just to figure out what it will actually do.

We understand that with all of the controversy over split estate rights and other competing land use questions, there are vested interests like the Farm Bureau and the energy industry who are agitated and spoiling for a showdown. Wherever you land as a voter on any of the measures on the ballot this year, the message on Amendment 74–from the fractivists in Boulder to Gov. John “Frackenlooper” Hickenlooper himself–is that it wildly overshoots its mark.

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Kelly Nordini Takes Over at Conservation Colorado

Kelly Nordini (center)

Conservation Colorado announced today that it has hired well-known Democratic strategist Kelly Nordini as its new Executive Director. Conservation Colorado has been operating without an official ED since Pete Maysmith left last September for a position with the League of Conservation Voters.

According to a press release from Conservation Colorado:

After conducting a nationwide search, Conservation Colorado today announced Kelly Nordini will be its new Executive Director. Nordini is an experienced conservationist, political strategist, and policy expert. Her decades of experience at the intersection of Colorado politics and conservation policy and her vision for the future of Conservation Colorado distinguished her from an extraordinary field of more than 100 candidates.

Nordini has extensive experience in public policy, political strategy and campaigns, and community organizing, as well as a background in management. She was previously a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, where she led efforts to advance clean energy policies in Colorado. She has also held leadership positions at Western Conservation Foundation and Project New America, and she served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Bill Ritter…

…Conservation Colorado is the largest state-based environmental advocacy organization in the country with nearly 40 staff, five offices across the state, and 40,000 members. The organization spent $1.3 million in the 2016 elections and had a 90 percent win rate of its endorsed candidates.

Nordini moves to Conservation Colorado after heading up Democrat Cary Kennedy’s campaign for Governor (Kennedy finished second in the June Primary to Jared Polis).

Conservation Colorado has long been the most influential environmental advocacy organization in the state. It was renamed in 2012 when it formed like Voltron in a merger of Colorado Conservation Voters and Colorado Environmental Coalition.

You can read the full press release after the jump:

(more…)

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Rick Perry, Cory Gardner Tour NREL Tomorrow

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, eating a corn dog.

A press release from the Department of Energy announces the Secretary of Energy hisself, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, will tour Golden’s National Renewable Energy Lab tomorrow accompanied the always-cherubic Sen. Cory Gardner:

On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will travel to the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. While there, he will tour the Energy Systems Integration Facility and the Science and Technology Facility with Senator Cory Gardner. They will see first-hand the wide range of research and development being conducted at the lab – from high-performance computing to solar materials research.

Perry and Gardner will also stop by the NREL Partner Forum and then provide open press remarks and answer employee questions at an all-hands meeting. Following these events, they will hold a brief media availability.

Readers will recall that now-Secretary Perry famously pledged to abolish the Department of Energy if elected President–sort of, since he couldn’t remember the name of the agency when pressed to identify which departments of the federal government he would abolish in a debate. Once Donald Trump nominated Perry to serve as the Secretary of the very same Department of Energy–which we assume, when you get right down to it, was Trump making some kind of joke–Perry expressed “regret” at having made such a rash policy prescription.

Whatever the fate of the Department of Energy as a whole, NREL itself has been subjected to several periods of uncertainty by Republican administrations and Congresses, but it does appear that the GOP has bigger fish to fry between now and the November elections. That is, staying in power, and kicking renewable energy to please the fossil fuel industry isn’t a good look for Republicans going into this particularly hostile midterm.

So hooray! Rick Perry loves…what’s that place again?

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Accountabililty: How Far Dan Haley Has Fallen

UPDATE: It appears that the Energy Accountability Project (or whatever) fixed the misspelling of “accountability” in their logos on their website and Twitter account sometime after this post went live. Unfortunately, “accountability” is misspelled in, well, every piece of content they’ve ever released into the wild!

Like this one:

And this one:

And this one:

And so forth. It’s probably time to mash the reset button on this misbegotten little campaign–or maybe just, you know, delete. After which somebody at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association should show themselves out.

All the money in the world, and no one to proofread. Imagine.

—–

After Kyle Clark at 9NEWS took issue with a “fact-checking” website run by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association–secretly at first, disclosing their ownership only after being called out–we took a closer look at the operation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with an entity setting up a clearinghouse of their own opinions, but two aspects of the site struck journalists as objectionable to the point of having a chilling effect: its secretive nature as well as “index pages” devoted to shaming individual reporters by calling out their alleged misdeeds. Those pages have reportedly been taken down.

