Text from a press release going out momentarily:
The owners of the Colorado Springs Independent, the Pikes Peak region’s largest locally owned media company, will acquire the Colorado Springs Business Journal on June 1, 2012 from the Dolan Company, a national media conglomerate that owns more than 50 publications across the U.S.
The new owners also will apply to service Dolan’s contract publishing of three local military newspapers: the Fort Carson Mountaineer, Peterson (Air Force Base) Space Observer and Schriever (AFB) Sentinel. More than 68,000 local adults read these publications in print, and thousands more via their popular web portals. (see below)
“Local decision-makers with long-term commitments to — and understanding of — our vibrant community are the key to success,” says John Weiss, publisher of the Independent and majority owner of the purchasing group.
“During the next three to six months, to ensure a smooth transition from national to local control, the Independent’s Executive Editor Ralph Routon and CEO Fran Zankowski will divide their time between both organizations. For the time being, former City Councilor John Hazlehurst will also report and opine for both the CSBJ and the Indy."
“We’re looking forward to making the Business Journal a stronger, more essential presence,” says Routon, whose local newspaper roots date to 1977. “Business is the most powerful force shaping the Pikes Peak region.
My mission is to ensure the Business Journal continues to provide timely, accurate and insightful reporting of critical interest to local decision-makers.”
“The current staff at CSBJ and the military papers is rock-solid,” said Zankowski, a longtime newspaper executive who has been at the Independent since 2005. “In the coming months and years we anticipate growing the current 20-person staff to publish even stronger print and online offerings.”
“We are psyched,” added Weiss, who co-founded the Independent 19 years ago. The 1978 Colorado College graduate continued, “Six months from now the CSBJ will be even more of a must-read for everyone interested in understanding the entrepreneurial, civic and demographic forces impacting local business decisions.”
Find out more about the change in Wednesday's Indy.
There's a few things happening on the oil and gas drilling front, so here's the update:
Business students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs are ready to unveil their findings about whether drilling will be good or bad for El Paso County.
The study, conducted by 25 master's level business students, will be released at 4:45 p.m. Friday in Dwire Hall 121 on the UCCS campus, the university said in a press release. The meeting is open to the public and parking is free.
The comprehensive project researched environmental impact, economic impact, and oil and gas profitability in the county.
“Successful energy exploration and development could create hundreds of well-paying jobs, diversify the tax base, and increase local GDP by as much as 5 percent,” Fred Crowley, senior instructor, College of Business, and associate director of the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, said Crowley said oil and gas exploration could provide a more than $1 billion boost to the local economy. “The challenge for us is, how do we capture those jobs and incomes plus the jobs and incomes of the related service industries that don’t even exist here yet?” Crowley said.
The students have invited public and private decision makers to the presentation in the hope that their research will aid in the decision making process as local governments and business organizations grapple with policymaking related to the emergence of this industry.
Meantime, Vermont last week became the first state in the nation to ban hydraulic fracturing, the use of water, sand and chemicals to break open oil and gas deposits so they can be more economically extracted. More on that is here.
In a related matter, Mary Talbott, a local resident who has remained ever vigilant to new developments in the oil and gas industry, sends us this link about companies writing deals with residents that contain non-disclosure agreements. See that story on truth-out.org here
Here's an excerpt from that story, which also reports that the environmental group Earthjustice contends some of these secret agreements have been made in Colorado.
Besides air emissions standards recently introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency, fracking remains largely unregulated by the federal government and has been linked to earthquakes and air and water contamination across the country. Fracking companies disclose some of the chemicals used in fracking fluid, but others - and their concentrations - are often exempt from disclosure because they are considered trade secrets. Other exemptions buried in state and federal law allow drillers to avoid disclosing contents of fracking fluids after they return from deep underground.
Dr. Jerome Paulson, a physician and director of Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment, said that the fracking industry has told the public that the drilling procedure is safe, so there is no reason to hide information on health impacts from public view. Nondisclosure agreements with private landowners and disclosure exemptions, Paulson said, are preventing doctors from doing their jobs and protecting the public.
"How do we provide appropriate treatment recommendations to who are ill?" Paulson asked during a press conference last week. "For the population of individuals who are healthy, how do we provide prevention recommendations when we don't have the information?"
Lastly, the Western Energy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group for the drilling industry, is upbeat about a new study "which highlights the adverse impacts of public lands policies on jobs, investment, and state revenue."
