Eco News

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

UPDATE: Utilities opens second compressed natural gas station

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 11:16 AM

A few hours after posting the initial blog below, we received more information from CSU regarding tomorrow's grand opening, with more specifics as to where funding came from and how the station will operate. Here's the info:

The brief program will include speakers from our partner organizations and companies which have found CNG stations to be of great value to their fleet. After the presentations, there will be a "first fuel-up" for CNG vehicles, to include Core-Mark International Inc. and Dillon Transport, followed by a reception.

The Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) awarded Colorado Springs Utilities with a $402,412 grant for the construction of the new station. The DOLA grant will supplement a $500,000 Colorado Energy Office grant awarded to the utility in September of 2014.

The first station, located next to Springs Utilities' East Service Center (ESC) at 706 Tia Juana Street, re-opened in 2014.

"The Colorado Energy Office supports Colorado Springs Utilities' leadership in encouraging natural gas as a transportation fuel choice," said Wes Maurer, transportation program manager at the Colorado Energy Office. "Through the ALT Fuels Colorado program, this station will be linked with more than 25 newly developed CNG fueling locations along major transportation corridors in Colorado, resulting in an intrastate network for CNG travel.”

Eleven companies — including School District 20, El Paso County and the Colorado Division of Wildlife support the Pinkerton station.

“There’s a need for additional fueling stations,” said Mike Allison, Springs Utilities’ Pinkerton CNG fueling station construction project manager. We’ve witnessed sales growth go from 300 gallons in 2014, to 2,736 gallons this year at the ESC station.”

Providing these stations improves regional air quality and helps our customers control fuel costs.

The fueling station will:
Accommodate up to class 8 trucks (including tractor-trailers), service vehicles and passenger cars.
Have 24/7 accessibility and security.
Have fast-fill dispensers and dual hoses.
Accept major credit cards as well as fleet fueling cards.


In November, 2014, Colorado Springs Utilities broke ground on a second compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station at its John Pinkerton Service Center off Powers Boulevard, at 7710 Durant Drive.

CSU had also reopened its first station at 706 Tia Juana St. that year, which had closed in 2010 due to under-use and a concern that the technology wasn't efficient enough at the time.

But as our reporting indicated, interest in alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) has risen in part because carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 20 to 30 percent compared to gasoline emissions. The government has taken notice, offering incentives for AFVs in the interest of improving air quality

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 10 at 10 a.m., CSU will finally celebrate the grand opening of that second CNG station with a "first fuel-up," as well as some speakers and refreshments during a reception. Feel free to attend to learn more. 

This modified truck runs on propane. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • This modified truck runs on propane.

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Beaches, boats & bikes on the Fountain Creek Watershed

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 11:04 AM

The Greenway Fund board chair Andrea Barker, of HB&A Architecture and Planning, is seeking community input for a study looking into the future of recreation opportunities along the Fountain Creek Watershed

The group will host an open house meeting from 4 to 6 p.m., Wednesday March 16 at  HB&A’s office at 102 E. Moreno Ave. Here's all the details from an invite letter:

The Greenway Fund is beginning a visioning study on future recreational opportunities within and along the creeks in our Fountain Creek Watershed. Our starting point of study is in a stretch of the Monument Creek channel from Criterium Bicycles south to Creekside at America the Beautiful Park. We are holding an open house for community and stakeholder input on Wednesday March 16th. Please come share your ideas for how Colorado Springs could begin to activate our waterways beyond our existing greenway trail, and help us identify the current barriers and obstacles that are preventing community recreation in and along the waterways.

We have titled the study: Beaches, Boats, & Bikes

Beaches because we are interested in exploring access to sandbars for possible beachball volleyball and other sand based leisure activities. What sandy play activities capture your imagination for Monument Creek?

Boats because we’d like to figure the potential for inner tube floating, kayak runs, and possibly stand up paddle boards for flat water floating. We are looking for inspiration for what our channel flows can handle and how new projects for the channel might accommodate and assist in various floatation methods.

Bikes from fat bikes on the sand bars to mountain bikes navigating single track runs up and down drop structures, our creeks may provide a variety of courses for various skill levels. The Urban Single Track Project has proven the viability of trail sections along the creek, could their routes include stretches up and down drop structures?

Have a say in how we'll play along local waterways. - COURTESY THE GREENWAY FUND
  • Courtesy The Greenway Fund
  • Have a say in how we'll play along local waterways.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lamborn: A big zero in "most anti-environmental Congress in history"

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 12:43 PM

Lamborn: A goose egg for his positions on our natural environment. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn: A goose egg for his positions on our natural environment.
As expected, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, has drawn a blank when rated by the League of Conservation Voters for his votes on environmental issues.

But, sadly, it turns out Lamborn is part of what the League in a news release calls "the most anti-environmental Congress in our history."

The 2015 Scorecard, the news release says, includes votes cast during the first session of the 114th Congress on matters of clean air, climate change, clean water, environmental regulations, wildlife, and national parks and monuments. It includes 35 votes in the House of Representatives and 25 votes in the Senate.

