Environment

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Xcel Energy draws praise for aggressive pursuit of renewables

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 11:11 AM

UPDATE:
On Dec. 6, the Platte River Power Authority did one better than Xcel when its board of directors voted to set a goal for a 100-percent non-carbon resource mix by 2030.

All four of PRPA's owner municipalities support the zero-carbon goal. Those include the cities of Longmont, Fort Collins, Estes Park and Loveland.

“We applaud PRPA for hearing the voices of people from across Northern Colorado who are ready to be powered by 100 percent clean electricity. This statement of values from PRPA is encouraging as the utility starts its long term energy planning, and we will continue to voice our vision throughout that planning process for Northern Colorado to shift away from fossil fuels and embrace clean, renewable electricity,” Kevin Cross with the Fort Collins Sustainability Group said in a release.

————ORIGINAL POST: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 —————

Xcel Energy, which provides power to customers in eight states, including Colorado, announced on Dec. 4 a
Xcel Energy says the future is in the sun and wind. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
  • Xcel Energy says the future is in the sun and wind.
commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050 from the baseline emissions of 2005.

The ambitious targets — Xcel is the first major interstate utility in the nation to set such lofty goals — immediately drew praise from conservationists, including a solar power entrepreneur whose business originated in Colorado Springs.

David Amster-Olszewski, founder and CEO of SunShare, now based in Denver, issued a statement calling Xcel's plan "a huge win for consumers, the solar industry, and the environment."

"We congratulate and commend our partners at Xcel for their bold vision," his statement said. "SunShare has helped build the community solar programs in Colorado and Minnesota, the nation's first and largest, both of which are part of Xcel’s service area."

David Amster-Olszewski calls Xcel's plan "a bold vision." - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • David Amster-Olszewski calls Xcel's plan "a bold vision."
Xcel serves 1.4 million electricity customers and 1.3 million natural gas customers in Colorado. Other states in which it provides power are Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The move toward zero emissions exceeds goals set by the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan, which the Trump Administration has rejected, opting instead to promote coal.

Zach Pierce, the Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign in Colorado, hailed Xcel's announcement as "good for business, job creation, our health and the environment."

He noted the company is replacing coal plants with solar, wind and battery storage, which ultimately will save customers millions of dollars on energy bills and bring investment to communities in Colorado.

As we reported last year, there's a strong movement toward renewables to save the planet, despite the current administration's aversion to clean energy.

Meantime, in Colorado Springs, city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities still relies on coal and natural gas for a good chunk of its power and hasn't targeted renewables with as much vigor as Xcel.

"In the next few years, we will be adding almost 250 megawatts of solar energy plus battery storage to our portfolio, bringing our carbon-free energy mix to more than 20 percent," Utilities' energy acquisition engineering and planning general manager John Romero said in a statement.

He noted the utility has launched an initiative to create a new "Energy Vision" for its customers that "incorporates the protection of our natural resources, supports clean energy and transportation, builds a more resilient system and empowers energy choice."

The new vision plan is in the making and seeks community input that will guide the city's 2020 Energy Integrated Resource Plan.

All that said, the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council, has decided to keep the downtown coal-fired Drake Power Plant churning until 2035, though some board members want to hasten its closure.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"Quarry" homeless camp targeted for cleanup by City

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 5:27 PM

Dozens of campers living in the "Quarry" camp southeast of downtown must leave by Dec. 11, according to a Dec. 3. statement from the city.

The camp, a large portion of which encompasses land where nonprofit Concrete Couch plans to build its new headquarters, exploded in recent months as police conducted sweeps in nearby areas, Steve Wood, Concrete Couch's director, told the Indy recently.

The city and Colorado Springs Police Department, in partnership with local nonprofits, planned to conduct a Service Provider Outreach Day on Dec. 5 in hopes of providing campers with resources to help them find shelter and eventually exit homelessness.

While city officials and Mayor John Suthers have opposed self-governing campsites as a solution to homelessness issues, the Quarry has proliferated on private land for years. The recent move by the city is probably tied to the addition of 150 new low-barrier shelter beds at Springs Rescue Mission, which will open Dec. 10, the day before campers must leave.

"I can tell you that the private property owners have asked us to assist them in encouraging people to leave," says Lt. Michael Lux, who leads the police Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). "We were involved with this months ago, monitoring it, watching it, even though it’s not city property, it’s private property. But we had some issues with one parcel of the property that the attorneys for the city were working on contacting the owners that were not in the city. And they were working on that. So that led to us holding off and not to move forward with moving people until this time."

Many homeless people prefer to camp outdoors versus staying in shelters. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Many homeless people prefer to camp outdoors versus staying in shelters.
Recent publicity about the Quarry may have also served to draw further attention to the campsite, which is illegal per city zoning requirements.

Wood and his colleagues at Concrete Couch had hoped the site could serve as transitional housing for campers before the nonprofit opened its new headquarters. However, the number of campers on the site increased rapidly before Concrete Couch could close on the property, and Wood acknowledged even this summer that such a vision, which would involve imposing rules such as sobriety requirements and cleaning duties, would be difficult to see through.


At a town hall Nov. 15 to discuss the city's Homelessness Action Plan, at least one person who had lived in the Quarry was present. He and a handful of others asked city officials to allow campers to remain there legally.

"My question is why can’t the city allocate some land, a campsite, where maybe the [police Homeless Outreach Team] can come through, if your campsite is not clean you cannot be there?" asked Brandon Robbins, who called himself the Quarry's "longest-standing tenant."

"The shelter is not always for everyone," Robbins said. "It actually makes people’s anxiety worse, their mental illness worse, and you don’t get treated the right way sometimes, and so we say, 'You guys, we’re out. We’re going to go camp.' And yeah, there’s certain spots you can’t camp. Those are the people you need to take care of. But where we’re at we police ourselves in the best manner we can."

But city officials, as in the past, seemed unlikely to consider such a proposal.

Staff research shows "legal encampments that have been successful have been just as expensive, if not more expensive to run, as just adding shelter beds" due to security costs, replied Andrew Phelps, the city's homelessness prevention and response coordinator. "The reason that we’re adding shelter beds is that the services are already there. We have nonprofits in our community that are stretched thin. The case managers are stretched thin. They don’t have the time to get out to the camps, so it’s easier and it’s cheaper to just add the beds."