Economic Impacts of Oil & Gas Development on Federal lands in the West, prepared by SWCA Environmental Consultants, details the huge economic impact of 22 oil and natural gas projects proposed in the West. Collectively, these projects could create 120,905 jobs, $8 billion in wages, $27.5 billion in economic activity, and $139 million in government revenue every year. The total economic impact of these 22 projects over their anticipated 10-15 year lifespan is $383.5 billion.
In the federal oil and natural gas process, companies are responsible for proposing projects, and the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service is responsible for completing the environmental analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Development, and the resulting jobs and economic growth, cannot proceed until the government completes the NEPA analysis.
“Government delays during the environmental analysis phase are preventing significant job creation and economic activity,” said Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs. “If we look at projects outstanding for three years, which represent about 1,631 wells per year, we see that federal government delays are preventing the creation of 64,805 jobs, $4.3 billion in wages, and $14.9 billion in economic impact every year.
“Our members, especially the small independent businesses who are the backbone of the western economy, know first-hand how difficult it is to operate on public lands. Federal policies discourage domestic oil and natural gas production, and put the West at a disadvantage compared to other regions of the country without a preponderance of public lands. This study provides hard evidence of how bureaucratic delays are adversely affecting small businesses and working families,” said Sgamma.
If it could happen in Portland, why couldn't it happen in Colorado Springs?
That has been the underlying theme this week as about 50 people from the Colorado Springs area — split fairly evenly among business, nonprofit and governmental leaders — have spent the past two days in Portland, Ore., learning as much as they can about the Rose City’s transformation over the past two decades.
The probing and analyzing aren’t finished, with one more full day ahead Wednesday before the 2012 Regional Leaders Trip concludes.
Obviously, it’s unrealistic to expect that Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region could emulate every aspect of what has taken place in Portland, if only because of the population and geographical differences.
While the Springs’ metro area has a little more than 600,000 people, Portland’s three-county market adds up to about 2.3 million residents. Portland also has major rivers, making it a major port not far from the Pacific Ocean, and its thriving downtown Portland State University has nearly 30,000 students, three times the size of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Still, it’s easy to see how Colorado Springs might draw from some of Portland’s other major changes since the early 1990s. That’s particularly true in efforts to revitalize, and even remake, the downtown area, with a priority of public transportation (streetcars and light rail in addition to buses) as well as creative approaches to urban-area housing.
Several of Portland’s leaders also have talked about some of the attributes that Colorado Springs and their city have in common, such as desirable living environments and natural beauty that are attractive to visitors, businesses and potential new residents.
Springs Mayor Steve Bach didn’t make this trip, but he spoke by video connection to the group Tuesday morning, asking everyone to look into how Portland’s city government has helped stimulate business development, as well as how public-private partnerships have helped get things done.
Bach admitted that “we don’t have the financial resources” to solve every problem, especially with increasingly dire infrastructure needs (roads and bridges). But he said that he will be coming to the City Council and Board of County Commissioners “in the next month or two” with fresh ideas about how to share services and save money.
The contingent in Portland includes four City Council members (Jan Martin, Val Snider, Brandy Williams and Lisa Czelatdko) and two county commissioners (Amy Lathen and Peggy Littleton), as well as County Administrator Jeff Greene and Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder.
The fourth annual trip (earlier groups went to Austin, Charlotte and Oklahoma City) is organized by the Center for Regional Advancement, an arm of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC. The trip’s published objective is the “look at the commonalities” between the Pikes Peak region and Portland, “searching for innovative ideas and effective partnerships that will drive more economic success.”
But take heart, friends, for there are more than 3,000 like-minded seekers out there who’ve posted their profiles on Survivalist Singles, a dating website that promises you don’t have to face the future — what’s left of it — alone.
While there appears to be no way to sort members geographically (at least not without signing up, which I’m a little reluctant to do), even a casual scroll through their profiles quickly turns up a few Coloradans.
Like, for instance, Chainsaw.
Granted, the name may seem off-putting, but based on her profile page, Chainsaw is an attractive 46-year-old Denver woman who is spiritual but not religious; speaks English, Italian and Spanish; likes nothing better than a quick-witted comeback; goes to Bronco games, museums, art galleries, dancing, and is always up for new adventures.
Chainsaw's favorite food is chocolate. Her favorite color is camo.
“I've been planning and preparing with friends in the mountains for years now,” she writes. “Just found out about this site not long ago, I'm hoping to meet other local preppers, looking for a like-minded man. Drop me a line if that might be you. ;) ”
Chainsaw's winky face, I’m guessing, is meant flirtatiously. Unless, you know, it’s code for something I'm better off not knowing about.