Here's how Colorado’s Congressional delegation fared:
- Senator Michael Bennet, 84
- Senator Cory Gardner, 16
- Congresswoman Diana DeGette, 100
- Congressman Jared Polis, 91
- Congressman Scott Tipton, 3
- Congressman Ken Buck, 3
- Congressman Doug Lamborn, 0
- Congressman Mike Coffman, 3
- Congressman Ed Perlmutter, 83
Obviously, the delegation's Democrats scored near the top, while the Republicans did poorly.

Lamborn did the worst.

It's worth nothing that during his Feb. 19 speech at a Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance luncheon, he didn't even use the words conservation or environment once. His only reference to climate came when speaking of the regulatory climate, which he said "inhibits more robust economic growth."

From a news release from Conservation Colorado:
“Coloradans across the board, led by people of color and young people, care deeply about our air, water, public lands, and wildlife,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “That’s why we thank the members of Congress who reflected our state’s values and stood up as champions for our environment. We are very disappointed by those members who voted to attack our environmental laws and recent progress to protect our environment. We expect better from those that we’ve elected to represent our state in Washington, D.C.”

"We are particularly pleased to see that both of our Senators stood up for our national parks and public lands, voting to fund our outdoor spaces and protect the president's ability to work with Colorado communities to create new national parks and monuments,” continued Maysmith. “In particular, Senator Bennet has vocally supported the Clean Power Plan, the most important step we can take to move our country towards a clean energy future. At the same time, public opinion research tells us that Coloradans prioritize clean energy resources over the dirty fuels of the past, so we urge Senator Gardner to improve his record on commonsense measures to increase clean energy and cut carbon pollution."

“The 2015 Scorecard shows that the radical leadership in the House and Senate wasted no time pursuing big polluters’ agenda last year, and their environmental assault is well underway in 2016,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski. “Fortunately, we have a growing force of environmental allies, including the president, as well as many in Congress, who are working tirelessly to combat climate change, transition to a clean energy economy and safeguard our air, water, lands and wildlife.”
Despite Lamborn's miserable rating for looking out after our finite resources on Planet Earth, he'll probably win yet another term. He recently announced his bid for a sixth two-year term, and in the heavily Republican 5th Congressional District, he's a shoo-in.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Drake emissions control "even better than expected"

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Drake Power Plant emissions technology gets a good report. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Drake Power Plant emissions technology gets a good report.
Neumann Systems Group announces that its pollution removal equipment attached to the city's Drake Power Plant has outperformed predictions.

The news release, which follows, doesn't mention the growing cost to the city of this equipment, which we covered here.

Colorado Springs, CO – February 19, 2016 - Neumann Systems Group, Inc. (NSG) today announced results of the first sulfur dioxide (SO2) removal testing of the NeuStream® desulfurization unit at the Colorado Springs Utilities’ (CSU) Martin Drake Power Plant, Unit 7. NSG CEO Dr. David K. Neumann said: “NeuStream® worked even better than expected. The very first test of the scrubber showed an ability to remove approximately 98.6% of the SO2.” As the figure below shows, the NeuStream® scrubber reduced the SO2 in the flue gas to a very small amount. Also shown on the graph is a line indicating the State of Colorado Air Quality monthly limit (.13lb/MMBTU) for SO2 emissions. As is obvious from the graph, performance of the NeuStream® Scrubber was significantly better than the air quality standard. The test data was recorded by the EPA certified and independently calibrated and maintained detection equipment mounted on the Martin Drake Unit 7 stack. Please note that the new State Air Quality limits for SO2 for Martin Drake Unit 6 and Unit 7 do not go into effect until the end of 2017. This initial test is being followed by several months of additional system start-up, load testing, parametric testing, performance optimization and full operational testing. Construction also continues on the Martin Drake Unit 6 NeuStream® scrubber with first scheduled operation during the Summer.

The first successful operation of the first NeuStream® desulfurization system is a result of the work of the dedicated and expert NSG team under the leadership and technical direction of Dr. J.P. Feve, Dr. Eric Klein and Mr. Nick Miller. Initial testing was conducted by a joint NSG/CSU team. During the past year CSU personnel have made significant contributions to bringing the system to the current point. Their contributions are in the areas of operating software development and testing, integration of equipment and software into Martin Drake, construction project management, maintenance of installed equipment and initial checkout and testing of equipment. CSU plant operators are currently being trained to take over full operation of the NeuStream® system.

Neumann Systems Group’s work for CSU is under a cost-plus-fee contract initiated in October 2011. Under NSG’s contract with CSU, a 3% fee is to be paid to CSU for NeuStream® system and service sales and a 5% fee for sales of each NeuStream system license. These fees are to be paid for a period of ten years after commencement of commercial operation of the Martin Drake NeuStream® system.