City Councilor Richard Skorman said he thought there "could be possibilities" for legal encampments in the future.

"Personally, I’m not opposed to small encampments that are well-managed," he said at the town hall. "I know they did this at Rocky Top [Resources] and there was 55 campsites there...It was very clean. They had their own security. They worked with the stormwater folks to build their latrines and the county took it away. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look into that, but there is skepticism from some bad examples out there."

Lux says campers responded well to the outreach day Dec. 5. Around 30 received hepatitis A vaccinations, important in light of an increase in reported cases of the liver infection in El Paso County. Others, he says, connected with nonprofits that could help them find housing and other resources.

"I liked all the providers coming together," Lux says, "...and on the way out they said, 'Let’s do it again. If you get another large camp, this is the way to do it.' And I said, 'That’s great.' The city wants to do things the best way we can for all the citizens and this just seems reasonable.'"

While the city only requires police to give campers 24 hours notice to move, Lux noted that in this particular situation, with 100-plus campers, giving them more time was the "right thing to do."

Lux says that campers who are unwilling to move by Dec. 11 could be prosecuted for trespassing, but anticipates most will voluntarily leave.

Read the city's statement on Service Provider Outreach Day at the Quarry:

City, CSPD to Convene Service Providers Ahead of Quarry Camp Cleanup
Wednesday Morning Gathering Intended to Direct Campers to Shelters, Services

A week before the posted clean-up date for the “Quarry” camp southeast of downtown, the City of Colorado Springs, together with the Colorado Springs Police Department, have coordinated an outreach event aimed at connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with local non-profits which offer shelter, counseling, health care and mental or substance abuse assistance.

“We are fortunate in Colorado Springs to have a number of well-qualified agencies that are prepared to offer services that can make a difference,” said Andrew Phelps, homelessness outreach and prevention coordinator for the City of Colorado Springs. “I’ve said before that camping is not a safe or dignified option, nor is it a legal one. By connecting the campers at the Quarry with qualified service providers, we hope we can get people out of the elements and connect them with services that can actually set them on the path to permanent housing.”

Among the non-profits providing outreach on Wednesday are the Salvation Army and the Springs Rescue Mission, which are working together to add a combined 320 additional low barrier shelter beds. The Rescue Mission’s 150 new beds will open on December 10. The camp has been posted for cleanup on December 11.

Other non-profits participating are Aspen Pointe, Catholic Charities, Coalition for Compassion and Action, the Community Health Partnership, the El Paso County Department of Human Services, Homeward Pikes Peak, Peak Vista, RMHS Homes for All Veterans, Urban Peak and Westside Cares.

Also, in the wake of the announcement from the State Health Department, the El Paso Department of Public Health will be in attendance offering Hepatitis A vaccinations to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus, which has recently appeared in the community.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Senate bill could help Colorado's wildlife hit hard by brain disease

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 4:44 PM

At least 37 percent of Colorado's elk herds are affected by chronic wasting disease. - COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE / DAVID HANNIGAN
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife / David Hannigan
  • At least 37 percent of Colorado's elk herds are affected by chronic wasting disease.

A fatal neurological disease that affects more than half of Colorado's deer herds is getting renewed attention on Capitol Hill.

Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet joined Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) in introducing a bill Nov. 15 that would authorize a national study on how to prevent chronic wasting disease from spreading. (A similar bill was introduced in June in the House, where it currently sits in committee.)

The disease is caused by a protein that "attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, causing the animals to display abnormal behavior, become uncoordinated and emaciated, and eventually die," according to information on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) website. It's been cited by city councilors as one reason Colorado Springs should authorize urban hunting or hire professional shooters to control the deer population.

The bill, of which Barrasso is the lead sponsor, would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to review data and best management practices from state agencies. The goal is to "give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread," according to a statement from Bennet's office.

CPW calls chronic wasting disease — which affects at least 57 percent of the state's deer herds, 37 percent of its elk herds and 22 percent of its moose herds — a "significant threat to the future health and vitality" of deer, elk and moose.

City Councilors Andy Pico, Don Knight and Merv Bennett had hoped the city would be able to hire professional hunters to cull a few dozen does within city limits in January. Though allowing urban bowhunting was one option councilors had originally discussed, they concluded at an August meeting with city and state officials that it was too close to the end of the season to implement such a policy.

The city issued a request for proposals on Aug. 20 for deer management, which called for a plan to be submitted by Sept. 30. "The deer management program is intended to maintain deer as an asset to the community; prevent disease due to overpopulation of deer; reduce the public safety risks of deer-vehicle conflicts; and preserve and protect the land of private and public property owners," the RFP said.

From there, the councilors had hoped the city could issue a new RFP for a culling company to carry out the management plan.

When asked whether that timeline was still in place, Pico said in a Nov. 21 email that one firm submitted a response to the RFP for a management plan, but it recommended the city not proceed "based on several factors."

"Also, the state has to approve such a plan and none have been approved in the state that I’m aware of," he wrote. "So culling in January isn’t going to happen."

In the meantime, Pico points out that City Council will consider a "don't feed the wildlife" ordinance for final approval Nov. 27. The ordinance would implement a $500 fine, on top of the state's $50 fine, for providing food to bears, skunks, raccoons, wolves, coyotes, foxes, deer, elk, moose, antelopes and other urban wildlife. The city contends that feeding wildlife "endangers the health and safety of both residents and animals" via vehicle crashes and wildlife's reliance on food from humans.

"And in the near term," Pico writes, "we will continue to cull using Fords, Chevys and Toyotas."

The city reports that a CPW survey counted about 2,700 deer in an area west of Interstate 25, or about 70 deer per square mile. From January to November 2017, Public Works removed 306 dead deer from roads and elsewhere, and police report about 50 traffic crashes involving deer each year.

CPW estimates about 200 does per year need to be eliminated to have an impact on herds within the city limits, the city says.