On a related note, Indy Culture Editor Matt Schniper made me promise to include a link to his award-winning story on a local survivalist food manufacturer.
And finally, here’s a real-life preview of the romantic future that awaits you, along with a trailer from the classic dooms-dating flick, Miracle Mile.
Looks like things might work out without the city getting tough with Ultra Resources to gain access to 8,300 acres of Ultra land.
Doug Selvius, vice president of exploration for Ultra Resources' parent Ultra Petroleum, says the company is working with the city to reach some kind of agreeable plan, hopefully by Thursday.
"We should have all of our issues, which are relatively minor, ironed out by then," he says in an e-mail.
And, shame on us, we were wrong about this acreage not being in the city. All six parcels at issue lie within the city limits, assessor records show. The land is taxed as agricultural land based on usage of the property, regardless of how it's zoned. In this case, the land that's part of the Banning Lewis Ranch on the city's eastern side is zoned under a master plan that contains a mix of residential and commercial zoning.
————— ORIGINAL POST MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2:27 P.M. —————
The city is already in court with Ultra Resources over the annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch, a good portion of which Ultra bought last year as an oil-drilling play.
Now, the city is getting ready to take the Houston company to court on something entirely different.
Ultra Resources has refused to allow Colorado Springs Utilities access to roughly 8,300 acres it owns east and southeast of Colorado Springs so engineers can design the Southern Delivery System pipeline that will bring water from Pueblo Dam. Those acres apparently lie in the path of the pipeline and its components.
Tomorrow, City Council is set to give Utilities approval to seek "court intervention" to gain access to the land in order to "design and permit a portion of the Southern Delivery System (SDS) pipeline," Utilities CEO Jerry Forte says in an memo to City Councilors, who sit as the Utility Board.
which are outside Springs city limits (see above), are described as grazing land and are zoned agriculture, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office. Ultra acquired 18,000 acres on the city's east side last year to drill for oil. The city has a drilling moratorium in place until the end of next month as the city attempts to write oil and gas drilling regulations.
Forte also says in his memo:
All six properties are owned by one entity and they have been notified a number of times over the last six months via phone calls, email, letters and in-person meetings that SDS needs access to the properties to gather critical data required for advancing design and permitting for components of the SDS project. The access agreement does not allow SDS to install permanent improvements on the property. The majority of hte [sic] access activities will be confined to the surface of the land and any limited sub-surface disturbance will be restored to its previous condition, or better.
To date, the property owner's representative has stated that they do not wish to hinder the progress of SDS, but have not granted access to the necessary properties thus far. The owner's representative has not provided justification for the delay in allowing access. Additionally, staff has communicated to the property owner's representative that we are open to negotiate on the language contained in the standard SDS Right of Entry agreement to meet their criteria, yet we have not received proposed changes to the language to date.
"We are in ongoing discussions with them and our hope is that we can get to agreement on it," Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel says. "All we're asking is for access so we can do geotechnical work." Utilities wants to locate part of the pipeline and the northernmost pump station on Ultra land, she says.
"Once you get to a certain point, it starts to cost money," she says of delays caused by Ultra's refusal to cooperate. "We're just trying to have that option to take this to court if needed, but again, we're hopeful we'll reach agreement with them. We've even offered that they can adjust the language in our standard agreement. We're willing to work with them in putting any more specific language in the agreement that would make them more comfortable and make sure we're not impacting their operations with anything we're trying to do."
The hassle in bankruptcy court over the annexation agreement pits Ultra, which wants the agreement set aside so the property could be rezoned agriculture to allow drilling, against the city, which wants to keep the master plan for homes and businesses in place.
Utilities has been consistently successful in court over acquisition of land for SDS. If Utilities has hit a snag over merely entering Ultra's property for design and engineering purposes, imagine the fight if the city has to condemn Ultra property. Condemnation is a public taking of private property for a public purpose. Any attempt to acquire land would come later, Rummel says.
From the land of wheat and the Wizard of Oz comes help from the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, Kan., in helping the Springs-based Space Foundation get its visitors center project off to a good start.
The Cosmosphere is loaning a collection of 1970s-era Soviet space artifacts, which will be displayed at its headquarters at 4425 Arrowswest Drive.
Since the foundation moved last year into the building, it's been gradually settling in and has a generous amount of space to dedicate to a visitors center and museum.
The Russian items will be on display for three years starting Aug. 1, after making an appearance at the National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor, which closed on Thursday.