Marketing of the NeuStream® systems has been adversely affected by the cataclysmic changes in the energy and power generation industries. By the end of 2016 approximately 400 “unscrubbed” U.S. coal-burning units will be shut down. In part this is a result of the negative current administration’s policies relative to coal as a power source for the U.S. Another significant factor affecting the market for emissions control equipment is the relatively low cost and availability of natural gas. Natural gas is an alternative fuel with essentially no sulfur emissions and lower carbon dioxide emissions. Thus there is essentially no market in the U.S. for NeuStream® desulfurization systems. However, NSG is pursuing international market opportunities including ongoing negotiations with two Chinese companies for licensing and installation of the technology. The potential market as identified by one of the Chinese companies is several thousand small, coal-fired boiler systems used for power generation, heating and industrial applications. Natural gas is generally not available in China and when it is available it costs over five times the cost of coal. Therefore, no shift from coal use to natural gas use is expected in China for the foreseeable future. Additional NSG marketing and contracts for NeuStream® carbon capture equipment to several major US oil companies for use in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) have been derailed by the oversupply and precipitous drop in the price of oil. NSG continues to seek other markets for the NeuStream® technology.

NeuStream® is a disruptive “platform” technology, meaning it has potential for revolutionary impact in a wide range of product areas important to the industrial and economic well-being of the United States and the rest of the World. NeuStream® technology enables cost effective capture of pollutants including greenhouse gases from a wide variety of emission sources. It also enables the cost effective use of these captured pollutants in the production of chemicals such as fertilizers and sulfuric and nitric acids; building materials such as gypsum; rare earth and strategic metals needed for energy efficiency, electric vehicle and wind and solar applications. Additionally, the NeuStream® technology has significant potential in other areas such as increasing the efficiency of production of bio-fuels, the cost effective production of pharmaceuticals such as the anti-malarial drug Artemisinin, and CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Get your fracking facts right

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 12:54 PM

  • FILE
No drilling for oil and gas has been done in El Paso County since 2014, and only one site was fracked, according to the Board of El Paso County Commissioners.

The county sent a press release Wednesday in hopes of clarifying those points for residents, as well as one other: NextEra Energy is the company behind the controversial wind farm near Calhan. NexGen Oil and Gas is one of the companies that has drilled in the county. They are separate companies with similar names.

BoCC Report Confirms: No Oil and Gas Drilling Activity in El Paso County Since 2014

Total of Seven Test Wells Were Drilled 2011 – 2014 None Since and Fracking Was Used On Only One

El Paso County, CO., February 17, 2016 – During its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday February 16, 2016 the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) received a report indicating that it has been nearly two years since the last exploratory drilling for oil and gas was done in El Paso County.

Senior Assistant County Attorney Diana May, who is the El Paso County local government designee through the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission permitting process, reported that a total of seven test wells were drilled in the County from 2011 - 2014 and the “fracking” process was used at only one of those sites. May reported that there has been no exploration activity in the County since 2014.

The report also provided information correcting inaccurate statements made by citizens during the Citizen Comment period at recent meetings of the Board Health and the Board of County Commissioners. The inaccurate statements referred to ongoing exploration activity, including fracking and stated that this exploration activity was either sponsored or directed by the operators of the NextEra Windfarm. “The last test well in El Paso County was drilled in April of 2014,” Diana May told Commissioners. “It was a vertical well. It did not involve fracking. It was done by NexGen Oil and Gas from the Denver area. That company name may have sounded similar to Windfarm operator NextEra Energy but it’s not the same the company and there has been no drilling activity and no fracking in El Paso County for nearly two years.”

Windfarm operator NextEra Energy is a publicly traded company based in Florida. NexGen Oil and Gas is a limited liability company (LLC) based in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Meetings of the Board of County Commissioners can be viewed through live streaming at by clicking on the link in the left side column marked, Live Meetings at Centennial Hall. Commissioners meetings are replayed the following evening on Comcast channel 17, the Pikes Peak Library District Channel.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Steering green — join the Green Cities Coalition

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 11:59 AM

According to its most recent newsletter, the Green Cities Coalition is seeking new board members for 2016. Information on that will be discussed from 8 to 10 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 18 at the next steering committee meeting, happening at Seeds Community Café. 

If you're interested in attending, RSVP at

Seeds will also host the Pikes Peak Permaculture group at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25 for a "Permaculture, Transition & Green Preparedness" talk by Steve Saint. 

Here's some other action points the GCC is currently underway with:

LOCAL FOOD:  Did you know that the city’s newly updated emergency management plan does not consider how disasters like drought in other states (i.e. California) will affect our food supply? We are forming a Village Food Council in Old Colorado City and scouting for Local Food Ambassadors all over the region to promote food self-reliance. The next meeting of the Local Food Working Group will be 9 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Manitou Art Center, 513 Manitou Ave. For more information, email Megan Andreozzi at

TRANSPORTATION:  The state Legislature is considering SB11, which would pull $15 million in FASTER fees from transit and reallocate them towards “road safety projects.” Without this funding, Bustang may be threatened as well as vehicle maintenance and replacement for transit providers (Mountain Metro got $800,000 last year). To learn more or join the Community Transit Coalition, email Courtney at

ENERGY:  Through an open records request, the Energy Working Group has uncovered yet another cost increase for the Neumann Systems scrubber project at the Drake Power Plant. The forecasted cost for completion of this SO2 scrubber project is now $178,393,229 - approximately $8.4 million more than publically stated by Colorado Springs Utilities. Fraud? To learn more and join the action, email Leslie at 

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Pizzeria Rustica re-earns four-star green rating

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Mario Batali will tell you the importance of being green in a restaurant. And Pizzeria Rustica will show you exactly how it's done here in Colorado Springs. 