Read the full text of the Senate bill here:

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Monday, November 19, 2018

'Manny the beaver' lives: Video captures evidence

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 7:00 PM

ILLUSTRATION BY DUSTIN GLATZ WITH ASSETS FROM SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Illustration by Dustin Glatz with assets from Shutterstock.com

Our Nov. 14 cover story (Beavers drive a wedge between Manitou Springs environmentalists, business owners) drew responses from readers empathetic to both the plight of Manitou's euthanized beavers, and to the decision of a motel owner to protect her property.

Two readers' letters are printed below. But perhaps the most intriguing development since we published the story is this video from Roy Chaney, director of aquatics and fitness at the Manitou Pool and Fitness Center.

A camera donated by Defenders of Wildlife proves Manny the beaver is still living in Schryver Park. We can't say exactly what he's doing, but it looks like he's moving with a purpose! Share with all your coworkers who need a little midday motivation to do the same.


Below, Heidi Perryman, founder of California nonprofit Worth a Dam, shares her thoughts:
I was sorry to read about the difficulties with beavers in Manitou Springs this morning, beaver challenges have become more common and many cities struggle to find resolution. Unfortunately, trapping is a short-term solution since population recovery means beavers will return to adequate habitat often within the year. In my city of Martinez California we faced a similar issue when beavers moved into our city creek in 2007. There were concerns from local business and residents about the potential for flooding and damage to trees. While the initial plan was to trap the beavers, residents protested this plan and recommended an alternative solution. We weren’t lucky to have an experienced woman like Sherri Tippie near by – so we had to bring in expert Skip Lisle (Sherri’s colleague) 3000 miles from Vermont to solve the problem.

That was a long time ago, the Castor Master Skip installed controlled flooding in our city for a decade which allowed the beavers to safely remain, bringing birds, wildlife, steelhead and tourism to the creek. We wrapped established trees and planted new ones. We even celebrate with a yearly beaver festival, and were featured in National Geographic and Ranger Rick Magazine this year.

Luckily for you, it is MUCH easier to solve beaver problems than it was a decade ago. There are now books, websites and even videos to teach you how. There are plenty of reasons even businesses should appreciate beaver, including drought and fire protection. I am hopeful that you can work together to make a plan on how to solve this issue next time. We would be happy to consult along the way.

Our motto is, any city smarter than a beaver, can keep a beaver – and knows why they should.

Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.
President & Founder
Worth A Dam
www.martinezbeavers.org

And here's Stacey Kaye, an educator in Lake George:

As a current educator and former landscape business owner, I was both sickened and exhilarated after reading "Leave It To Beavers."

In September, my students studied beavers with vigor, and enjoyed a field trip to view a beautiful beaver lodge and scout out beaver "signs." They are still talking about beavers to this day. The children embraced a beaver's place in our ecosystem, and after viewing the PBS Nature  film Leave It to Beavers, they realized that awareness and education allows for all of us to coexist peacefully.

I sympathize with Evelyn Waggoner when the beavers felled trees and shrubs on her property.  That is devastating! For 25 years, I attempted to manage voles, deer, and bunnies in residential gardens. The damage caused was monumental, frustrating and costly. However, the very best control I found was barrier methods. Live and let live! If they can't get to the plants, they will move on.

I believe that education and awareness will help protect these amazing creatures!

Stacey Kaye
Lake George, CO
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Friday, November 16, 2018

Recycling report: Colorado still lags behind U.S.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 7:05 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
Last year, the first-ever statewide survey of recycling rates showed Colorado recycled only 12 percent of its waste. Compared with the national average of 34 percent, it wasn't pretty.

This year's survey results — released Nov. 14, the day before America Recycles Day — aren't better. Colorado's rate stayed exactly the same.

The report, written by Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group and titled "The State of Recycling in Colorado: 2018," shows that in 2017, Coloradans created more than 9 million tons of waste. That's an average of 1.45 tons per resident.

“Colorado’s low recycling rate comes as a shock to most people who think of us as a ‘green’ state,” Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle’s director of research and policy, is quoted in a statement. “The truth is, 95 percent of what we throw away could have been recycled or composted. With strong state leadership, Colorado is well-positioned to move forward quickly to realize the environmental and economic benefits of increased recycling."

On a county-by-county basis, Boulder County had the highest recycling rate: 40 percent, with Pitkin County coming in second at 30 percent. Denver County recycles 22 percent of its waste. But many counties, including El Paso County, don't track recycling rates.

Out of cities that collect data (most, like Colorado Springs, don't), Fort Collins came in first with a 55 percent overall rate. Boulder was a close second at 51 percent.

The report cites 2011 data from a one-time study that showed El Paso and Teller counties recycled just 11 percent of their waste.

The May closure of GOALZERO, a recycling program that provided a free drop-off point for recyclable materials in Colorado Springs, probably didn't help. There's currently just one place left in the city where residents can simply drop off recyclables: the Household Hazardous Waste Facility for El Paso County at 3255 Akers Drive.


The report did indicate some bright spots elsewhere in Colorado. Longmont increased its recycling rate by 5 percent, which researchers credit to a new curbside composting program. The city of Boulder bumped up its overall rate to 51 percent, attributed to a new ordinance that requires all businesses, apartments and homes to recycle and compost. And Pueblo opened its first public drop-off recycling center, possibly a first step to boosting the area's dismal 5 percent rate.

In Colorado Springs, waste disposal has long been a private service and the city doesn't have immediate plans to change that, says Skyler Leonard, city digital communications specialist. (El Paso County does have a recycling directory with information on how and where to recycle.)

Colorado's Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission adopted statewide and regional recycling goals last year that aim to increase the statewide rate to 28 percent by 2021 (32 percent for "Front Range" counties, which include El Paso County). Reaching that target would decrease carbon emissions at a level that is the equivalent of taking 485,000 cars off the road each year, the report says.

The ReWall Company, an Iowa-based business that recycles paper and plastic cartons into building materials, could help Colorado reach that goal thanks to a $1.5 million grant it received through the state's Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Grant Program. The company plans to launch operations next year.


The report outlines several steps Governor-elect Jared Polis could take to improve recycling programs in Colorado:

1) Appoint a statewide recycling coordinator to coordinate with other state agencies and local governments to "create a comprehensive approach to building our new recycling economy."

2) Launch a "recycling market development initiative" to attract more remanufacturers (like ReWall) that keep recycled materials in local communities.