But the larger reason this effort appears to have backfired spectacularly among the very people it was meant to influence is that it’s happening at the same time as President Donald Trump’s vicious rhetoric against the news media has ramped up to a fever pitch in recent weeks. Media fact-checking sites as we’ve come to know them generally focus on fact-checking the statements of politicians and opinionmakers, not reporters: though it’s true that Fox News-style “journalism” has made that distinction trickier. COGA’s fact-checking site, on the other hand, directly went after the reporters. Considering that the President of COGA, Dan Haley, worked for the Denver Post for many years, we’re shocked that he didn’t realize how this would be received by his former peers.

To be clear, being critical of news reporting, and even individual reporters is not wrong. We’ve done plenty of that in this space. But to target reporters systematically like this site did — at the same time that the President of the United States treads perilously close to inciting violence against journalists — it all feeds into the hatred of the media Trump wants his supporters to feel. And for the same reasons.

The only other thing we can recommend to the Energy Accountability Project and its former newspaper editor leader, is this…

Learn how to spell “accountability.”

Seriously, you colossal dumbasses. Seriously.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (August 9)

Could Omarosa be Donald Trump’s downfall? If God has a sense of humor, it just might happen. 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… 

► Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California — the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee — may have spoken a little too openly about the 2018 election in a speech to donors recently. From the Washington Post:

It was in private, at a closed-door fundraiser for a Republican colleague, that Nunes took the new step of tying the investigation to the midterm elections this fall. In comments captured in an audio recording aired Wednesday by “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Nunes laid out in stark terms the rationale for preserving the GOP majority in Congress.

“If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones, which is really the danger,” Nunes said at an event for Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, referring to Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. Sessions said last year that he would keep his distance from inquiries related to the 2016 election, owing to his role in Trump’s campaign — a move that has frustrated the president, leading him to blame his own attorney general  for the “Russian Witch Hunt Hoax.”

“I mean, we have to keep all these seats,” Nunes added. “We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.”

“All of this goes away” probably sounds pretty good to a lot of voters right now. “Must protect Trump?” Not so much.

 

► Vice President Mike Pence is at the Pentagon to talk up President Trump’s “Space Force” proposal. Pence says the United States could officially create a sixth branch of the military by 2020.

 

► We’ve talked before in this space about mystifying Republican efforts at making “California” a centerpiece of their narrative against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis. Fox 31 Denver fact-checks the latest ad using this approach from from the Republican Governor’s Association. It doesn’t turn out well.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Oil & Gas Media Bashing Site Gives Itself Two Thumbs Up

There’s been quite a bit of discussion among Colorado journalists lately regarding a new website called “The Energy Accountability Project” (EAP), which appears to be little more than a media bashing tool that is half-heartedly disguised as a “fact checking” resource. We’ll have more discussion on the EAP site a bit later in this space, but first let’s get you caught up on the controversy and the O&G industry’s boneheaded responses to criticism.

The EAP website launched with a menu that listed individual reporters by name, which understandably didn’t make reporters very happy. Even former Colorado journalists found the site to be a massive #FAIL. As former Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Peter Marcus wrote on Twitter:

When trying to convince the media and public that fracking is a safe practice, aligning with a Trump narrative that the media is the enemy of the people won’t get you any traction. Surprised the well-funded industry would make such a poor calculation.

9News journalist Kyle Clark was irritated enough that he spoke out on his 6:00 pm show “Next With Kyle Clark”:

The purveyors of the EAP website have since made significant changes to the layout, including removing menu items linking to individual reporters in favor of links to news organizations instead. The folks at EAP also responded to criticism after they initially refused forgot to disclose their financial backers, which includes the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, but that mea culpa was packaged in another box of #FAIL. Check out this message posted to the EAP site from Dan Haley of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association:

We were asked by 9News this week if the Colorado Oil & Gas Association was supporting this website, and we said yes. Whenever anyone asked, we said yes. We should have been forthcoming with that at the beginning. As Kyle Clark pointed out, it would have been better to follow the example of other industry journals and websites by listing our support.

If you’re waiting for the punchline, you won’t be disappointed. As you can see from the screenshot below, the EAP rated its own statement as totally great!

We rate our own statements to be 100% factual!

 

This is so stupid.

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Republican Guv’s Association: Slinging The BS Early, Often

FOX 31’s Joe St. George walks us through the latest ad from the Republican Governor’s Association targeting Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Polis in the now-familiar “hippie-punching” style we’ve side-eyed in this space before.