The outfit has once again earned a four-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association, keeping it among a short list of just over 20 restaurants in the world to achieve (and pay for) the rating. 

Proprietor Dave Brackett sent us his latest green audit from the GRA, which shows the exact breakdown of his sustainable initiatives, including names of the products he's using, from lighting to to-go wear. Take a look here:

  • Matthew Schniper

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CORRECTION: No climate change here, city official says

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 4:39 PM

Coal: a beautiful or disgusting site, depending on where you're coming from. - OATSEY40
  • Oatsey40
  • Coal: a beautiful or disgusting site, depending on where you're coming from.


Utilities Board Chairman Andy Pico is not a climate-change denier, but rather doesn't believe global warming is caused by humans. He tells via text: "The degree of climate change is questionable and the modeled predictions have failed to occur as predicted. There is a substantial body of published, peer-reviewed scientific evidence to indicate a lot of natural climate shifts in the past and predicted shifts in the future."

————————ORIGINAL POST WED., FEB. 10, 2016, 4:39 P.M.———————————————-

Word that the U.S. Supreme Court decided to stay implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan triggered commentary from both sides of the debate.

First, Colorado Springs Utilities Board Chair Andy Pico, a climate change denier, hailed the decision.

"I have been gravely concerned that the Clean Power Plan is based on a faulty scientific premise, and is avoiding the proper legislative path by being imposed through regulatory overreach," Pico told the Independent via email. "I am encouraged to see the court issue the stay based on the later point."

Pico is in a prime position to make decisions regarding use of fossil fuels, from which the city gets two-thirds or more of its power.

Agreeing with Pico but for a different reason was the IBEW. From its release:
“International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Lonnie R. Stephenson issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to halt the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations on carbon emissions:

“The Supreme Court made the right decision in freezing the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. We have said from the beginning that the agency shouldn’t be involved in formulating energy policy, but that is exactly what it’s been doing under these hastily thought out regulations on power plants and carbon emissions.

“The problem of human-made climate change is real, but these rules would have unnecessarily disrupted our power grid and cost thousands of good jobs – two things our economy can’t afford. All while having a minimal impact on global carbon emissions, putting the reliability of our power supply at great risk.

“That is why we joined with 27 states, several utilities and two other labor unions in challenging the regulations. The job of formulating energy policy belongs to Congress and Congress alone. As a nation, we desperately need leaders from both parties to step up to the plate and craft a balanced but comprehensive plan to combat global warming, increase the production of non-carbon emitting power sources like wind, solar and nuclear and increase grid reliability.

“As a union representing 725,000 energy professionals across North America, we stand ready to work with elected officials, industry leaders and regulatory agencies to make it happen.”

But the U.S. Conference of Mayors took a different stance.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision to stay the implementation of EPA's Clean Power Plan. This is a surprising ruling given the fact that the court earlier ruled that greenhouse gas emissions are considered an air pollutant and therefore subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. More importantly, this is disappointing to the thousands of cities that are already doing their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and were looking to the utilities to become partners in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, not surprisingly, Environment Colorado called the decision "a major blow" to Obama's plan to address climate change. Its release:
WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Supreme Court delivered a major blow to the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plan to tackle climate change today, announcing it will put the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan on hold while it hears lawsuits from polluters and their allies in state government who want to kill the rule. Kim Stevens, state director of Environment Colorado, issued this statement:

“While this decision is a grave disappointment, it does not overturn the Clean Power Plan. Instead the ruling pauses the plan while a lower court considers briefs and arguments on an expedited schedule. The Supreme Court has already upheld the EPA’s authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Power Plan is widely expected to prevail in the courts.

“The Clean Power Plan is the largest step the U.S. has ever taken to tackle global warming pollution, and is supported by nearly three-quarters of all Americans, including mayors, faith leaders, small businesses, and public health professionals.

“This decision is a huge loss for our kids’ future and for all Americans who care about the health of our planet, and a huge win for the polluters and the deniers. That said, I am confident this is only a temporary setback — ultimately the science, the majority will, and bold climate action will win the day.”

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Colorado ranks 5th for green building

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 8:48 AM

Arturo Vittori may not care much for what he sees as the business of LEED certifications, but still, going greener is better than doing nothing at all. 