3) Create a statewide waste diversion funding task force to find ways to increase funding for recycling and other waste reduction programs.

4) Expand recycling and composting at state agencies, purchase compost for state projects, and set recycling goals for state construction projects.
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Monday, November 12, 2018

City slammed in EPA lawsuit ruling; could stormwater fees be increased?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2018 at 1:32 PM

Many creeks in Colorado Springs like this one have eroded over time and contribute sediment downstream. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Many creeks in Colorado Springs like this one have eroded over time and contribute sediment downstream.
A federal judged ruled on Nov. 9 that Colorado Springs violated its stormwater discharge permit in at least three developments, which subjects the city to possibly significant fines under the Clean Water Act.

But Mayor John Suthers and several City Council members aren't willing to discuss whether the city's stormwater fees, approved by voters a year ago, will be amended to absorb what could be multi-million dollar penalties.

The stormwater measure, which charged residences $5 per month via their utilities billings and non-residential properties $30 per developed acre, included this provision:

"... such fees may be thereafter increased by City Council by resolution only to the extent required to comply with a valid court order, federal or state permits, federal or state laws, and intergovernmental agreements [IGA] of the city entered into before June 1, 2016." (The only IGA that qualifies in that provision is the April 2016 agreement with Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years on the city's stormwater drainage system.)

While City Councilor Tom Strand told the Gazette that large fines might have to come from cuts to parks, police and fire departments, the stormwater fees obviously can be increased to cover such an expense. Strand didn't respond to a request for comment from the Independent.

Councilor Andy Pico says it's too soon to talk about penalties, because the case still has "a long ways to go." Councilor Bill Murray also sidestepped the question of increasing stormwater fees, saying he wants to "rebalance" all city fees rather than raid other departments.

"In this case the public will be the loser but this lawsuit was about the development winners," he adds in an email. "We need to take a critical review on how we encourage development."
Morning Star at Break Creek extended drainage basin never worked as it was intended. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Morning Star at Break Creek extended drainage basin never worked as it was intended.

Councilor Don Knight, who opposed the stormwater fee measure, also said it's "pre-mature" to say how the city would pay a fine until the city knows how much it might be.

He also  notes in an email that a fine could represent a one-time expense, while court-ordered additional drainage work could require multi-year commitments.

Councilor David Geislinger labeled it "fear-mongering" to speculate how the city would satisfy any fines in the case.

"It is my hope, and expectation, that the city’s earlier commitment to address the known deficiencies, and subsequent approval of the stormwater fee, will be taken into consideration by the court in any subsequent findings of damages, to include a fine," Geislinger says via email.

Councilor Jill Gaebler says via email, "I have never made any comments about raising stormwater fees, but I can tell you that I will consider raising the fee before ever cutting funding for public safety. Having said that, this lawsuit is not a done deal, and I remain hopeful."

For his part, Suthers issued a statement saying the city has taken "extraordinary steps" to build the "best stormwater program in the state" and will continue to work toward resolving the lawsuit, though it has no choice if the EPA wants to continue litigating.

It's worth noting that all three of the exemplar sites considered in the first nine-day trial in September that led to the Nov. 9 decision involved development that was initiated before Suthers became mayor in mid-2015.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch ruled that the city violated its municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit for discharging storm runoff into creeks in the Arkansas River watershed.

A September trial focused on three developments: the 150-acre Indigo Ranch North at Stetson Ridge Filings 11, 13 and 14 in the city's northeast area; Star Ranch Filing 2, a 26-acre development for 32 homes on the city's southwest side; and Morning Star at Bear Creek, a senior facility built on five acres north of Bear Creek Regional Park.

Those are among 10 claims for relief from multiple violations of the city's permit cited in the lawsuit, filed in November 2016, by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District have also joined as plaintiffs.

For the plaintiffs, the bar was low. As noted by Matsch, they only had to show the city violated its permit conditions.

In his 43-page ruling, Matsch walks through each development in detail, citing the city's failures.

But in short, he notes the city didn't require developers to file drainage reports and perform other drainage work, despite requirements contained in the city's own drainage manuals and stormwater management regulations.

It's unclear what the next step might be, other than scheduling another trial to examine other cases in which the city failed to comply with its MS4 permit.

We've asked the Lower Arkansas District and Pueblo County for a comment on the judge's ruling and will circle back if and when we hear something.

Here's the ruling:

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Weed-eating goats are baaaack in Bear Creek Regional Park

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 8:06 PM

Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014.

A herd of 500 goats arrived in Bear Creek Regional Park on Oct. 26, and they'll stay there through the following weekend munching on weeds and poisonous plants.

Lani Malmberg and her son, Donny Benz, co-owners of Goat Green, are leading the eco-friendly effort in its 20th year. (We ran a profile on Malmberg, a self-proclaimed "gypsy goat herder," a few years ago.)

The herd will munch through 20 acres of the park surrounding the Charmaine Nymann Community Garden, according to a statement from El Paso County. The nonprofit Bear Creek Garden Association raises about $10,000 each year to pay for the organic weed control.

“The goats prefer the dry vegetation first—leaves, weeds and brush,” Malmberg is quoted in the statement. “They're browsers, not grazers like cows, and will only eat the green grass as a last resort. They like the dry prickly things and the herd will eat two to three tons a day. What they eat, they recycle — pure organic fertilizer — back into the soil. Plus, their 2,000 hooves work the soil, aerating and mulching as they go.”


The goats eliminate the need for harmful herbicides, and digest weeds and poisonous plants without spreading their seeds. Goat Green also does fire mitigation work in areas where dry brush poses a risk.

Planning to visit the weed eaters this week? Just keep in mind that the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department and Garden Association ask visitors to keep their dogs leashed, citing a few altercations between uncontrolled canines and goats in the past.

To help bring the goats back next year, you can send tax-deductible donations for the Bear Creek Garden Association Goat Fund to P.O. Box 38326, Colorado Springs, CO 80937.
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Friday, October 19, 2018

ReWall gets recycling grant to turn Colorado's cartons into buildings

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 4:23 PM

ReWall's products include hail-resistant roof boards made from up-cycled cartons. - COURTESY OF THE REWALL COMPANY
  • Courtesy of The Rewall Company
  • ReWall's products include hail-resistant roof boards made from up-cycled cartons.