Under the fact-checking microscope, this ad is revealed to have some serious issues with every single one of its claims that viewers need to be aware of:

Exact quote in ad: “How Boulder is Jared Polis? – Polis is so Boulder he is skipping the Grand Junction debate the first candidate in decades to blow off the Western Slope”

St. George very generously scores this as the only “true” claim in the whole spot, though even that has a big disclaimer:

Polis will not “blow off” the Western Slope in his campaign. In fact he has agreed to a separate Grand Junction debates hosted by PBS, Colorado Mesa University and the Grand Junction Sentinel. [Pols emphasis]

Polis has also had a field office open for months in Grand Junction and tweeted out photos campaigning with his LG pick last month.

The truth here, as our readers have discussed in some depth, is that Polis will not be attending one particular debate in Grand Junction hosted by regional advocacy group Club 20. Opinions of that decision vary, but Polis will still be debating opponent Walker Stapleton in Grand Junction at the PBS/Mesa State debate. We’d say that makes the vague language in this ad false enough to call out as such, but at least St. George gives us the whole story.

As for the rest of this ad? St. George quickly dispatches with a claim we expect to hear a lot between now and the election, that Polis’ campaign pledge to move the state to renewable energy sources would “destroy energy jobs.” Reading the study cited in the ad, there’s a whole other side to the coin: the tens of thousands of new energy jobs that would be created by the switch to renewables. Much like the bogus assessment of a “Medicare for All” plan “costing trillions,” when it would in fact save trillions, dishonest actors intentionally leave out the critical second half of the equation.

It’s good to see mendacious ads getting scrutiny early in the campaign season. There will be many more.

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Denver Chamber Helps Jack Frack Setback Initiative

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

We’ve been monitoring the strange story of what appears to have been a multi-pronged insider effort to derail Initiative 97, the controversial ballot measure to dramatically increase setbacks between oil and gas wells and so-called “surface development”–that is, homes and schools built over somebody’s else’s mineral rights. After one petition gathering firm left the state with tens of thousands of signatures, another admitted on tape they were paid by an as-yet unknown entity to stop collecting signatures. Despite these hurdles, the campaign turned in over 170,000 signatures yesterday and still hopes to make the ballot.

In the meantime, the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene reports on still more shenanigans against the Initiative 97 campaign, again involving the petition contractor who was paid to abandon the effort, and this time involving the “respectable” Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce:

Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough told The Independent Friday that when her group learned Petition Connection was also gathering signatures for Colorado Rising, it told FieldWorks to stop using Petition Connection to gather signatures for its proposed transportation measure. That measure seeks a 0.62 percent statewide sales tax to pay for transportation and transit.

“We try not to have our (petitions) carried along with issues we would not support,” Brough said, noting that her board has opposed the fracking limitation measure.

Asked if her members in the oil-and-gas industry pressed her to split with the company, she said no…

But that’s not what others are saying:

Sean Duffy, spokesman for the Chamber-affiliated transportation ballot measure campaign, acknowledged later Friday that the oil-and-gas industry “along with a number of other businesses” in the Chamber are very concerned about the setback measure getting on the ballot and were uncomfortable with signature collectors gathering petitions for it at the same time they were gathering petitions for the transportation measure.

“They said, ‘Yeah, that’s a conflict for us’,” Duffy said.

As for the still-unknown party responsible for paying Petition Connection to walk away from the Initiative 97 campaign?

Brough said her group had “nothing to do with that payment” to Fessler.

“Absolutely not,” she emphasized.

But given that Kelly Brough is being more or less directly refuted by Sean Duffy on the original question, we would call her denial unsatisfying at best. There is a lot more to know about what the oil and gas industry did to thwart this initiative, from paying off contractors to their intimidating and aggressive “Decline to Sign” campaign featuring belligerent young men sent to heckle individual petition gatherers. These unsavory tactics stretch, if not the law, at the very least the bounds of civility in politics. It is not behavior that should be honored or rewarded.

We can only say again that all of this can be true even if you don’t agree with the initiative in question, and we recognize that universal 2,500-foot setbacks between wells and homes are not universally supported even among Democrats. The point is that if such dirty deeds become the norm in Colorado politics, everybody is worse off.