So it's worth celebration the news as Coloradans we rank fifth in the nation (behind Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington) for LEED building according to the U.S. Green Building Council

That's news released earlier this week, and commented on by Governor John Hickenlooper here.  

Here's more info about the nod from a press release:

Washington, D.C. — (Jan 26, 2016) — Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its national ranking of the top states in the country for LEED green building and Colorado is the fifth state in the nation for 2015. The rankings come at an important time for states looking to reduce their energy use. LEED-certified spaces use less energy and water resources, save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, reduce carbon emissions and create a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

We know of much better ways to build. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • We know of much better ways to build.
“Colorado is a nationwide leader in green building and LEED certification. LEED creates jobs and increases opportunities for Colorado’s workers and businesses while contributing billions of dollars to the state’s economy,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. “LEED has become an essential standard for the transformation of building design and construction. LEED certified buildings drive economic growth, creates jobs and makes communities healthier.”

The annual ranking is developed by analyzing each state in terms of square feet of LEED certified space per state resident. Now in its sixth year, the list highlights states throughout the country that made significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and transformation throughout 2015. Colorado certified 95 projects representing 12,218,992 square feet of real estate, or 2.43 square feet per resident, in 2015.

“With a focus on health and the built environment, Coloradans are persistently blazing a trail for LEED certifications and sustainable building,” said Patti Mason, executive director, USGBC-Colorado Chapter. “Projects such as the RTD Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility, which blew past their goal of LEED Silver and achieved LEED Gold; Lionstone Gates, a multi-family low-rise consisting of 262 LEED Gold units; and school districts that strive to teach kids how to live green, showcase how the Centennial State has become a model for green building.”

In addition, data from USGBC’s 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study show LEED construction is expected to support 103,000 total jobs in Colorado and have a total impact on GDP of $9.05 billion from 2015-2018.

A few notable projects that certified in Colorado in 2015 include:

· North Colorado Springs Readiness Center, Colorado Springs, LEED Platinum
· Pueblo County Judicial Center, LEED Silver
· City of Boulder Fire Station 8, LEED Silver
· Laurel Village Residence Halls (LEED Gold) and Laurel Village Pavilion (LEED Platinum), Colorado State University
· Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility, Denver, LEED Gold

Collectively, 1,633 commercial and institutional projects became LEED certified within the Top 10 States in 2015, representing 274.9 million square feet of real estate. Worldwide, 4,837 projects were certified in 2015, representing 818.9 million square feet. Nearly 75,000 projects representing 14.4 billion square feet of space have been LEED-certified to date.

USGBC calculates the list using per-capita figures as a measure of the human element of green building. This also allows for fair comparisons among states with significant differences in population and number of buildings.

In April, the USGBC Colorado Chapter will bring together green building leaders at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Green Conference. For more information, visit

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

UPDATE: The cowardly lions — overly conservative Council delays EIRP's final hurdle, again

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 3:16 PM

This just in from the Colorado Springs Utilities board meeting, in progress now:

—— ORIGINAL POST: TUESDAY, DEC. 22, 2:43 P.M. ——

Last we checked in on Colorado Springs Utilities Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP), in late November, the Utilities Board (City Council) had just made a cautious move to adopt Portfolio D, taking the advice of its staff, which included input from the citizen-comprised Customer Advisory Group (CAG).

But the board failed to drive its wooden stake all the way into the heart of the vampire, leaving one last bit of business in need of doing in order to complete the EIRP: a decision on the more immediate fate of Drake Unit 5, even though units 6 and 7 will currently be allowed to run until 2035. (Many engaged citizens and business leaders believe we'll never get that far, but more on that below.)

That decision on Unit 5 was supposed to come at Wednesday, Dec. 16's meeting, but a 4-4 vote (with Councilor Keith King not present) delayed the decision once again, until the next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 20. 

That may all sound like business as usual, but local activists and stakeholders with whom we've been in contact — CAG member Jacquie Ostrom; Barb Van Hoy, who advocates on behalf of the Denver-based Western Clean Energy Campaign; and attorney Leslie Weise, among others — see it otherwise. 

Mainly, it's rare to see Council not take the advice of its staff, tasked to facilitate the EIRP and present the portfolio options to the Utilities Board — namely acquisition, engineering, and planning general manager John Romero and principal engineer Katie Hardman, who showed thorough data and make a convincing case. 

Very clearly, on page 61 of this attached agenda (following EIRP notes that begin on page 50), they recommend that Unit 5 be decommissioned on or before Dec. 31, 2017.

Keep in mind this recommendation comes after roughly a year of evaluations and footwork. (Nothing near as willy nilly as one councilman's decision in November to tack six years onto Drake's death date, as outlined in Portfolio H, moving it from 2029 to 2035). 

In the preceding pages, you see the staffers' pros and cons columns (requested by Council in November's meeting). Notably on the pro side, decommissioning avoids a $1 million investment in burner upgrades, offsetting $400,000 in annual labor and maintenance costs, resulting in a $2 million savings for 10-year net present value. 

