Spilling & Drilling Through SB-181 Debate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Greeley Tribune runs a regular column entitled the Weld County Oil and Gas Spill Report that provides a handy break-down of the spills and other “releases” reported in Colorado’s most drilled, most fracked county. A pretty typical spill summary might read:

KERR MCGEE OIL & GAS ONSHORE LP, reported March 6 a tank battery spill west of Platteville, about 1,250 feet west of Buck Rake Boulevard and Rodgers Circuit. Less than five barrels of oil, condensate and produced water spilled. Waters of the state were impacted. The separator cabinet at the production facility developed a leak. A groundwater sample from 8 feet below ground surface indicated benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene concentrations above COGCC standards. -Greely Tribune: Weld County oil and gas spill report for March 17

It is a useful feature, and worth checking regularly. But it didn’t capture what’s going on a few counties west, up in Jackson County. Apparently for that its up to individuals to check the state’s databases, since most counties and communities–even those being actively drilled–are not served by such diligent reporting.

Of course media following the oil and gas beat in Colorado have been busy covering SB 181–the pubic health and safety/oil and gas reform bill. Which means covering the Capitol circus–Democratic leader using machines to a read bill, a Republican senator talk of secession. But meanwhile the wildcatters and frackers, the big boys and the ‘moms and pops’ are still busy.

Even if drilling is down a bit, along with the price of fracked gas glutted at the hub. Leasing and permitting still continues apace–locking up the public’s lands in speculative chains, raising uncertainty in neighborhoods and for nearby towns and ranchers–all without much say by local jurisdictions about when, how, and where such activity should occur.

Which is to say that business still gets done–even if some workers get a paid day off to spill into the capitol instead. Consider North Park, for instance. There an Oklahoma company is getting called out by the state oil and gas commission, the “COGCC,” for the number of “reportable” incidents–also called “spills and releases”–in its operations there. 

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King Soopers Workers Vote To Stee-rike

Denver7’s Robert Garrison reports:

Members of the union representing Kroger-owned King Soopers/City Market employees voted Friday night overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.

More than 92 percent voted in favor of walking off the job, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union…

A strike date has not been set, but a strike authorization allows union leadership to call for a strike at any moment going forward, according to a release from the union.

UFCW Local 7’s contract with Safeway stores, the other major neighborhood grocer in Colorado, is not affected by this impasse between the union and The Kroger Company. That and the proliferation of grocery options since the last time UFCW workers went on strike in 1996 in theory puts Kroger in a much more difficult position–it’s going to be a very easy logistical decision for consumers who don’t want to cross a picket line to get their groceries somewhere else.

It’s possible that the leverage union negotiators now possess with the authorization to strike in hand will bear fruit in last-minute negotiations that Kroger agreed to following the vote. We’ll update with news on that front–or when it’s time to look at your grocery alternatives–as it becomes available.

Monday Open Thread

“The demand to be loved is the greatest of all arrogant presumptions.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

Colorado Week in Review: 3/15/19

Your deliberately oversimplified glance at what happened in Colorado this week.

Erin Martinez: Where The GOP’s Demonization Breaks Down

Erin Martinez, with her husband Mark who died in the April 2017 Firestone home explosion.

A story in the Colorado Sun by veteran local political reporter Jesse Paul takes an in-depth look at the role of one woman in the ongoing passage of Senate Bill 19-181, legislation to grant more local control over oil and gas drilling decisions as well as changing the mission of state regulators to protect public safety over “fostering” a for-profit industry. Erin Martinez was nearly killed inside her home in the gaspatch town of Firestone in Weld County after an uncapped flowline leading to a disused well owned by Anadarko Petroleum filled underground spaces in the home with odorless raw natural gas. The resulting explosion killed Martinez’s husband and brother while leaving Erin Martinez herself with serious injuries.

The experience, as Jesse Paul reports, turned Erin Martinez into an activist with nobody’s prodding:

“I’m not being exploited,” she said. “I asked to be involved.”

With her life upended by the force of the blast that lifted her family’s home off its foundation and rearranged it into a fiery pile of debris, Martinez told her mother during her recovery that she wasn’t going to let another family go through what happened to her. That launched her on a journey that recently became public and is loudly making its way through the Colorado General Assembly…

“I think it’s important for people to understand that Sen. Fenberg and the governor and the Democrats, they didn’t come to me and ask me to get involved and use my story,” she said. “I came to them. I reached out and I said that I wanted to get involved and that I didn’t want to be behind the scenes.” [Pols emphasis]

While Senate Bill 19-181 does not specifically address the issue of abandoned wells and encroaching new development, the bill’s change of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) mission to prioritize public safety represents a systemic shift leading to better diligence by regulators and producers alike–all of which will help ensure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again.