Everybody but the bad guys, that is.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (August 7)

Today marks the approximate “midpoint” of summer, but don’t tell that to your kids as they prepare to head back to school. 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… 

► National Security Adviser John Bolton says President Trump’s good buddy Kim Jong Un isn’t actually following up on any promises made during a summit meeting in June. From the Washington Post:

National security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that North Korea has not made progress toward denuclearization in a dismal acknowledgment that comes nearly two months after President Trump held a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

“The United States has lived up to the Singapore declaration. It’s just North Korea that has not taken the steps we feel are necessary to denuclearize,” Bolton said in an interview on Fox News Channel on Tuesday morning…

…The Trump administration has consistently sought to reassure critics Kim will make good on his pledges to denuclearize. Last month, Trump tweeted he had “confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake” in Singapore.

“Well, that’s a surprise,” said absolutely nobody.

 

Colorado is joining 18 other states in suing the federal government over plans to permit the distribution of blueprints for untraceable 3D-printed firearms. Local libraries and school districts are taking their own precautions to prevent the printing of these weapons.

 

► It’s Primary Day in a bunch of states across the country, with most eyes on a special election for a Congressional seat in Ohio. Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington also hold Primary Elections today. The New York Times lays out what to watch for today, including this confusing Democratic Primary in Washington:

In the solidly Democratic Ninth District, Representative Adam Smith, a longtime congressman with a top position on the House Armed Services Committee, is facing a primary challenge from Sarah Smith, a democratic socialist. On the surface, this looks a lot like New York’s 14th District, where another democratic socialist, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, beat Joseph Crowley, a longtime congressman with a powerful leadership position. Ms. Smith has encouraged the comparison, while Mr. Smith has emphasized the differences between the two races — including the fact that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born and raised in her district, while Ms. Smith lives just outside this one.

As the Washington Post reports, 2018 is a bad year for Republican Lieutenant Governors to be seeking higher office.

 

► Climate Change is very real, and we could be reaching a dangerous tipping point. From CNN:

Scientists are warning that a domino effect will kick in if global temperatures rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, leading to “hothouse” conditions and higher sea levels, making some areas on Earth uninhabitable…

…Hotter temperatures could result in sea level rise up to 60 meters (197 ft) from today’s shorelines, swamping coastal populations and forcing communities inland. This summer dozens of people have died in wildfires and heat waves from the US to Asia, giving the world an insight into what could lie ahead.

The report says that if the “threshold” — a theoretical point-of-no-return — is crossed, this “would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene,” referring to the geological age which began at the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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In Which James Coleman Cheerleads for the Oil and Gas Industry

Liberty Oilfield Services CEO Chris Wright speaks to the crowd before introducing Rep. James Coleman (right) at last week’s “Energy Proud” event in Denver.

On July 26, State Rep. James Coleman (D-Denver) cheerfully touted his 100% rating through the 2018 legislative session from Conservation Colorado, one of the state’s foremost organizations focused on conservation and environmental policies. Coleman even acknowledged his 100% rating by Tweeting a message with the tagline, “Thanks for your support!.”

Seven days later, Coleman was a featured speaker at an “Energy Proud” event organized to praise the many wonders of oil and gas extraction and the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing. The event was heavily promoted by oil and gas interests, including the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), that are generally not worried about any of the conservation and environmental stewardship ideals that Coleman boasted about one week earlier.

As Western Wire reports:

A former Interior Department Secretary called people working in the oil and gas industry “revolutionaries” and Colorado officials said energy issues transcended traditional party lines at a rally in Denver Thursday.

The “Energy Proud” event was hosted by energy companies on the west steps of the state Capitol before a few thousand people, and comes just days before an August 6 deadline for anti-oil and gas proponents to submit signatures for a proposed 2,500-foot setback in Initiative 97.

“It’s not often that I get to speak to a crowd of revolutionaries,” said former Interior Department Secretary and former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton. “That’s exactly what you are because you have accomplished a revolution.” [Pols emphasis]

Two days after this “Energy Proud” event, proponents of a measure designed to weaken local control of oil and gas drilling submitted petition signatures to get Initiative 108 onto the November ballot.

This was all a carefully-orchestrated public relations effort for the oil and gas industry — or the “revolutionaries,” as Gale Norton called them — as they seek to drill holes in every piece of land they can find in Colorado. The cherry on top of this bullshit sundae was to find a Democratic state legislator who could be easily convinced to stand up in front of a crowd of oil and gas people and sing their praises.

Seven days earlier, James Coleman was proudly boasting about his 100% record alongside environmental group Conservation Colorado.

Enter James Coleman.