A company that produces building materials out of used packaging received an unprecedented $1.5 million grant to roll out operations in Colorado, where it could help to close the gap between our state and the rest of the country when it comes to recycling.


"There’s a little bit of a problem with landfilling in Colorado because it’s so cheap, so people don’t feel that need [to find] an alternative to it," says Jan Rayman, CEO of The ReWall Company. "So we like to think that we’re showing people a way [to] think outside the box."

The company, which has honed its manufacturing process in Iowa for the last seven years, plans to open a facility in a yet-undetermined location, probably near Denver, by April of next year. While ReWall will only need 15 employees to start — most of the process of shredding, melting and producing building materials is automated — Rayman says ReWall will feed local economies by incentivizing waste companies to add the people and infrastructure needed to collect, sort and deliver packaging to be transformed into building materials.

The funding for ReWall's Colorado launch comes from the state's Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Grant Program, created in 2008 to promote economic development through recycling. Funded by tipping fees from state landfills, the program has provided close to $20 million for recycling infrastructure to businesses, local governments, nonprofits, schools and universities since its start.

And ReWall is getting an unusually big share of the pie. As the program’s total yearly budget — including staff and operations — is around $3.5 million, most grants are in the ballpark of $200,000 to $225,000, says Eric Heyboer, RREO’s program administrator.


“It was definitely the biggest grant we’ve ever awarded to a single entity through our program here at the state,” Heyboer says. “But, we felt it was very much justified because [ReWall is] basically bringing an end-market solution to paper cartons.”


Normally, Heyboer says, materials such as milk jugs and orange juice containers are usually shipped out of state for processing if they’re even recycled at all. That's because these containers often consist of different materials, such as plastic caps, paper and aluminum, making them hard to recycle.

But ReWall's manufacturing process uses the entire container, Rayman says, taking advantage of the plastic coating as a binder. The process involves shredding and melting the material but doesn't require any water to separate the layers, making it more eco-friendly.

These recycled material roof boards are class 4 hail resistant, and made in custom sizes. - COURTESY OF THE REWALL COMPANY
  • Courtesy of The Rewall Company
  • These recycled material roof boards are class 4 hail resistant, and made in custom sizes.

Colorado lags behind the rest of the nation when it comes to recycling. Though its residents are known for spending time outdoors, a 2017 report by Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group found that the state only recycles 12 percent of its waste. The national average is 34 percent.

ReWall might help Colorado narrow that gap. The company's goal is to drive the "local circle economy," where waste remains in a community and serves a new purpose.

"I’m a firm believer that construction is actually one of the very few, if not the only other industry that has the capacity to absorb the volumes that we’re producing as waste," Rayman says.


ReWall's products, because they're made from FDA-approved food packaging, are also more healthy and environmentally friendly than traditional building products that use toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, Rayman adds.
"We provide a healthy alternative," he says. "We stopped calling our product green because there’s a lot of greenwashing out there. People can call green, everything that saves them a little bit of energy or a little bit of money, but no. This is a healthy product that actually a lot of people seek out — a lot of people with environmental sensitivities would seek ReWall out to build their homes from because they’re allergic to the traditional products."
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Land and Water Conservation Fund faces uncertain future

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 9:53 AM

The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO/ WALKER HALL
  • National Park Service Photo/ Walker Hall
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.

Without action by Congress, a fund that's helped to pay for the conservation of public lands since 1965 is on hold.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired Sept. 30, bought and preserved land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

Since 1965, Colorado has received more than $268 million from the fund, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group advocating for its reauthorization. The money has paid for projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Arapaho National Forest, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch and more.

As of Oct. 2, U.S. parks had lost more than $3.6 million in funding as a result of Congress' failure to reauthorize it, according to the LWCF Coalition. (The organization has an automatically updating online counter that tracks funds "lost," based on the $900 million deposited annually.)

A total of $40 billion was deposited in the fund over its 54-year lifespan, though less than half of that was appropriated by Congress. Of the $18.4 billion spent, 61 percent went to federal land acquisition, 25 percent went to the state grant program and 14 percent was spent on other purposes, according to the Congressional Research Service. The other funds were diverted elsewhere.

A measure to permanently restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund passed in the House Natural Resources Committee in September, but the measure has not yet reached the chamber floor. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was expected to consider similar legislation Oct. 2.

Both bills would dedicate a minimum of $10 million from the fund each year to "projects that secure recreational public access to existing Federal public land for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes."

A coalition of more than 70 Colorado business owners and leaders in August signed a letter addressed to the state's representatives in Congress, urging them to reauthorize the fund.

"LWCF funding has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars of state, local, and private
matching funds to contribute to the betterment of Colorado and well-being of its citizens,
and its reauthorization is critical to our future," they wrote. "Now more than ever, with the rapid
expansion of Colorado’s population and ever more common water shortages throughout
the Colorado River basin, Coloradans need the tool of LWCF to protect public land access,
critical drinking water supplies, and community resources."

Colorado legislators from both parties have jumped aboard the LWCF train. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet are cosponsors of the Senate reauthorization measure, while Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) have signed on in support of the House measure. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), serves on the Natural Resources Committee and voted in favor of advancing the legislation, the Colorado Sun reports.

Gardner and Bennet, original cosponsors of the Senate measure, co-authored a July 24 guest editorial in the Boulder Daily Camera championing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

"LWCF is a critical tool for fulfilling our basic responsibility to give the next generation the same opportunities our parents and grandparents gave to us. It is time for Congress to stop the serial, short-term extensions of this program and make LWCF permanent with the full dedicated funding it deserves," they wrote.

Jonathan Asher, senior representative for the Wilderness Society, called actions in the House and Senate "really great signs," but predicted that legislation reauthorizing the fund is more likely to pass as part of next year's budget than as a stand-alone bill.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Pueblo could become "Colorado's clean energy hub" with coal plant closures

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 1:00 AM

JEFFREY BEALL
  • Jeffrey Beall

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission gave Xcel Energy unanimous verbal approval Aug. 27 to close two of the three coal-fired units at Pueblo's Comanche Generating Station, 10 years ahead of schedule.