On display will be one of the few Lunokhod lunar rovers ever to be displayed outside of the former Soviet Union; a half-scale model, constructed in the Soviet Union, of the Luna 16 Robotic Probe, the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth, and a prototype of a Sokol (Falcon) Space Suit-K, a pressure suit that was used for on-ground engineering and thermal vacuum tests during Soviet cosmonaut training.
The foundation said in a press release:
"Initially, we will place these three extraordinary artifacts, which the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center has so generously loaned to us, in our extended lobby area," said Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham. "Then, we'll move them into the El Pomar Space Gallery, as part of the first phase of development of our visitors center.
"We're particularly excited because these artifacts represent a rich part of space history that few Americans have been exposed to," he continued. "We are very pleased to be able to display some of the meaningful contributions the Soviet Union made to space exploration."
The Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center is a museum and educational facility in Hutchinson, Kan., that displays and restores spaceflight artifacts and offers educational programs and camps. It is one of only three museums to display flown spacecraft from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, and it has the second-largest collection of flown Soviet and U.S. space artifacts in the world. In addition to being a destination, the Cosmosphere also sponsors traveling exhibits and loans artifacts to other museums and organizations. For more information, go to www.cosmo.org.
"These artifacts on display in our booth at the National Space Symposium are exemplary of the unique and inspiring collection accumulated during our 50-year history and housed at the Kansas Cosmosphere," said Richard Hollowell, interim president & CEO of the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center. "We are excited to continue our mission of honoring the past and inspiring the future of space exploration by sharing these fascinating artifacts with visitors to the Space Foundation through an annually renewable three-year loan agreement.
In a related development, industry leader Northrop Grumman Corp. has donated $375,000 to create a science center and teaching lab at the Space Foundation's headquarters.
The press release explains:
To be known as the Northrop Grumman Science Center, the facility will include a Science on a Sphere™ laboratory and a teaching facility that will be used for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs for teachers and students and for community education outreach efforts.
The Northrop Grumman Science Center is the first major component of the Space Foundation's visitors center, which is under development at 4425 Arrowswest Drive in Colorado Springs, Colo. Construction will begin immediately and the new center is expected to open as early as this fall.
"This generous gift from Northrop Grumman makes it possible for the Space Foundation to realize our vision of an interactive destination for formal and informal public and private education - advancing STEM in the exciting context of space exploration, development and utilization," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. "We envision a facility where children and adults can participate in highly interactive learning opportunities in multiple disciplines, including astronomy, physics, mathematics, geography, environmental sciences, planetary sciences and biology."
The Northrop Grumman Science Center will have both lecture and laboratory facilities that can be used for pre-kindergarten through graduate-level courses, educator professional development and educational multimedia events and presentations for the general public.
"Northrop Grumman is honored to partner with the Space Foundation to create this exciting new educational facility for the Rocky Mountain region that will help lead the next generation into space," said Gary Ervin, a corporate vice president of Northrop Grumman and president of the company's Aerospace Systems sector. "STEM education initiatives like this are critical for today's children to become tomorrow's leaders in space. They are the future stewards of our nation's leadership in technology to keep both our economy strong and our residents secure while advancing our understanding of the world around us."
The Center will extend the reach and capabilities of the Space Foundation's education enterprise, which offers space-themed, standards-based education programs to teachers and students. Programs include Space Across the Curriculum teacher professional development courses, STARS science enrichment programs for schools, New Horizons community programs that combine school-based education programs with community events and lectures, Audience with an Astronaut sessions for schools, school and youth tours of major space industry exhibits, including those at the National Space Symposium, lesson plans and teaching resources and a NASA Educator Resource Center.
The 28th National Space Symposium opened last night to a full house as the Colorado Springs Philharmonic played, what else?, music from Apollo 13 and selections from Horst's The Planets, ending with "Mars, the Bringer of War.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, science superstar, and currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, was on hand, along with the Space Foundation's CEO Elliot Pulham, to hand out four awards to people who are advancing humankind's reach into the universe. More on those folks is below.
I sat next to Bill Scott, former Air Force flight test engineer and Aviation Week writer, who will sign his books, Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III and Counterspace, from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday in the exhibition center pavilion.
After the opening ceremonies, Bill and I took a stroll through the exhibition areas, much expanded from past years, and were greeted by this little fella, Sprockit the Robot.
We also ran into a few local dignitaries who were taking in the exhibits, including Councilman Tim Leigh and El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.
And then we got really lucky. We stumbled onto DeGrasse Tyson. I had been instructed by my sister to do everything humanly possible to get his autograph. My nephew's girlfriend, Natalie Gosnell, is a PhD candidate in astrophysics at the University of Wisconsin and a DeGrasse Tyson admirer.