  • Matthew Schniper
Note also on the cons side of converting Unit 5 to natural gas, the "model results show it generates for only 650
hours per year operation (2018-2030 average)." And on the mothball option, it would cost ratepayers $4.6 to $6.2 million to mothball it and restart it after three years (or more money after that). 

"It's ironic that the most conservative people on the board voted the least economical option," says Weise. "They see Drake 5 as a security blanket. To me, they vote on ideology, not the best representation of the citizens ... why wouldn't they pay attention to all of these experts?"

Doing some more math, Unit 5 only provides 46 MW of dispatchable capacity, while according to CSU spokesperson Amy Trinidad, CSU's currently operating at 100 MW of excess electrical capacity, with another reserve margin of 145 MW currently. 

Makes Unit 5 look pretty unnecessary, huh?

Trinidad says that CSU predicts only an 8 MW per year growth in demand over the next 10 years, meaning CSU would still be at excess capacity — and Council's decision for a 12-percent Demand Side Management (DSM) goal, which equates to conservation initiatives while not incurring more than a 2 percent rate increase, will offset some of that demand growth. 

Weise had actually made a case last year, after the fire at Drake, to leave Unit 5 turned off. She and a group of volunteers, who she says "were all pros," submitted the following document, which insists it now costs ratepayers $7.4 million a year, having restarted the unit. 

And currently, as reported in the Gazette today, Weise is underway with a case against CSU regarding "the wrongful withholding of public records by the Colorado Springs Utilities in violation of the Colorado Open Records Act." 

You can read her petition here:

Lastly, regarding the mention above of people who don't believe this whole debate over Drake will last until 2035, here's a perspective from former councilman Tim Leigh of Hoff & Leigh Commercial Real Estate, who relatedly was investigated (and later cleared) by the city's Independent Ethics Commission for possible "conflict of interest based on direct or indirect financial interests in downtown properties affected by Drake closure."

Tim’s Market Report

The Colorado Springs Utilities Board finally took a step in the right direction. They set a retirement date for the Drake power plant. Unfortunately, it’s not for 20 years! Heck, in 20 years, health care will provide free face-lifts & liposuction, social security will make everyone rich, and I’ll still be running the Incline daily. More realistically, since the announcement, I’ve made several nickel bets that Drake will be gone in 10 years.

Continued spending on an old and inefficient coal plant [Drake] is one of the worst business decisions our community can make, especially since (with modern power plant technology] there are substantially better alternatives that don’t carry the same EPA emissions and attendant cost burden as coal plants. Recall the best way to get out of a hole - stop digging!

After the NSG scrubber is in place, the cost of power from Drake will be much higher than the alternative (a combined cycle natural gas power plant) which I’m told could easily be located on the Front Range or Nixon power plant sites south of Fountain, along I-25.

The basic principle of a combined cycle power plant is simple. Combined cycle plants burning gas in a gas turbine produce (not only) power (which is converted to electric power) but also produces a very hot exhaust gas. Routing these very hot exhaust gases through a water-cooled heat exchanger produces steam which can be turned into more electric power. It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s Doublemint gum!

From 5 minutes on the web, I learned

Conventional power plants produce 33% electricity and 67% waste. Combined cycle power plants produce 68% electricity and 32% waste. {Plus the waste is convertible to additional power! – Doublemint, doublemint!}
A combined cycle power plant would burn about ½ as much fuel as Drake to generate the same amount of power.

Because combined cycle plants burn gas, they’re not subject to costly EPA regulations regarding coal emissions clean-up.

When I was a member of CSU’s board, I recall learning coal power plants “with plans for decommissioning and a date certain” could be exempt from EPA mandates for the installation of emissions control devices. Under those rules, with the Board’s pronouncement, we shouldn’t need the Neumann scrubber (or any scrubber).

CSU management should immediately stop the spending! CSU management should immediately place the call! The executives need to quit spending on the scrubber and call the CDPHE or the EPA and begin a conversation where we receive a waiver for installation of the scrubber (and future scrubbers) which would save us millions!

Consider, once the NSG scrubber is in place (2017) CSU’s own report says the cost of power from Drake will be between, (approximately) 5 to 6 ½ cents per KWh. Alternatively, I’ve been told power generated from a combined cycle gas power plant would only cost about 4 ½ cents per KWh. KWh costs add up quickly!

Based on Mrs. Vedesas’ simple 4th grade math, it looks like postponing Drake’s retirement 20 years means we’ll pay an extra $24.7 million (each & every year)! Ergo, over time, under the current CSU plan, our community will spend nearly a ½ a Billion Dollars unnecessarily. That’s a ½ Billion dollar direct tax paid by the ratepayers because of the delay in decommissioning Drake!

I wonder what a ½ Billion dollar (alternative) investment would mean to the local economy.

With the ongoing spending at on the Scrubber and Drake, we’re digging deeper and deeper. Recall the best way to get out of a hole - stop digging!