Xcel will also invest $2.5 billion in renewable energy, including wind and solar generation and battery storage, as part of its Colorado Energy Plan. The plan was approved Aug. 27 by a 2-to-1 vote, says Utilities Commission spokesperson Terry Bote.

Currently, about 80 people work at Comanche Generating Station's two coal-fired units, Xcel spokesperson Michelle Aguayo says. Some current employees will be retiring when the units close in 2022 and 2025, she adds, and the rest will be trained to work in other jobs with the company.

One future project would include a new solar facility to power Pueblo's EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel, though that project needs to secure approval from the Utilities Commission separately. Xcel and EVRAZ recently agreed to a 22-year contract that clears the way for a potential $500 million expansion at the steel plant, the Pueblo Chieftain reports.

Xcel estimates that its new energy plan will mean Colorado could get 53 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2026 — an increase from 28 percent last year. The company also predicts the plan will save ratepayers $213 million, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions 60 percent from 2005 levels (though Bote says some Utilities Commission staff members thought those figures were overstated).

In 2017, 44 percent of Colorado's energy came from coal. The new plan would reduce coal dependence to just 24 percent by 2026, Xcel claims.

“By making this step change now, we reduce future fuel costs for the long term – and we can pass those savings directly along to our customers,” Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy—Colorado, is quoted in a company statement from the plan's June unveiling. “Our plan takes a significant step forward in transitioning our supply mix to cleaner and more diverse resources, benefiting our customers and the environment.”

Xcel's Colorado Energy Plan also includes solar and wind projects in Adams, Baca, Boulder, Kit Carson/Cheyenne, Morgan, Park and Weld counties. Pueblo County would be a leader, with 525 megawatts of solar power and 225 megawatts of battery storage.

“With approval of this plan, Pueblo is poised to become Colorado’s clean energy hub," David Cockrell, chair of the Colorado Sierra Club's Conservation Committee, is quoted in an Aug. 27 statement from the Sierra Club.

A new partnership between Pueblo Community College and NextEra Energy Resources would also push the city closer to that goal. NextEra plans to install 52 solar panels on Pueblo’s campus, and “provide training and curriculum to help the college create a pipeline of skilled workers for the rapidly evolving industry,” according to an Aug. 24 statement from the school.

The number of solar-panel installer jobs in the U.S. was expected to more than double between 2016 and 2026, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utilities has two solar projects coming online in 2020, after which 15 percent of its energy portfolio will come from renewable sources, says Utilities spokesperson Amy Trinidad. Currently, 11 percent of Utilities’ portfolio comes from renewables.

Colorado Springs’ controversial Martin Drake Power Plant, built in 1925, is slated to close no later than 2035 — though the Utilities Board, which is made up of City Council members, has toyed with the idea of accelerating the deadline.

Trinidad says the earliest the utility could have the infrastructure in place to allow for the closure would be 2023.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

City worker berated after Hillside park funding pulled

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Activist Victoria Stone speaks to Hillside community members at the Living Word Baptist Church. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Activist Victoria Stone speaks to Hillside community members at the Living Word Baptist Church.

About three dozen people packed into Living Word Baptist Church Aug. 10 with their young children, neighbors, friends, and — in the case of Colorado Springs City Councilor Bill Murray and El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez — their constituents, for a Hillside neighborhood meeting fraught with tension.

They were there to discuss and defend the Leon Young Pavilion, an aging wooden structure near the corner of Corona Street and Fountain Boulevard on the southern end of the Shooks Run trail. It's named for the city's first, and only, black mayor.
We reported last month on community members' efforts to use $150,000 in community development block grant money to revitalize the pavilion. Though the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department has the pavilion on a list of structures "to be addressed," meaning it's likely to be demolished at some point, and the Community Development Division was ready to give Hillside the grant money to build something new, hopes to have the structure torn down and rebuilt were rejected by Parks ostensibly on the grounds that might interfere with the decades-in-the-making Legacy Loop trail plan.

Problem is: The trail is already laid in the park, and thus it's not clear why a new structure would be in the way. And then there's the fact the city parks appears to have lavished funds on large parks or parks in wealthier neighborhoods.

In a southeast neighborhood that's long felt ignored, the change in plans made some people angry, and inspired them to rally around a piece of their neighborhood that's considered not only an integral part of its character, but also a monument to a Colorado Springs trailblazer.

For many neighborhood residents, Parks' offer to revisit the structure for the next grant cycle, looking at minor beautification projects such as adding picnic tables instead of replacing the pavilion, wasn't enough.

The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail.
"$150,000 would make that park something that we could honor," activist June Waller said. "If we had the $150,000 we could take care of that now. Our babies could play in that park now."

Tilah Larson, a representative from Parks who fielded protests from community members, reiterated that the project "was not something we could accommodate at this time" because of two "pending, very large infrastructure projects": the Envision Shooks Run and Legacy Loop plans.

The Legacy Loop, a planned trail system that incorporates the Shooks Run Trail, and circles the greater downtown area, was first envisioned a century ago. There is no timeline for completing it, and the project is complicated by steep costs and stubborn landowners.
The Leon Young Pavilion sits near the Loop’s southern end and, as previously noted, already has a wide, smooth trail in place that goes around the structure. And Catherine Duarte, a representative from the city’s Community Development Division who worked with the city to identify the pavilion as a space for federally funded improvements, says she looked at the city’s plans and didn’t find any reason to believe the project would interfere.

Since they didn't think the pavilion would get in the way of the city's plans, said activist Mia Ramirez, community members didn't approach the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board until it was too late to work out a solution.

Replacing the pavilion, Larson says, is "not something [Parks is] comfortable with because when this planning process [for the Legacy Loop] comes to fruition, you’re going to see the possibility of adding a ton of new park elements down there... What we don’t want to do is put a new structure and then in a few years from now sit there and go, 'I wish it would have been here,' or 'If only we would have done this,' because that’s not a good use of federal funding."

But that argument didn't hold water for some neighbors at the meeting, frustrated that grant money was going to Memorial Park instead of Hillside's aging, splintering pavilion named for Leon Young.

Several women took turns raising their voices at Larson, who stayed on the defensive, backing up Parks' actions at every turn.
"The funds are there," said Hillside resident Sharon Dickerson. "It sounds like [improving the pavilion] could be done right away, but I’m getting that the city is saying, 'No, we can’t do anything about what you want to do until we decide what we’re gonna do.'"