The author and host of TV show Cosmos graciously whipped out his fountain pen from its leather sheath, and penned, "To Natalie, the universe beckons." DeGrasse signs his book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the pavilion.
But geez, there sure were a lot of people. Pulham tells us more than 9,000 people will attend the symposium through the week. The first symposium drew only 247 attendees. This year, there are more volunteers than that, 340, helping the foundation with the symposium.
The symposium also drew the old standby protesters, who show up outside the International Center every year to remind people of how some of the marvels of space are deployed.
The foundation honored the following contributors to the advancement in space. Descriptions of the winners are provided by the foundation:
Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award: Dr. Cynthia D. Waters is director of aviation for The Aviation Academy at T.W. Andrews High School in High Point, N.C. She is an educator, FAA commercial pilot, flight instructor and member of the North Carolina Airport Economic Development Alliance. Waters uses her experience and contacts to provide the Academy's 140 students with career development opportunities in aviation, engineering and aerospace.
John L. "Jack" Swigert Jr. Award for Space Exploration: The NASA Kepler Mission is being recognized for the discovery of 61 confirmed extrasolar planets and over 2,300 planet candidates in the first 16 months of observations from May 2009 to September 2010. The Kepler Mission findings contain well over 200 Earth-size planet candidates and more than 900 that are smaller than twice Earth-size. Of the 46 planet candidates found in the habitable zone, the region in the planetary system where liquid water could exist, ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size. The cumulative catalog includes: 246 Earth-size, 676 super Earth-size, 1,118 Neptune-size, 210 Jupiter-size and 71 candidates that are larger than twice the size of Jupiter.
Space Achievement Award: Junichiro Kawaguchi, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), who was program director, Lunar & Planetary Exploration Program Group for JAXA, is being lauded for his engagement in planetary robotic exploration, science and technology since the late 1970s, including development and advancement of a series of orbital maneuvering technologies applied to planetary missions.
Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award: The NASA Social Media Team has been selected as the winner of the Space Foundation's Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award, which is presented annually to an individual, team or organization that has made significant contributions to public awareness of, and support for, space programs. "The NASA Social Media Team has been selected for this distinctive honor for creative and pioneering use of social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, actively engaging millions of people around the world, and even in orbit, in the exciting missions of discovery that continue to be pioneered by America's space agency," Pulham says in a news release.
Stephannie Finley is leaving her job at the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC as president of governmental affairs and public policy.
Although no official announcement has been made, and we've not been able to reach Finley to confirm, she apparently is telling people she's accepted a job at University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Not surprising, considering she's worked with Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak before.
Here's her background, as outlined on the Chamber's website:
Stephannie Finley began her career working for a small business that brokered and distributed goods to military commissaries, including Peterson AFB, the United States Air Force Academy and Ft. Carson. After Midwest Food Distributors was sold, Stephannie entered the world of politics. She has an extensive background working with many levels of government, including most recently the executive branch in Governor Bill Owens’ Administration as Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Jane Norton. One of the most exciting experiences was serving on the Presidential Advance Team for the White House in the early 90s.
Stephannie served as a staff member for the Colorado General Assembly, chief of staff for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, worked at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as Assistant Director, and was the Director of State Government Relations for the University of Colorado before joining the Lieutenant Governor as her chief of staff. Stephannie was caught up in the excitement of Colorado Springs’ dynamic advancement when she worked with Chancellor (Pam) Shockley (Zalabak) and the UCCS team for almost two years. She witnessed firsthand how the University’s leadership was moving the campus forward through an impressive and effective partnership with the community. Through that interaction, she agreed to join the Colorado Springs Chamber in February of 2006.
Stephannie serves on the School Board of Directors for Hope Online Learning Academy, is on the Board of the Colorado Springs Conservatory and is the co-lead of Citizens for Effective Government. Stephannie was selected to be the co-lead on the City’s Fiscal Sustainability Committee’s City Services Subcommittee and is on the planning team for the Chancellor’s Women’s Leadership Symposium. She was recently chosen by the Colorado Springs Business Journal as one of ten 2008 “Women of Influence” and recently received an award from the City of Colorado Springs for leadership in addressing fiscal sustainability. Stephannie just graduated from the 2009 Colorado Springs Leadership Institute program, where she was chosen by her peers to be Class Representative. She also served in the past as a member of the Board for the Colorado Suicide Prevention Advisory Council and the Colorado Mental Health Board.