If you want to join the conversation call 719-337-9551 or email

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Go to grain and garden school

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Last week in the Indy, we took a close look at ancient-grain breads via the Sourdough Boulangerie

While on the subject, this Saturday from 6 to 9:30 p.m., UCCS is hosting a Grain School Public Forum in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. And not only is it free to attend, but free beer and bread samples will be provided. 

Here's what the event should cover, with expert guest presenters hailing from Arizona, New Mexico and Kansas:
Understand the history of grain in the Southwest and why the return of heritage wheat changes both landscapes and communities. But this is not all. Find out how the Land Institute’s breakthrough of perennial grain production might turn around agriculture, making farming more sustainable. Finally, hear from various farmers how small and larger-scale grain production in the West is possible and what will be needed to initiate and scale it up.
What's does the future of grain growing hold for Colorado? - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • What's does the future of grain growing hold for Colorado?

And while on the subject now of agriculture, Pikes Peak Urban Gardens is offering an "A to Z Organic Gardening Class" on the following Saturday, Jan. 23 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Horace Mann Middle School.  

The cost to attend there is $10, and the lecture "will take the gardener through all the steps to having a great garden in 2016," to be followed up by classes in February, March and April. You'll learn about everything from soil conditioning and composting to hail protection and preferred veggie varieties for our area. 

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Earthships — now an app

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 3:04 PM

Last year, I reported on the bold Earthship Village Colorado development, now underway about 20 minutes east of downtown. 

Plans call for 75 homes, "conceived in the style of Michael Reynolds’ famous Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico," on 400 acres, cut into self-sufficient five-acre parcels. 

The costs for a home, depending on Earthship model selected, should range between $250,000 and $450,000, while DIYers can get the job done with their own sweat (on their own land) for as little as $50,000 to $100,000. 

And now, instead of purchasing costly plans from Reynolds (previously sold for $1,000, he says), Earthship enthusiasts may soon download a 40-page set of construction drawings inside of the Simple Survival Earthship App for only $9.99. 

In a posting announcing "the most sustainable tiny house in the world," Reynolds says the app should be available Saturday, Dec. 12, calling it his "Christmas present to the world." 

The sightly, organic appeal of Earthships. - KIRSTEN JACOBSEN, EARTHSHIP BIOTECTURE
  • Kirsten Jacobsen, Earthship Biotecture
  • The sightly, organic appeal of Earthships.

Earthship creator Michael Reynolds presented at East Library last year in coordination with Earthship Village Colorado. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Earthship creator Michael Reynolds presented at East Library last year in coordination with Earthship Village Colorado.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Light the Drake cancelled, for now

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Earlier this summer, Andy Vick, executive director for the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR), proposed a large-scale art project that would have utilized lighting to illuminate the Martin Drake Power Plant's unsightly omissions. The initiative was called Light the Drake

Opponents were quick to step forward, essentially calling the idea tone deaf, for glorifying toxic coal-fire emissions that harm public health

Vick defended his position, saying he was making an artistic statement, and that he wasn't interested in "making a political issue about it." 

Read some of the back-and-forth as well as my own contextualizing of the situation here

Flash forward to today, when the Colorado Springs Utilities Board has finally set an arbitrary 2035 deadline to close Drake, in the face of strong opposition from the business community and beyond to shut it sooner. 

Perhaps some of that pushback inspired the decision to not move forward with the art plan, at least for now, as we received a statement emailed by Vick yesterday indicating that it is on hold. (Vick is traveling today and not available for further comment at the moment.)

Here's the statement in full:
After carefully considering the input and guidance from the COPPeR Board of Directors, our elected officials, the members of the project committee, and other community stakeholders, a decision has been made to table the Light the Drake initiative at this time. The project still has many community development benefits, and may be revisited at a more opportune time in the future. All further inquiries may be directed to
Don't expect any illuminated smoke stacks soon on Martin Drake. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Don't expect any illuminated smoke stacks soon on Martin Drake.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

See yourself as not separate

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2015 at 3:04 PM

If awakening involves transcending this suffering world, we can ignore its problems. If the Buddhist path is psychological therapy, we can focus on our own individual neuroses. Yet both of those approaches assume and reinforce the illusion that I am essentially separate from others, and therefore can be indifferent to what they are experiencing. If “I” am not separate from others, neither is my well-being separate from theirs. Today this means that we are called upon not only to help other individuals deconstruct their sense of separation (the traditional role of a bodhisattva) but also to help our society to reconstruct itself, to become more just and sustainable—and awakened. 
That's a quote from David Loy from his most recent book, A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World.

According to local poet Robin Izer, Loy "is one of the most prominent voices in the Buddhist arena today offering engaging responses to the climate crisis and exploring how enlightenment, evolution, and ethics are merging to create a new path for sanity and sustainability of our planet."

And Loy's presenting a lecture titled "Why Buddhism and the Modern World Need Each Other" at 7 tonight, for free, in Colorado College's Cornerstone Arts Center.  