Politically, there’s no question that Erin Martinez’s support and public advocacy on the issue has made it much more difficult for the oil and gas industry and their Republican champions in the legislature to employ their usual demeaning stereotypes about their opponents. Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin, the two men killed in the April 2017 Firestone home explosion, both worked in the oil and gas industry like so many of their neighbors in Weld County. Martinez makes it clear that she doesn’t want the industry destroyed any more than she would have wanted her own husband to lose his job. Martinez and the tragedy she experienced refocus the questions about regulating oil and gas drilling in Colorado where they belong: away from political caricatures, and back to what our priorities should be as a society.

And that gives Erin Martinez a voice louder than a thousand paid protesters.

Get More Smarter on Friday (March 15)

Happy early St. Patrick’s Day. 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…

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is in a very bad place, politically-speaking, after his inexplicable vote on Thursday to oppose a Senate measure (which passed anyway) condemning President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for wall building money. Gardner’s decision so incensed the Denver Post editorial board that the newspaper essentially retracted its 2014 endorsement of his Senate candidacy:

Yowza!

 

As the New York Times reports, President Trump made a number of calls to Republican Senators in hopes of persuading them to vote “NO” on the resolution. Was Gardner among those who received a personal call? As one Republican donor told Politico, “Beware the fury of Trump.”

 

► On Wednesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted on a resolution encouraging the full public release of the final report from special investigator Robert Mueller. Nationwide polling has consistently shown that Americans want to see the full report, and a new Colorado poll echoes that sentiment. From the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Public Policy Polling — on behalf of left-leaners ProgressNow Colorado and Protect the Investigation —surveyed 543 registered Colorado voters between March 7 and March 8.

According to a press release about the poll, 77 percent of voters expect “a full, public report” on the investigation’s findings. The Justice Department, under President Trump, will determine how much of the report is submitted to Congress and, by association, the public.

The liberal groups said the poll indicated 57 percent “believe that the Special Counsel investigation has already uncovered crimes by associates close to Donald Trump.”

 

► So-called “red flag” legislation makes its way to the State Senate today after passing the House last week. Meanwhile, Governor Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser are speaking out against pressure from right-wing Republicans to encourage individual counties in Colorado to just refuse to enforce an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO).

 

►  The Joint Budget Committee gets a new look at Colorado’s budget numbers today, which could play a significant role in how the legislature proceeds on one of Gov. Polis’ signature issues of offering free full-day Kindergarten in Colorado.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Neville: “They love to primary anyone who likes to stand for liberty and conservative ideals”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock)

Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland broke news this week that moderate Colorado Republicans are launching a new organization, Friends for the Future, to try to elect more moderate Republicans in Colorado and appeal to Unaffiliated voters.

Birkeland reports that the effort could be at odds with the strategy of House Republican Leader Patrick Neville. who’s been accused of backing candidates who are so conservative as to be unelectable. Birkeland:

Still reeling from historic losses that put Democrats in charge of Colorado’s government, a group of current and former Republican state lawmakers say it’s time for a different strategy. They created a new organization to recruit and train more moderate candidates. The aim is to appeal to a broader swath of voters, especially the state’s growing segment of unaffiliated voters…

Rep. Lois Landgraf of Colorado Springs and former state lawmakers Dan Thurlow and Polly Lawrence are behind the new independent expenditure committee, Friends for the Future, which they formed in December.

“For us to get clobbered across the state, it’s just not acceptable,” Landgraf said. “And we sat back and said, ‘who’s doing any of this stuff? You know, what’s your party doing?’ We were not happy the way the various elections were run, the campaigns were run. We weren’t happy with any aspect of what went on in this last election.”

Neville didn’t respond to a request for comment from Birkeland, but he answered questions about Friends for the Future on KNUS 710-AM this morning.

The Castle Rock Republicans thinks Friend for the Future will try to use primary elections to oust conservative lawmakers.

“Part of it is a vendetta,” said Neville on air, when asked about Friends for the Future. “They have a vendetta against me. Part of it is, they’ve done this for years. They have a history of doing this.

“If you look at what happened in 2014 and 2016, they love to primary anyone who likes to stand for liberty and conservative ideals.”

KNUS Host Peter Boyles: The establishment [of the Republican Party] hates you as much as the progressives do? Why is that?”

Neville: You know, I don’t know if they just can’t get over the fact I actually got leadership. That might be part of it. [laughs] ..But it feels like I’m fighting a two-front battle constantly against these establishment Republicans and then the Democrats. If they could spend as much time and effort fighting the Democrats as they do myself and other conservatives, we’d be in a lot better place in Colorado.

“We have some folks who think we should be more like Democrats and that will get us wins,” said Neville on air. “I think quite the opposite. I think we need to paint a clear contrast and actually show what we stand for and not just say, ‘We’re for less higher taxes than the Democrats.’ No… Let’s fight against tax increases. They’re coming.”