One resident, Deborah Harvin, held up the neighborhood's damaged sidewalks as an example of why Hillside feels neglected. She says that although people visiting downtown walk through the neighborhood regularly, the city won't pay to fix the sidewalks.

"Thousands of people...come down our streets, use our neighborhood to get to that park or to get to that park, and you’re not gonna buy us sidewalks?" she said.

Joan Clemons, the director of Hillside Community Center, intervened to say that if people were upset, they should come to the city's public meetings and speak their opinion about development projects at every opportunity.

"The community needs to find out what’s going on in their community," she said. "You can’t beat somebody up for something that you’re finding out about now."

But Stephany Rose Spaulding, an outspoken attendee and the Democrat running against Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 5th Congressional District race this year, said the city wasn't making enough effort to solicit input from Hillside, a neighborhood known for poverty and high crime rates as well as racial diversity.

"(Outreach) might look very different in the way that we reach out to this specific community about what is happening," Spaulding said. "It might not be, 'come to our stuff,' it might be, I need to show up at your house to have this conversation so that you all don’t feel left out of the process....to make sure that the most vulnerable of us are brought into the conversation."

The city has scheduled an open house Aug. 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Community Center (925 S. Institute St.) to discuss current and planned Parks projects, CDBG grants and applications, and homelessness issues. City Councilors Richard Skorman and Tom Strand will attend along with city staff.
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Friday, August 3, 2018

Urban deer: Officials set tentative timeline for culling

Posted By on Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 2:26 PM

A mule deer crosses a road on the Air Force Academy. - U.S. AIR FORCE/MIKE KAPLAN
  • U.S. Air Force/Mike Kaplan
  • A mule deer crosses a road on the Air Force Academy.

City Councilors' plans for dealing with Colorado Springs' overpopulation of deer are moving forward, though not quite at the pace they'd originally hoped.

At a meeting Aug. 3, officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife met with city staff and Councilors Merv Bennett, Don Knight and Andy Pico to review staff research on deer population control.

The consensus: It's too close to the end of the season to attempt to allow urban hunting, but officials hope to get the ball rolling on Council action soon so professional shooters can "bait and cull" a few dozen does by this Jan. 31. (After that, some does will be too far along in their pregnancy to kill without raising social and political concerns, says Frank McGee, area wildlife manager for state Parks and Wildlife.)

The first step in the process is for the city to issue a request for proposal, or RFP, for an outside company to create a management plan. The plan will have to include information about the best places in the city for commercial hunters to bait and cull deer, most likely using rifles. Location is important because although hunters would work at night for safety reasons, many city parks that might be a hotspot for wildlife are also popular with homeless campers.

The city will probably be able to issue an RFP for the management plan in the next couple of weeks, says Deputy Chief of Staff Bret Waters. Money for that study could come from the city's excess revenue this year, says Councilor Don Knight, adding that funding would have the mayor's support and "we [Council] don't have to appropriate the funds before we put out the RFP." For culling to occur this January, State Parks and Wildlife needs that plan by Oct. 1, McGee says.

The next RFP would be for culling companies, who would coordinate that process.

A plan probably wouldn't be able to make its way through City Council until the end of this year — assuming the ordinance changes needed to allow culling had support — meaning that the selected company would have about one month to shoot does. Knight suggested that the goal should be to take out 50 deer in the first month of 2019. Next year, the city could hopefully allocate enough money to cull "100 to 200 for next September," Knight says.

State Parks and Wildlife has said that in order to reduce Colorado Springs' deer population (currently 2,700) by one-half, 200 does would need to be "harvested" every year for the next five years. Alternatively, 95 does could be harvested each year for the next 10 years. Cost estimates calculated in March showed that culling 200 deer would cost the city between $115,000 and $250,000.

Officials say culling deer is necessary because Colorado Springs has reached its "biological carrying capacity" of deer. Many of the animals are infected with chronic wasting disease, which apparently reduces quality of life.

Data from the Colorado Springs Police Department, according to a presentation at the meeting, shows 192 reports of incidents involving "vehicles vs. wild animals" between 2015 and 2017. (That also includes wild animals other than deer.)

The deer are also creating ecological damage by feeding on plants, McGee says.

The statistics don't mean there's not an obvious PR problem with killing hundreds of deer within city limits.

To illustrate: McGee points out that one problem possibly contributing to urban deer overpopulation is people feeding deer on their property. Sometimes, they're even indifferent to the state's $50 fine for each offense.

"We've had people tell us before, 'I'll continue to pay these tickets'" in order to keep feeding deer, McGee says.

Councilor Merv Bennett recalled a time when he and his wife would have "40 to 50" deer a day on his Cedar Heights property near Garden of the Gods, because "we could not get [a neighbor] to stop feeding them."

One solution officials have proposed to placate deer-loving citizens is to donate the deceased animals (that have tested negative for chronic wasting disease) to Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. Potentially, they could give deer meat to animal sanctuaries such as the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, but Knight thinks feeding the meat to humans would make a culling plan "easier to sell" to the public.

Officials mulled having state Parks and Wildlife cull a few deer in a city park, such as Ute Valley Park, sometime in the near future as "proof of concept." Parks staff would keep a low profile for such a test run.

Additionally, councilors plan to look at cracking down on deer feeders, possibly raising fines or creating new regulations.

A town hall on the deer issue will be held Aug. 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. (A previously scheduled meeting for Aug. 23 has been canceled.)
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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Colorado's new vehicle-emissions standards in question

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 3:19 PM

Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway. - U.S. AIR FORCE/DON BRANUM
  • U.S. Air Force/Don Branum
  • Traffic along Interstate 25 near Interquest Parkway.

Barely a month after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that Colorado would join California and 11 other states to adopt stricter vehicle-emissions standards, the Trump administration has tried to hit the brakes.

A 978-page document from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, unveiled Aug. 2, proposes repealing Obama-era guidance for automakers that requires all new vehicles produced after 2025 to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. The new policy would continue increasing requirements until 2021, freezing mandatory fuel efficiency at 36.9 miles per gallon.