The Denver Democrat spoke briefly to the assembled crowd after an introduction from Liberty Oilfield Services CEO Chris Wright, beginning his remarks with platitudes about “hardworking Coloradans” and taking a bipartisan approach to the issue of oil and gas extraction. Here’s an excerpt from Coleman’s remarks, which you can watch in full below:

A lot of times, we put politics in front of relationships. I had the opportunity to get to know Chris Wright, the man who just introduced me, many years before I ran for office. When the recession hit in 2008, many folks got laid off. But his company, Liberty — which is why I’m proud of him and what he’s done — he didn’t lay off one person because of what was happening in the economy. [Pols emphasis] That is the kind of person that we need.

These are some interesting comments from Coleman. Did he come up with these remarks himself, or did he just repeat talking points that were handed to him? The reason we ask is because Chris Wright launched Liberty Oilfield Services in 2012. Its predecessor company, Liberty Resources, was founded in 2010. Liberty didn’t lay off anyone following the 2008 recession because the company didn’t yet exist.

Anyway, let’s get back to Coleman’s talking points:

These are the kind of people that we need. The kind of leaders who care about people and take care of Coloradans. Because at the end of the day, all we care about it providing for our families, serving our neighbors and our communities, putting clothes on our backs, food on the table, roofs over our heads. That’s what you all do and are allowing us to do because of the great work you do here in the state. Thank you for all you do.

Of course, these are also the kind of people who can’t be bothered to worry about whether their extraction methods are harmful to local communities and schools. As Think Progress writes:

According to a Denver Post investigation, in the eight months following a deadly April 2017 gas explosion in the town of Firestone, at least a dozen explosions and fires have been associated with industry pipelines along Colorado’s Front Range. That area is part of the Southern Rocky Mountains.

Low-income communities of color in Colorado have also fought against drilling efforts along the Front Range. And studies have shown elevated cancer risks in parts of the wider area…[Pols emphasis]

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton was also a featured guest at the “Energy Proud” event, and he gleefully played up Coleman’s statements in a separate interview:

“I think it’s really important to recognize, as James Coleman said, that this shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Stapleton told Western Wire. [Pols emphasis]

Representative Coleman is running for re-election in HD-7, a safe Democratic district in northeast Denver with a sizable minority population and low-income communities of color. In fact, HD-7 contains a larger percentage of African-Americans and Latinos than any other state legislative district in Colorado. Coleman’s district is also near the Suncor Oil Refinery that regularly spews hydrogen cyanide gas across north Denver.

Maybe Coleman really believes that he is a true conservationist who listens to the concerns of the people in his district but genuinely supports the oil and gas industry anyway. Maybe not. Either way, you can be sure that voters are going to be regularly reminded of Coleman’s duplicitous nature should he ever attempt to seek higher office in Colorado.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (August 6)

Today is “Civic Holiday” in Canada, which is really the most Canadian name for a holiday that you could possibly invent. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► President Trump went on one of his regular weekend Twitter tirades, and he just might have gotten himself into some legal trouble this time. From the Washington Post:

When President Trump flatly declared on Twitter that his son held that Trump Tower meeting in the full expectation of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, he may have done more than concede that collusion did, in fact, take place. He may have also inadvertently pointed to a motive for his repeated efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation — possibly strengthening the case that he obstructed justice. [Pols emphasis]

Much of this morning’s chatter about Trump’s Twitter admission over the weekend focuses on two important facts about it, but not on that one. In the tweet, Trump stated forthrightly that the Trump Tower gathering “was a meeting to get information on an opponent.” However, we know from Donald Trump Jr.’s emails before the meeting that he — along with son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chair Paul Manafort — took this meeting in the full expectation of getting “information on an opponent” that would be furnished by the Russian government.

As many news accounts and analyses point out, Trump has now flatly conceded to that collusion more directly than ever before. As those accounts also point out, in so doing, Trump has also revealed that the statement he helped dictate about this meeting in the summer of 2017 — which claimed it was primarily about adoptions — was a lie.

Trump’s Tweet seems to have been a response to a Saturday story in the Washington Post indicating that the President is indeed worried about legal trouble for eldest son Donald Trump, Jr.:

Trump has confided to friends and advisers that he is worried the Mueller probe could destroy the lives of what he calls “innocent and decent people” — namely Trump Jr., who is under scrutiny by Mueller for his role organizing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. As one adviser described the president’s thinking, he does not believe his son purposefully broke the law, but is fearful nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal jeopardy.