Neville did not mention other issues that create the divide between his conservative wing of the party and the moderates, but in an interview with KHOW’s Dan Caplis yesterday, former GOP lawmaker Lawrence emphasized that Republicans should be flexible on the issues, including abortion, so that GOP candidates can espouse positions that reflect their districts.

RELATED: Why Can’t Republicans Win in Colorado? Bad Election Campaign Tactics? Or Bad on the Issues that Matter Most?

“A lot of these folks sit around and figure out what their principles are by the latest poll numbers,” said Neville, referring to the leaders of Friends for the Future. “But you can’t do that. Sometimes you have to look at things with common sense.”

Friday Open Thread

“Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them.”

–John C. Maxwell

Denver Post Retracts Endorsement of Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

In October of 2014, the Denver Post delivered its much-anticipated endorsement in the red-hot U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger Rep. Cory Gardner. The Post’s endorsement of Gardner in this race was delivered more or less on the assurance that Gardner would not represent a threat to the paper’s generally progressive editorial viewpoint, in particular abortion rights after Gardner had invested enormous time and effort living down his stridently anti-abortion record. After Gardner’s narrow win over Udall by less than two percentage points, many Democrats in Colorado took their frustration out on the Post by cancelling their subscriptions–contributing to the paper’s long and steady decline in circulation.

Today, in the wake of Gardner’s brazen about-face on support for President Donald Trump’s controversial national emergency declaration to obtain funds for a border wall without congressional approval, the Denver Post is taking the highly unusual if not unprecedented step of publicly repudiating their own 2014 endorsement of Gardner’s election. Even if you haven’t visited the Denver Post since October 14, 2014, stop what you’re doing and read this now:

We endorsed Sen. Cory Gardner in 2014 because we believed he’d be a statesman. We knew he’d be a conservative voice in Congress, to be certain, but we thought his voice would bring “fresh leadership, energy and ideas.”

We see now that was a mistake – consider this our resolution of disapproval…

Gardner was a never-Trumper in the primary who in recent months endorsed the president’s re-election campaign even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to unveil the worst of this administrations web of lies and deceit. Tuesday’s vote was the last straw.

It’s not a perfect retraction–the Post called Gardner’s innumerable votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act “defensible,” which in the context of Gardner’s years-long caterwauling about Coloradans “losing their coverage” is simply ridiculous. There’s also an attempt to defend the paper’s endorsement last year of Rep. Mike Coffman, which tells us they’re still capable of being fooled in the exact same manner that Gardner fooled them in 2014. In the end the voters of CD-6 saw through Coffman’s deceptions where the Post didn’t.

But where Gardner is concerned, if there was any doubt that the shine has come off Colorado’s most ambitious and highest-ranking remaining Republican elected official, this un-endorsement puts it to rest. Gardner isn’t just vulnerable on paper in a state trending away from Gardner’s party. Gardner’s game is personally up.

South Jeffco Tea Party Removes FB Post Saying Stapleton’s Advisors Should be Drawn & Quartered

Drawn & Quartered

It’s been a busy week both online and in real life for the South Jeffco Tea Party. On Tuesday one of its members called out the Republican establishment in no uncertain terms and tonight the group is hosting a VIP Meet & Greet followed by a public forum for state GOP party official candidates.

Embracing its anti-establishment spirit, the South JeffCo Tea Party account posted a poll on Facebook earlier this week, asking its followers which they “hold in higher regard: ‘Chlamydia’ or the ‘RNC National Committee.’

A commenter asked “Is this same RNC that ran Walker Stapleton? I’ll have to think about that.”

While one might expect a Tea Party group to pile on the criticism of an establishment candidate like Stapleton, the SJCTP instead celebrated the democratic process, saying “We Coloradans picked Walker Stapleton and there was nothing wrong with that, he’s a fair enough candidate…”

But then things got dark:

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Polis, Weiser Speak Out Against 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s governor and attorney general both stated today that sheriffs should disregard county resolutions not to enforce gun-safety laws.

The statements came as Colorado lawmakers are poised to pass “red flag” legislation allowing police to take firearms from people deemed by a judge to be dangerous to themselves or others. Most Republicans oppose the measure, while Democrats support it.

Asked about the “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions passed by over a dozen Colorado counties, Gov. Jared Polis (R-CO) told KHOW’s Ross Kaminsky:

POLIS:  “Obviously, elected sheriffs don’t choose the laws, right? I mean, they enforce the laws. I would think that there are laws that every sheriff has qualms with and wouldn’t vote for if they were a legislator or wouldn’t sign if they were governor. So, I don’t think that it’s different than any other law that a sheriff opposes. But obviously, it’s the constitutional responsibility of a sheriff to enforce the law equally and without prejudice… We have a very important third branch of government, Ross, and that’s the courts – the judicial branch.  The judicial branch definitively determines what is constitutional and what is not.  Sometimes they put a stay on a law, and it’s not enforced pending appeal.  Sometimes the law is found unconstitutional. Sometimes laws are found constitutional. I mean, so, we have a process to do that. I have faith in our democratic republic. I have faith in that process. “

For his part, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also stated today that such resolutions “cannot and do not override a valid judicial order implementing state law,” such as an order a judge might issued to confiscate a gun under the red flag law.

