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If you're wondering what the crazy people outside City Hall are yelling about — after all, this is a well-established, regulated business, right? — here's the problem.
While a form of what we refer to as "fracking" has been around for years, the new method involving high-pressure and horizontal drilling, such as Ultra Petroleum has planned for Colorado Springs, is neither well-established nor well-regulated (see "Gray matters"). Even the industry admits the research is not complete enough to know what the right setbacks should be.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis says, "While the newly proposed 500 foot buffer zone between operators and residences is better than current rules, it is not enough. In Colorado, a commercial diesel vehicle is prohibited from idling for more than five minutes within 1,000 feet of a school. The fact that drilling operations require diesel-powered compressor pumps and engines argues for a standard at least as strict as for that of a single diesel truck."
Spills and leaks are more common than the industry leads us to believe, and Ultra's record is one of the worst. The company bought a bunch of land that was not zoned for drilling under the law. The city is considering changing the rules for this company — and any others — to allow drilling in all zones.
The people outside City Hall want a real public hearing, where they can hear from scientists, researchers, members of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management. Experts on water and health, property values, infrastructure and tourism. The citizens deserve to have their questions answered by professionals not employed by the oil and gas companies, at a public forum set up only for this subject, at a time of day most people can attend, and not on the same day as the vote on the regulations is scheduled.
— Lenora Degen
Don't dump Drake
An open letter to the citizen owners of Colorado Springs Utilities:
If the Martin Drake Power Plant is decommissioned, where will we get the electricity that it provides? We don't have the ability to make that up with the Nixon, Front Range, Birdsall, Manitou or Tesla plants.
Unless we begin immediate construction of another plant, we'll have to purchase the power on the market. Perhaps we could enter into a long-term contract with Tri-State, Xcel, Black Hills or another company. All charge considerably more than CSU. These long-term costs will have to be passed on to the customers.
Large manufacturers located in Colorado Springs are here, in part, because of the low cost of utilities, as well as high reliability. It is simply not economically feasible to maintain a manufacturing plant here if another location can provide similar attributes at a lower cost. A decision that raises rates unnecessarily could also result in steering potential businesses away from Colorado Springs.
If we bought power, we would no longer control the generation, nor a good portion of the transmission systems that will carry this load. We'll need to expand the transmission system or use multiple companies and expand multiple transmission lines with multiple contracts (both huge money) to provide the power.
An incident at a remote plant could very well cripple the ability to provide power and may leave some in the dark for an indeterminate period of time.
What is the mayor's plan for these scenarios? Has he asked the right questions? Is he really looking out for the best interest of CSU's customers? Or is this a political land grab where he uses all resources (including using the Sierra Club as a tool), other developers and politicians to acquire this land for development of a sports stadium?
— Karl B. Shafer
For the common good
For 20 of the 44 years I have resided here, I have observed the workings of local government. Many op-ed letters on sundry subjects attest to my commitment to a well-run city, with great potential for its residents, present and future.
My attention at Council meetings Jan. 7-8, after about half an hour, lapsed into reverie. Memory surfaced an old bromide:
Committees of twenty deliberate plenty,
Committees of ten act now and then,
Committees of one get things done.
Following that came the aphorism of Eleanor Roosevelt:
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery,
Today is a gift – that's why we call it the Present.
A peculiarity of reveries is that they begin and end abruptly. On this day my mind focus came back during discussion about increased pay for Council members. The position set forth was that better pay would attract better-caliber people to run for Council.
Sean Paige had already issued a one-word rebuttal in the morning paper: Congress. And I couldn't help but think of the devoted voluntary service given to his home town for 17 years by Mayor Bob Isaac.
Should we have this discussion about pay? Certainly; but let's remember that good public service requires much more than a fatter paycheck.
For me the disappointment in these meetings and others has been the subliminally adversarial tone vis-à-vis the mayor. Since the election, most citizens have hoped for holistic local government. Separation of powers should be a friend, not an enemy.
For a ballot issue in April, charter amendment should restore mayoral authority over Colorado Springs Utilities. To revoke Mayor Bach's contract authority would completely isolate him and voters from a virtually autonomous CSU and would be vindictive. For the common good, let's get Council and Bach on the same page.
— John A. Daly
New law of robotics
Why would we seek a device that can imitate human behavior at a level where humans can't tell the difference ("Transhuman express," cover story, Jan. 16)?
I can understand the military having a use for it — they'd be sneaky dangerous. But I'd rather the robots I deal with on a daily basis had a tell.
Computer voices are already funny, we should make them all talk like Mr. Bean. Then when they become mobile and look like us, they'll need a silly walk or something too. Asimov, plus one: "4. A robot may never score above 75 percent on any Turing test and must always have hair like Donald Trump."
— Steve Suhre
No guns in schools
From my perspective as a gun owner, gun club member, and a person licensed to carry a concealed firearm, I would like to offer a few thoughts on arming teachers, janitors or anyone else in our schools as suggested by our El Paso County sheriff ("No silver bullet," News, Jan. 16):
To become proficient in the use of a firearm takes hundreds of hours of initial training, then firing at least a few hundred rounds every month in multiple venues under the watchful eye of an experienced instructor.
Accurate shot placement is not easy. There's learning how to select proper ammunition, load, rack, carry, draw, aim, fire, reacquire the target and fire repeatedly on target, with additional training and practice needed to clear a round that has failed to feed, failed to eject, or failed to fire, and of course reload the weapon. This takes a significant commitment of time and money.
I assume the teacher would not have time to place ear protection, and will be effectively deaf for a few minutes after firing a round.
An armed person also has to understand that rounds can penetrate walls, windows and people. If they shoot at a bad guy (or guys) and miss, or even hit them but the bullet passes through them, then the odds are pretty good that an innocent person will be shot.
One more thought: When the police arrive, do they start shooting at anyone with a gun in their hand (like a teacher) or do they ask questions first? I assume they will start shooting at anyone they see with a gun in their hand.
Keep guns out of schools.
— Jeff Hall
How many more children must die? How many more innocent people must be gunned down before we can move forward with reasonable gun control?
Forget the public polling (even though it shows we are overwhelmingly in support of many of the president's proposals), let's look at the facts about guns. We have more guns than other countries yet are less safe.
I don't want more guns, I want universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity magazines. What I don't want to see is more people running around with concealed weapons, and I don't want just anyone providing armed security in businesses (courtesy of Kent Lambert).
Hearing that the gun shops have been selling out scares the crap out of me, as it should all of us. People who believe these insane conspiracy theories don't need to be armed, they should be educated.
If you really need a high-capacity magazine to hunt, then either you are a really, really bad shot or you just like to shoot the s*&t out of stuff.
— Christy Le Lait
El Paso County Democratic Party