 

► Republicans are chewing their fingernails to the nub over Tuesday’s special election in Ohio for an open Congressional seat. From Politico:

The entire Republican Party machinery has converged on this suburban Columbus district for a furious eleventh-hour campaign aimed at saving a conservative House seat and averting another special election disaster.

But in the final days ahead of Tuesday’s election, signs were everywhere that Democrats are surging — from recent polling to the private and public statements of many Republicans, including the GOP candidate himself. The district has been reliably red for more than three decades, but the sheer size of the Republican cavalry made clear how worried the party is about losing it…

…The all-out push underscores the GOP’s trepidation about the final special election before the midterms. A loss, following startling Republican defeats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, would offer more evidence that a blue wave is on the horizon. And it would further fuel fears of what’s becoming evident: that Democrats are simply more amped up, even in areas that have long been safely Republican.

 

► As the New York Times reports, the Trump administration is poking another stick at European allies:

The Trump administration said it would restore sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord at midnight on Monday, ratcheting up pressure on Tehran while worsening a divide with Europe.

The new sanctions are a consequence of President Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from the nuclear deal with world powers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the goal was to get Iran to change its ways — including ending all nuclear enrichment and curbing its weapons programs, as well as ending its support of brutal governments or uprisings in the Middle East.

European officials have said that the Iran nuclear agreement is crucial to their national security. International inspectors have concluded that Iran is complying with the accord.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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“Right To Frack Your Backyard”–Initiative 108 Lurches Forward

Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Proponents of a ballot measure they claim will strengthen private property rights turned in a record 209,000 petition signatures Friday to the secretary of state.

Initiative 108 is a constitutional proposal for the November ballot that its chief sponsor, Colorado Farm Bureau, says will allow private property owners to take state or local governments to court when their property is devalued. The ballot measure doesn’t identify the kind of private property that could be taken, but examples include mineral, oil and gas, or water rights…

Initiative 108 becomes the second constitutional ballot measure under more stringent signature requirements approved by voters in 2016 under Amendment 71, aka “Raise the Bar,” which CFB supported.

The effects of this initiative would be potentially devastating to local governments responsible for just about any kind of land-use policy. Although proponents cite anecdotal examples of various controversial takings that property rights holders could sue over, the overwhelming beneficiaries of this initiative would be oil and gas rights holders in areas where people live and work. It would turn Colorado’s “split estate” system of separate surface and mineral rights into a cash cow for mineral rights holders at the direct expense of everyone else. Acting to protect residents from drilling in residential areas could mean bankruptcy for your town.

Don’t let the “record number of signatures” fool you into thinking this ballot measure enjoys authentic popular support. Goodland reported last week that five different pay-per-signature petition gathering firms were working on this ballot initiative. It’s true that since the passage of Amendment 71 in 2016, constitutional ballot measures have become harder to qualify for the ballot–but not impossible, and the scale of this effort demonstrates that constitutional measures are still very much within reach of those who have the means. Like the oil and gas industry, who not coincidentally has the ways and means to commit dirty tricks against initiatives they don’t like.

For most citizens of Colorado, “Raise the Bar” simply raised the bar above their heads.

Here is the result.

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Trump Administration to Gut Fuel-Efficiency Standards

What, you don’t want a car that averages 8 miles per gallon of gasoline?

As the Washington Post reports, President Trump is moving ahead with plans to gut fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles:

The Trump administration announced plans Thursday to freeze fuel-efficiency requirements for the nation’s cars and trucks through 2026 — a massive regulatory rollback likely to spur a legal battle with California and other states, as well as create potential upheaval in the nation’s automotive market.

The proposal represents an abrupt reversal of the findings that the government reached under President Barack Obama, when regulators argued that requiring more-fuel-efficient vehicles would improve public health, combat climate change and save consumers money without compromising safety.

“We will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”

— California Gov. Jerry Brown

President Trump’s plan also would revoke California’s long-standing legal waiver to set its own tailpipe restrictions, granted under the 1970 Clean Air Act, which the state has used most recently to try to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. It also would restrict the ability of states to follow California’s lead — something a dozen states and the District of Columbia already have done.

The likely legal clash over the policy threatens to rupture the nation’s auto market, doing away with uniform national standards negotiated by the Obama administration and potentially forcing automakers to produce different vehicles to meet standards in different states — something the industry has said it does not want. [Pols emphasis]

That last sentence is particularly important to note. The big automobile manufacturers don’t want this policy implemented any more than American farmers want Trump to introduce more tariffs, but considering the input and interest of others isn’t exactly a top priority for this administration.