Don't expect the author and teacher to go too easy on attendees. On the event flier, he writes: "Will Western Buddhism end up all too compatible with our individualistic consumption patterns, with expensive retreats and initiations catering to over-stressed converts eager to pursue their own enlightenment? 

Hear his answer this evening. 

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Utilities board makes cautious play on EIRP

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 3:43 PM

At Wednesday's Colorado Springs Utilities board meeting, the board (City Council), over the course of nearly three hours of strained debate, managed to make most of a ruling on the city's energy future via the most recent Electric Integrated Resource Plan

CSU's EIRP project managers had already indicated in last month's meeting that they would put portfolio option D before the board, an option narrowed down from 85 initial proposals, and for the most part supported by its Customer Advisory Group (CAG). 

However, local environmental activists and voices for the business community, specifically the Downtown Partnership, were urging the board to go with portfolio H, which looks much like D, but placed a firm timeline on the Martin Drake Power Plant's decommissioning by the year 2029. 

What ultimately shook out was a plan some began referring to as "D+" on account of it basically being option D, with a 2-percent cost cap still in place, but with a firm date to shut Drake down entirely, no later than 2035. Also, the demand-side management (DSM), which equates to conservation efforts and incentivizing, bumped up from 10 to 12 percent. 

A motion was made to table the discussion until next month's meeting on the more immediate future of unit 5 at Drake specifically, which the advisory committee was recommending be decommissioned by no later than Dec. 31, 2017. The alternative would be investing money to convert unit 5 to natural gas, also requiring expensive upkeep. 

Coal plants have been decommissioned elsewhere and left to ruin or be re-purposed. At some point, as late as 20 years from now, we'll be asking ourselves what Drake's remains or real estate shall become. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Coal plants have been decommissioned elsewhere and left to ruin or be re-purposed. At some point, as late as 20 years from now, we'll be asking ourselves what Drake's remains or real estate shall become.
Of the several stakeholders I've spoken to since the meeting, none have expressed concerns that the board won't vote with the CSU project mangers to bring unit 5 down in the next couple years. Council Member Don Knight was the main voice asking for more time to weigh the alternatives (again), and fellow councilors appeared to be obliging him, fairly confident that they'd win the majority yes vote next month. 

The surprise came, they say, when Keith King, out of left field, proposed the increase in DSM to 12 percent. 

"It was actually quite spectacular," says citizen activist and pro-H advocate Lee Milner, "because nobody was lobbying for it. All of us, would of course want that, but it wasn't anything we had made an issue over, so to have Mr. King make a strong message for it was thrilling." 

CAG member Rolf Jacobson, a local business consultant, says "that's not something I even though was possible, it was completely off the radar." Still, he's pleased and calls King's move "very forward looking." He also believes that increased DSM is one step that will help push forward the phasing out of Drake units 6 and 7 well ahead of the new 2035 deadline. "Every electron you don't make is cheaper than a coal-fired electron," he says. 

Regarding the setting of a firm date for decommission, both Milner and Jacobson are pleased, and it at least answered the request of others seeking Drake's demise. During the time for citizen comment yesterday, Nor'wood's Chris Jenkins and Murphy Constructors' Chuck Murphy both spoke out for a more timely closure of Drake, making respective cases for business and economic development as well as aesthetic concerns. Murphy called Drake a "god awful" eyesore for a community that prides itself on so much surrounding natural beauty. 

Downtown Partnership president Susan Edmondson also spoke for business interests, saying that routinely when she's meeting with outside interests looking to invest in our community, they ask about Drake and its future. Not being able to give an answer up to this point, she feared, showed a lack of our vision. Again, her organization had come down in favor of H because of the 2029 decommission deadline. 

Though pleased to have a date decided upon, Milner calls the extra tack-on of six years, to 2035, a bit "disconcerting." And Jacobson goes a step further, calling it "arbitrary," and lacking any evidence to support it, "instead of going with the recommendations that we already had in place [with portfolio H]." But he concludes on a positive note, saying although it's not the plan he'd have chose, "It's a position we can all get behind, and I'm impressed with our leaders."  

CSU sent out a meeting summary this morning, here it is in full: 

The Utilities Board discussed the Citizens Advisory Group (CAG)- and staff-recommended Portfolio D, and Portfolio H. The Board considered the timing of a decision considering the impact of developing Clean Power Plan regulations, the in-progress Demand Side Management (DSM) Potential Study, the impact on rates with the top portfolios, operational considerations and a summary of feedback received during the open comment period. The Utilities Board voted to approve Energy Portfolio D, amended to include a Drake (units 5, 6 and 7) closure date no later than 2035, and to increase the DSM goal to 12 percent, with a 2 percent rate cap. The Board tabled a decision on Drake Unit 5 options until the December Board meeting. The full Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) is expected to be finalized in first quarter of 2016.

The EIRP is a long-term strategic plan used to guide resource acquisition, conservation and demand side management decisions to meet customer electric demand over a 20-year horizon. The EIRP is required by the Western Area Power Administration to be updated every five years in order to qualify for federal hydro power.

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