The announcement promises free barbecue, live music and activities for all ages. "If you've leased panels in the Venetucci Garden, be sure to find one of our volunteer tour guides so that you can 'meet and greet' your panels for the first time!" the release says.
Attendees also can help plant the spring onion crop with the Venetucci farmers.
To get there on Interstate 25 going south, take the South Academy Boulevard Exit 135, go east for ½ mile and take the exit for Highway 85 toward Fountain. Then turn right on Highway 85 and go 0.9 mile. The farm is on the right.
But you must register to attend. Do that here.
ExxonMobil shareholders will get a crack at a resolution calling for the energy giant to report financial impact on shareholders of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, thanks to an effort by As You Sow, a nonprofit that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy.
The organization has submitted a similar resolution for consideration by shareholders of Ultra Petroleum, owner of Ultra Resources, which is the dominant player in the oil and gas scene in El Paso County. So far, the resolution hasn't been adopted by Ultra's shareholders, but As You Sow keeps trying, as we previously reported.
Passoff tells us by phone today that Ultra and ExxonMobil are the only companies that are giving the brush-off to shareholders who care about these issues.
Ultra officials bragged to the city Oil and Gas Committee last month that the company complies with environmental regulations and posts fracking fluids on fracfocus.org.
Ultra controls drilling rights on 137,000 acres of El Paso County, including 18,000 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch within the city on the east side.
Here's the news release about its recent successful effort:
Just eight weeks before ExxonMobil's annual shareholder meeting, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sided with investors in their battle to address concerns about the energy giant's hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") operations. The shareholder resolution asks ExxonMobil to issue a report on the financial impact to shareowners from the regulatory and community impacts associated with the controversial practice of fracking. On March 28th the SEC rejected ExxonMobil’s request to omit the resolution from its proxy, clearing the path for a vote on the proposal at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 30th.
"Community opposition to fracking has grown significantly in recent years, leading to bans, moratoriums, and increased regulatory scrutiny," said Michael Passoff, Senior Strategist at As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy nonprofit that filed the resolution on behalf of the Park Foundation. "Investors need companies to disclose how they are managing these wide-ranging risks."
In response to the shareholder proposal, ExxonMobil argued to the SEC that it had substantially implemented the requests shareholders laid out in their resolution. Deeper research revealed a large gap between information shareholders requested and what ExxonMobil disclosed. According to As You Sow's attorney, Sanford J. Lewis, "ExxonMobil has provided fragmentary and incomplete information on some of the community concerns, does not disclose government enforcement actions as requested by the proposal, and has disclosed far too little analysis useful to investors on the short- and long- term risks posed by these developments."
For example, ExxonMobil's existing reporting focuses heavily on community opposition it faced in just a single town, Southlake, Texas. In actuality, more than 70 towns or cities and at least three states and four countries - including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Germany, France, Bulgaria, and South Africa - have enacted bans or moratoriums on fracking which can limit drilling operations and materially impact investors' holdings. The company's existing reporting failed to detail where these wide-ranging developments may affects its operations.
The environmental and public health concerns from fracking center around the toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid and the disposal of wastewater; these two critical issues could have significant financial implications for the companies involved, and are contributing to increased regulatory scrutiny. ExxonMobil asserted to the SEC that it had no hydraulic fracturing-related environmental violations. It made this claim by limiting reportable violations to activities detectable deep underground, ignoring impacts occurring near the surface. In fact, in Pennsylvania alone, 156 notices of violations related to natural gas extraction operations where fracking is underway were issued to ExxonMobil or its recently acquired subsidiary, XTO, between 2010 and 2011.
The resolution also asks the company to identify risks to operations or expansion related to water supply limitations. While the company touts its recycling efforts in the Marcellus Shale, in reality its efforts are comparatively minimal. Less than 0.2% of its fluid wastes including drilling, fracking, and produced water from Pennsylvania is recycled by the company, whereas other companies are recycling more than 90% of their wastes.
"Fracking is a major issue of concern for investors and the public," says Jon Jensen, Executive Director of the Park Foundation. "It is critical that we understand how companies are managing the risks to human health and the environment of communities where they operate. As the nation's largest natural gas producer, ExxonMobil needs to set the standard for disclosure on its gas exploration practices and development of safe technology."
Fracking resolutions have received significant support from shareholders since they were first filed in 2010. Last year, the average vote for proposals related to fracking was 40%, which is double the average support for a shareholder vote on environmental or social risks.* Over 15 companies have faced similar resolutions, and many have been withdrawn in exchange for company commitments to shareholders. ExxonMobil and Ultra Petroleum are industry laggards in disclosure and are the only companies to receive resolutions focused on their fracking operations for three consecutive years.