An analysis from the Trump administration claims that halting fuel-efficiency targets at 2020 levels could save $500 billion in something they call “societal costs.” Of course, that same analysis also shows that U.S. fuel consumption would increase by about half a million barrels of oil each day — contributing to further Climate Change problems because of increased greenhouse-gas emissions.

Municipal leaders from Colorado spoke out forcefully in opposition to these new policies during a press conference on Tuesday.

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Setback Initiative Backers Allege More Big Oil Dirty Tricks

We wrote last week about the unusual case of a signature gathering firm who proponents of Initiative 97, the controversial ballot initiative campaign to establish greater setbacks between oil and gas drilling and homes and schools throughout Colorado, alleged had absconded with thousands of petition signatures set to be turned in just a few days’ time. After a press conference blowing the whistle on that contractor’s behavior, those signatures were reportedly returned.

But as Westword’s Nora Alabi reported last night, the shenanigans against Initiative 97 didn’t stop there:

Just last week, the group publicly accused signature-gathering company Direct Action Partners of allegedly absconding with about 20,000 of its signatures, which were promptly returned after the incident made national headlines. Now Colorado Rising is struggling with another signature-gathering company on its campaign after an undisclosed pro-industry group allegedly paid one of the company’s subcontractors to immediately stop gathering signatures for the oil and gas setback petition known as Initiative 97. [Pols emphasis]

Colorado Rising disclosed a copy of a recording to Westword in which the group alleges that a “designated agent” for signature-gathering firm Petition Connection LLC admits to Colorado Rising representatives that a competitor paid him to stop working on Initiative 97. The agent couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.

“Nobody threatened me,” the agent said on the recording. “You know what they’re doing. They’re going around and buying people.” [Pols emphasis]

When asked how much he was paid and if it was worth it, he admitted to Colorado Rising boardmember Lauren Petrie and the campaign’s volunteer community outreach director, Russell Mendell, that the payout “was enough” and that it “was worth it to me.” He said that since he didn’t have a contract with Colorado Rising — he was a subcontractor with Encore Political Services, which came in after Direct Action Partners abruptly left the campaign — that he felt more comfortable “washing his hands” of the campaign.

We’re not attorneys, but legalities of this situation are complex at first glance. In the slippery realm of shady petition gathering outfits and their many equally shady “subcontractors,” it’s entirely possible that a savvy operator could buy up capacity in order to cripple a petition effort without breaking any contractual obligation. Morally this is of course totally outrageous, but this is the oil and gas industry. At the end of the day, they’re not trying to win a popularity contest.

If this development shocks you in its audacity, that’s because it should. Unfortunately, the local political chattering class is heavily preoccupied with gamesmanship over statesmanship–especially where it concerns the all-powerful energy industry–and they’ll mostly admire this power play instead of criticize it. Initiative 97 is a sufficiently hot political potato with its potentially sweeping effects that even many Democrats critical of the industry will most likely be content to find another hill to die on.

Whatever becomes of Initiative 97, remember this happened. Because they’ll do it again.

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Colorado Municipal Officials: Stop the Trump Administration’s Attack on Clean Cars & Clean Air

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Tuesday, Colorado elected municipal officials, agency directors and community leaders joined together to oppose the Trump Administration’s expected rollback of the clean car standards – which could come as soon as this week.  Speakers condemned plans by the Trump Administration to reverse the clean car standards and attack states’ authority to protect their citizens from harmful tailpipe pollution – an unprecedented violation of public health, air quality, and common-sense standards that will harm communities across Colorado.

 Speakers also thanked Governor John Hickenlooper for announcing that Colorado will exercise its right to join the more than one-third of the nation’s auto market in becoming a clean car state. Doing so won’t just protect public health; it also will benefit Colorado’s economy and the air quality in cities like Westminster, Golden, Denver, and Lakewood. Many of these communities have municipal sustainability standards, including clean air goals that would be harmed by the rollback of clean cars standards.

 For a video of the press conference, click HERE.

 “As a field engineer and a mom, I know that the clean car standards are important to my family and our community here in Lakewood. Not only do they lead to cleaner air, they also save us money at the pump. That is something that matters now and will make the future brighter for communities across our state,” said Lakewood City Councilmember Dana Gutwein.