The Trump administration's announcement also creates a potential roadblock for the states that have joined California in creating a Low-Emissions Vehicle Program under the Clean Air Act to imposes stricter standards for automakers. The EPA says it wants to withdraw the states' waiver to depart from federal standards, in part because "[a]ttempting to solve climate change" is "fundamentally different from [the Clean Air Act's] original purpose of addressing smog-related
air quality problems" (see p. 31).

Those states include Colorado, as per Hickenlooper's June 19 executive order that came in response to news that the administration was rolling back requirements.

According to the statement, Colorado will:
• "develop a rule to establish a Colorado LEV program, which incorporates the requirements of the California LEV program; and
• propose that rule to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission during its August 2018 meeting for possible adoption into the Colorado Code of Regulations by December 30, 2018."

Hickenlooper doesn't plan on backing down in light of the proposal's release:


The Trump administration is making the odd claim that allowing automakers to make their cars less environmentally friendly could save 12,700 lives by 2029. The numbers are based on an April report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The reasoning? Looser regulations will make it easier to produce new cars, which are safer than old cars.

"Already, the standards have helped drive up the cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000—out of reach for many American families," reads a statement from Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administrator. "Compared with the preferred alternative outlined in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.

"Due to these increased costs, Americans are holding on to their older, less-safe vehicles longer and buying older-model vehicles."

Conversely, the Obama administration found that improving standards would lead to about 100 fewer auto-related casualties, the New York Times reports.

The proposal won't be finalized until the end of this year, after a period of public comment, and is likely to meet opposition from states, activists and industry groups.

Colorado Moms Know Best, an activist group that has been vocal about vehicle emissions, released a statement Aug. 2 condemning the administration's actions.

"Trump is reversing protections for our kids, and parents demand to know why," Jen Clanahan, the advocacy group's "Head Mom," is quoted in the statement. "Trump ought to be ashamed of himself.

“A bright spot in the country right now is Colorado with Governor Hickenlooper’s leadership and his recent Executive Order that encourages Colorado to adopt low emission vehicle standards. We hope to see strong standards that help ensure Colorado has the cleanest air in the nation. Our children deserve it.”
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

EPA invites community members to speak about PFC contamination

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 8:57 AM

5789845977_37e1a70e45_z.jpg

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency will visit Colorado Springs on Aug. 7 and 8 to hear from community members about perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), toxic chemicals used by the Air Force for firefighting, that contaminated water supplies in Colorado.

Members of the public who've been affected by PFCs in their drinking water can sign up online for three-minute speaking slots Aug. 7 between 4 and 10 p.m. A working session, also open to the public, is set for Aug. 8 from 9:45 a.m. to noon.

Both events will be held at the Hotel Eleganté, located at 2886 S. Circle Dr.

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition and Fountain Creek Water Sentinels are among organizations speaking at the Aug. 7 event, says Liz Rosenbaum, cofounder of the coalition.

Rosenbaum says the Clean Water Coalition has been working with the EPA to ensure there's plenty of time for residents to voice their opinions.

"I absolutely think something good will come out of this," Rosenbaum says. "Because it’s the first time the community can be heard."

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition was among organizations across the country that protested the EPA's unwillingness to let community groups, journalists and even legislative staff attend a national summit on PFCs in May.

Since then, EPA representatives have visited a New Hampshire community affected by PFCs, and will visit Pennsylvania on July 25.

Aquifers in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas that were affected by PFCs are now safe for drinking, officials say, after the city of Fountain began treating water through a new process. The Clean Water Coalition is still pushing for health studies to learn more about the effects of the contaminants, Rosenbaum says.

And tests recently showed PFCs in several groundwater wells that supply drinking water to north metro Denver, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced July 12.

The Denver Post reports that South Adams County Water and Sanitation District officials found levels of PFCs ranging from 24 parts per trillion (ppt) to 2,280 ppt in 12 wells along Quebec Parkway near Interstate 70. That's up to 32 times more than the EPA's current acceptable limit for PFCs, which is 70 ppt.

However, a study released June 20 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry suggests that safe drinking water should contain less than 12 ppt.

All together, the contaminated wells in Denver supply water to 50,000 residents across 65 square miles, the Post reports.
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Monday, July 23, 2018

Springs Utilities to power 30,000 more homes with solar

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 9:25 AM

Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array. - COURTESY OF COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy of Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array.

Colorado Springs Utilities
 recently signed contracts for two solar energy projects totaling 95 megawatts, enough to power 30,000 homes annually. The Palmer Solar Project and Grazing Yak Project will increase the Springs Utilities solar energy production to 130 megawatts when both projects are online by the end of 2020. That will bring the Springs renewable energy portfolio to 15 percent of summer generating capacity.

The 60 megawatts Palmer Solar Project will be built by juwi Inc. of Boulder, and supply Springs Utilities under a 20-year contract. juwi will develop and operate on a 500-acre site on Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District property in El Paso County, north of Monument. The Palmer Solar Project breaks ground in the first half of 2019 and plans to be online by December 2020.

North America's largest generator of solar and wind power, NextEra Energy Resources, will develop, build and operate the 35 megawatts Grazing Yak Project. That project, beginning in early 2019 and operational by late 2019, will operate under a 25-year contract with Springs Utilities.

Springs Utilities will purchase the energy generated by the new projects for a 20-year fixed rate of less than $31 per megawatt hour. Colorado Springs Utilities spokesperson, Amy Trinidad, tells the Indy the utility does not expect the projects to result in a rate increase from the current $87 per month average electric bill, and any potential increase will not exceed one percent of the current bill.

"We are under guidance from the utilities board that no more than one percent of our customer's residential electric bill can be used for the purchase of renewable energy," says Trinidad. Springs Utilities' Energy Vision's goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 could fall short because of the one percent cap, which the Indy reported on in more detail last December. 

"Well, it's an either/or. It's 20 percent renewables for our generation or we hit that one percent bill impact cap," says Trinidad. Upcoming renewable energy options presented to the Springs Utilities' Board could provide the opportunity to meet that 20 percent.

Colorado Springs Utilities is updating its Energy Vision between now and May 2019 to update renewable energy goals and include long term planning. The public comment period has yet to be announced. 
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