“Our nation and state depends on the rule of law. All law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold the rule of law,” stated Weiser, a Democrat elected in November, in a news release. “I am confident that when and if the time comes, all law enforcement officials will follow the rule of law.”

The bill’s opponents disagree, saying the red flag measures violate multiple articles of the U.S. Constitution.

Weiser pointed out that that multiple states passed red flag laws, and he believes they save lives and pass “constitutional muster.”

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BREAKING: Gardner Backs Trump, Resolution Passes Anyway

UPDATE #3: TPM’s Josh Marshall:

Gardner’s decision illustrates a core principle of Trump Republicanism. Even in cases where a vote is clearly against public opinion at home (state or district) and even in cases where it is clearly politically damaging, they almost always come around to Trump.

Why? Simple. Because even if they’re on the wrong side of a majority of their constituents, Trump will go to war over the disloyalty and kill the member of Congress with Republican partisans. Without Republican partisans no Republican can win anywhere…

It’s a tough position to be in.

—–

UPDATE #2:

—–
UPDATE: Gardner votes “NO.”

The final vote tally is 59-41 in support of the resolution.

 

—–

Will Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) stand behind President Trump today?

As CNN reports, the Trump administration is preparing for an embarrassing vote from the U.S. Senate today on the President’s “emergency declaration” for border wall money:

Three Republican senators made a last-ditch effort Wednesday night to strike a bargain with President Donald Trump and help him avoid an embarrassing defeat in the Senate over his national emergency declaration.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham phoned Trump while he was in the car on Pennsylvania Avenue to inform him that he, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse were on the way.

Graham said the group “barged” into dinner last night and he made clear that if the President would support a proposal from Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to limit the length of national emergency declarations, then it would minimize Republican defections “dramatically.”

The trio had made an unsuccessful attempt earlier in the afternoon to sit down with Trump, but White House aides said it was too late and didn’t see the point in bringing them over. Trump had already told staff he was resigned to issuing his first veto after it became clear that enough Republicans will support the measure to overturn the declaration.

According to CNN, the White House expects as many as 14 Republican Senators to support the bill (the House has already approved the measure), which President Trump has promised to veto. Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee announced this morning that they would oppose Trump’s fake emergency.

We still don’t know what Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) plans to do today after weeks of cringeworthy waffling on the proposal. It was one month ago to the day that Gardner told Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio that he had personally advised Trump against the “emergency declaration”; Trump went ahead and signed the order that same afternoon, and Gardner quickly began backpedaling on his opposition.

Most Americans disagree with Trump’s “emergency,” but Gardner has shown an unusual (for him) level of loyalty to Trump in recent months (see: Wednesday’s weird vote to stand with Trump on American involvement in Yemen’s civil war). Gardner could support the measure to rebuke Trump on his emergency declaration, which would align with the thinking of Colorado voters in general, though that would make weeks of waffling seem especially pointless.

In the end, Gardner may be too terrified of Trump (and his rabid base) to do anything other than line up behind the big orange guy. One way or the other, it’s about time for Gardner to rip off this band-aid.

Gardner Votes To Let Saudis Keep Bombing Yemen

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports:

Colorado’s U.S. senators split Wednesday over whether to end America’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war.

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat considering running for president in 2020, voted in favor of a resolution ending assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Yuma Republican, voted against the resolution, which passed the Senate 54-46…

After Democrats took control this year, the House passed a similar measure in February, with only one Colorado member, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, opposed to the resolution. Two other Colorado Republicans, Reps. Scott Tipton of Cortez and Ken Buck of Windsor, joined all four Colorado Democrats in support of that resolution.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

First of all, it’s universally expected that President Donald Trump will veto this resolution once it reaches his desk, and based on the vote in the Senate there aren’t enough votes to overturn that veto. But two factors combine to make this a morally questionable position for Sen. Cory Gardner to take–the growing condemnation of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, and anger over the role of the Saudi crown prince and government in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Like so many other hot-button issues Gardner has tried to have it both ways on relations with Saudi Arabia, claiming support for an investigation into Khashoggi’s death but unwilling to back up that concern with criticism of Saudi Arabia that might jeopardize relations with our “key ally”–let alone votes that might actually motivate the Saudis to be more forthcoming, like voting to end support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

It looks like once again the action to match Sen. Gardner’s lip service will have to wait for another day.