 “We need to remember that policies made at the federal level impact communities across our country. Rolling back the clean car standards will make it harder for cities like Westminster and Lakewood to have clean air and to fight climate change. We must protect the progress we made, and that means leaving the clean car standards in place,” said Westminster City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Temp Maria De Cambra.

 “Colorado moms know what matters for our families – healthy kids. In order to keep our children healthy, we need clean car standards that reduce air pollution,” said Jen Clanahan, Head Mom at Colorado Moms Know Best.

 “Colorado can be a leader in protecting public health by pushing back against the administration’s ill-advised rollback of the clean car standards,” said Elizabeth Babcock, Manager of Air, Water and Climate for City and County of Denver. “That is why Governor Hickenlooper’s recent announcement that Colorado will look to exercise its authority under the Clean Air Act to adopt stronger tailpipe pollution standards is a win for our communities, and a win for clean air and water.”

 “The clean car standards not only save us money but are one of the most effective policies we have on the books to fight climate change. That is why communities across Colorado are expressing their support for better mileage standards, less pollution, and more consumer choice on vehicles,” said Executive Director of Colorado Communities for Climate Action, and former Mayor of Golden, Jacob Smith.

 Speakers also highlighted the pocketbook savings of the clean cars standards currently in place. If these standards are left unchanged, the average Colorado family will save $2,700 at the gas pump over the life of their vehicle. The state itself has saved over $550 million due to these strong clean car standards.

 Speakers further highlighted how rolling back fuel efficiency standards will allow automakers to make dirtier cars that pollute the air and harm our health. According to the American Lung Association, over 450,000 children and adults suffer from asthma in Colorado.

 Speakers concluded by calling on the administration to maintain these popular and successful clean car standards, which are the some of the most effective policies we have on the books to reduce carbon pollution from vehicles and fight climate change.

 

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The Heat is On: Colorado’s Leaders Must Act on Climate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Summer 2018: Climate Change is Here

The horrific and deadly wildfires that have swept through Greece are just one set of data points causing scientists around the world to sound the alarm, that human-driven climate change is “supercharging a hot and dangerous summer,” as the Washington Post reports:

In the town of Sodankyla, Finland, the thermometer on July 17 registered a record-breaking 90 degrees, a remarkable figure given that Sodankyla is 59 miles north of the Arctic Circle…

…Japan recorded its highest temperature in history, 106 degrees, in a heat wave that killed 65 people in a week and hospitalized 22,000, shortly after catastrophic flooding killed 200. …Ouargla, Algeria, hit 124 degrees on July 5, a likely record for the continent of Africa. And the 109-degree reading in Quriyat, Oman, on June 28 amazed meteorologists because that wasn’t the day’s high temperature. That was the low . It was the hottest low temperature ever recorded on Earth.

Summer 2018: Drought has gripped much of the United States all year.

It has been an especially hot summer across the United States. Much of the nation remains in the grip of an epic heatwave.

Closer to home. Southwestern and Southeastern Colorado remain in an exceptional drought, as fires that raged for over a month continue to burn. Colorado’s farmers–from Yuma to Cortez–are in a world of hurt, as crop failures loom

Of course it’s not just Colorado farmers. Economic calamity from climate change, and the failure of leaders to address it, is likely to be significant by all accounts, as the Insurance Journal summarizes:

 

(more…)

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Report: BLM HQ Will Move West

As Erin Prater writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette:

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is prepared to move ahead on moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to the West, according to reports.

Grand Junction is expected to be a prime possibility for the new national headquarters, partly because of the work of Colorado’s two U.S. senators, Republican Cory Gardner of Yuma and Michael Bennet of Denver…

…Rep. Scott Tipton’s office said Thursday that the department will conduct an analysis to help choose a location in the next six to eight months, Interior Department senior adviser Susan Combs told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to the release Thursday. “Ninety-nine percent of the land that the BLM manages is located in the West, and the decisions made by the Bureau have daily impacts on those who live there, so it only makes sense to move the headquarters to a Western state. This would ensure that decisions would be made by those who understand the land best, resulting in more effective land management programs and policies.

Moving the headquarters of the BLM to the American West has been a long-running project that has the support of Colorado’s entire Congressional delegation, as well as the backing of local officials and Gov. John Hickenlooper. Colorado isn’t guaranteed to be the new home of the BLM, but Grand Junction is at least among the frontrunners.

It’s too soon to tell if this pending move will have a significant effect on BLM policies in the West or is more of a publicity stunt, though a new HQ would almost certainly create some new jobs in Colorado.

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