The proposal was filed by As You Sow on behalf of the Park Foundation, and was co-filed by the following investor groups: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; Unitarian Universalist Service Committee; Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas; Zevin Asset Management; First Affirmative Financial Network; and the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica. This proposal is part of an investor coalition effort coordinated by Green Century Capital Management and the Investor Environmental Health Network.
You knew it would be a guy, and it is.
Joseph Raso, currently president and CEO of the Iowa City Area Development Group, has been hired by the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC as president and CEO.
The search involved 100 candidates, and interim boss Dave Csintyan was among the final four, the Chamber and EDC said in a news release.
Says the release:
“I am extremely excited that Joe Raso will be the new President and CEO of the Chamber and EDC,” commented Chairman of the Board of The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, Doug Quimby. “Joe is a dynamic and proven leader, an out-of-the box forward thinker. He is a community-minded person who understands the importance of economic prosperity to the overall health of the community and how to achieve it through collaboration with the entire business community, government and other community stakeholders. Joe is the ideal person to lead our organization in a new era.”
“I’m honored and excited about the opportunity to work with the leadership and staff of The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC,” commented Joe Raso. “Bringing together two quality organizations only enhances the business development opportunities for the region and I look forward to my part in building an even stronger economy.” He added, “These are very exciting times in Colorado Springs and the El Paso County region and I’m honored to be given this opportunity to work with an energized board, community and staff. I look forward to partnering with all of our members and investors to build on the many assets this area has to offer existing businesses and citizens, and those skilled workers and innovative companies we will help to create, attract and grow in our market.”
The debate over oil and gas drilling in Colorado, and the environmental consequences, is heating up.
When residents started getting riled about groundwater and air pollution that could be caused by drilling, local officials started saying they wanted to be in charge, not entrust enforcement to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. El Paso County commissioners were among those wanting more latitude at the local level.
Then, Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed a special task force to study the issue, even as he posed for newspaper ads and spoke on radio ads to reassure Coloradans the state is doing its job to protect the environment from hasty hydraulic fracturing fluids seeping into the ground or into waterways — a tactic activists found over-the-top.
Now, environmental activists are again crying foul over comments Hickenlooper made to the media about spills and releases of drilling fluids, saying, "There have been a few spills.”
Quite a few, 18 environmental groups say, noting that COGCC records show there have been a statewide total of 3,966 spills and releases since 2000.
“Governor Hickenlooper needs to stop misinforming the public about the amount of drilling and fracking fluids spilled and released on Colorado’s land and water,” Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action said in a press relesase. “There are not ‘a few spills;’ there are hundreds of spills and releases every year.”
In fact, statement says, the number of spills and releases have been growing over time. In 2002, there were 193; in 2010 and 2011, nearly 500 per year.
We've asked the governor's office for a comment and will update when we hear back.
From the release:
“The public needs to know the facts about the threat that drilling and fracking poses to our communities,” said Shane Davis of the Sierra Club. “Not only are chemicals spilled and released, the majority of that chemical pollution is never recovered or cleaned up.”
An earlier detailed analysis by the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action revealed that over 40% of spills/releases reported in Weld County between 2003 and 2012 contaminated groundwater, nearly 3% contaminated surface water, and a random sample of 6% of 1,000 reports suggested that up to 1.75 million gallons of spilled/released fluids was never “recovered.” Spilled/released fluids includes “oil,” “produced water,” and “other” as reported to the COGCC.
Here's a list of the groups signing on to this press release. None is from Colorado Springs or El Paso County. In fact, we know of no groups that have formed around this issue in the Pikes Peak region, so if we've missed one, please, someone, let us know:
Clean Water Action, Fort Collins
Sierra Club — Poudre Canyon Group, Fort Collins
Western Colorado Congress of Mesa County
Sierra Club-Trappers Lake Group, Steamboat Springs
Coalition for a Clean Colorado, Affiliate groups:
Renewable Communities Alliance, Alamosa
Commerce City Unity NOW, Commerce City
Citizens for Huerfano County, La Veta
South Park Coalition, Como
Be The Change, Denver
Rifle-Silt-Peach Valley-New Castle (RSPN) Coalition, Silt
What the Frack?! Arapahoe, Aurora
Coloradoans for Fair Rates and Clean Energy (CO-force), Boulder
Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group (ECOGIG), Agate
Erie Rising, Erie
Citizens for a Healthy Community, Paonia
Routt County Frack, Steamboat Springs
With the rise in oil and gas drilling in Colorado, those interested in protecting the environment have formed a new group called Coalition for a Clean Colorado or C3.
From the announcement, which you can read in full here:
“We’re a diverse alliance, but what unites us all is a belief that clean air and water, government that is responsive to the concerns of people and communities, and a swift transition to local, clean energy resources and away from dirty, life-threatening fossil fuels, is essential for healthy communities and a livable future”, said Ceal Smith, founder of the Renewable Communities Alliance.
"Community interests often get lumped with conservation and the environment. But these interests don’t fully represent citizen concerns that encompass public health, government accountability, and energy democracy issues. The need for a Coalition that represents the grassroots was urgent", added Smith.
Some local residents who are closely watching how oil and gas drilling unfolds in El Paso County haven't joined C3 yet and have a few questions.
"I need to find out more about who is financing it, the goals and objectives, and its strategies before I decide to join," says Mary Talbott in an e-mail to us.
One part of C3's agenda is to encourage the migration from fossil fuels to clean energy, as stated in the group's announcement:
Replacing costly centralized dirty energy with efficient, affordable and democratic local clean energy is a Coalition priority. Says coalition member Shane Davis, “Natural gas is a bridge-fuel to nowhere. It only leads to increased dependency on just another dirty fossil fuel. What we need is healthy energy; Energy that is perpetually sustainable. If we want increased national security, dissolved dependency on foreign oil and gas, and a clean environment, then we need to start using our intellect and lead the world into sustainable energy independence.”
The announcement goes on to note that oil and gas drilling issues are surfacing across the state, from Weld County to Erie to Longmont to Boulder to Huerfano County, to name a few places.
El Paso County residents might be interested in C3, because Ultra Resources of Houston plans to drill on the eastern plains as well as on 18,000 acres within the city limits it acquired last year from a developer's bankruptcy. The city has declared a moratorium on drilling until the end of May.
More change is coming to the local media market: The Colorado Springs Business Journal is reporting on its website that the paper will be sold by its parent, the Dolan Company, which is headquartered in Minneapolis.
Dolan also is selling another of its properties, the Mississippi Business Journal. There was no indication in the CSBJ report about buyers, timing or selling prices. Employees apparently were told because the possible transactions would be part of Dolan's quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Dolan has owned the local weekly publication for more than two decades.
The full story is at csbj.com, but here's how it begins:
The Dolan Company has entered negotiations to sell two of its properties — the Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Mississippi Business Journal.
Executives from Dolan, a publicly traded company, are not commenting about who the buyers are, or about the selling prices of either publication. Business Journal employees were notified hours before the company filed its quarterly earnings report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Dolan owns newspapers in 21 markets.
“In 2011, management committed to a plan of action to dispose of two of our smallest-market operating units within the Business Information Division,” the filing said. “We expect the sale of these assets to occur in 2012, and as such, have classified the results of the operations — including the impairment charges and certain exit costs, as discontinued operations.”
The Fund will collect donations for 15 local organizations through May 1, with the goal of accruing 1,500 donors. One hundred percent of all donations will go towards the fund, as the operating costs have already been covered by support from the "Founders Circle": the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, the Inasmuch Foundation and the Kirkpatrick Family Fund. You cannot earmark your donation for a specific arts org, as the Fund is "designed to strengthen many arts organizations at once. The arts are highly collaborative... In short: A rising tide raises all boats."
At a morning press conference, which took place downtown at Kirkpatrick Bank (one of the Fund's business supporters), COPPeR executive director Christina McGrath spoke, as did Dave Csintyan, interim CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., who is also serving as the inaugural campaign chair.
Inside the lobby of the bank — which is gorgeously outfitted with a fantastic art collection, including seven Campbell's Soup II Portfolio screenprints from Andy Warhol as well as lithographs by Ellsworth Kelly — McGrath explained the Fund and shared one of its perks, the Peak Arts Card. The card, which individuals receive with a donation of $60 or more, is good for a full year of discounts to arts and culture events as well as restaurants.
Csintyan spoke of the "inextricable" bond between art and business, how the Fund can attract people and companies to the Springs and grow the community.
"Our community is rabidly behind where we're going," he said.
Tonight, COPPeR will host its launch party from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at CodeBaby, 111 S. Tejon St., #107, which will feature food and drink as well as live entertainment. Several members of City Council are expected to attend, as well as Mayor Steve Bach. According to McGrath, who presented the Fund to the city last week, both Council and the mayor back the project, an unusual feat these days.