Thursday, July 23, 2020

City settles environmental lawsuit involving land near Olympic Museum

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2020 at 5:21 PM

Environmental workers gathering soil samples in 2013 at 25 Cimino Drive. - BRYAN OLLER
  • Bryan Oller
  • Environmental workers gathering soil samples in 2013 at 25 Cimino Drive.
The Smokebrush Foundation and city of Colorado Springs have settled an environmental lawsuit that dates back years and involves land in lower downtown near the soon-to-open Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame.

The City of Colorado Springs will pay plaintiffs $500,000 for legal costs, $100,000 of which goes to the Trestle Office Condominium Owners Association, according to an attorney representing Smokebrush. The city could not be reached for a comment.

Read the background on this case here.

It appears the settlement allowed the city to more forward with a land swap deal with Nor'wood Development Group, the master developer of the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area, where the museum is located.

Smokebrush sued in 2013 after strong gusts of wind and dirt smacked Smokebrush's founder, Kat Tudor, in the face. The debris came from a lot at 25 Cimino Drive. Smokebrush's property is adjacent to the contaminated site, polluted by a coal gasification plant's decades of use.

After Smokebrush won a key ruling in court that essentially said the city couldn't hide behind governmental immunity, the case, had it gone back to District Court for trial, likely would have pivoted on damages alone.

From the release:
“I am very happy for this environmental win for the state of Colorado, and it is a great day for Mother Nature,” says Smokebrush Foundation Founder Kat Tudor.

The City and Plaintiffs agreed to a settlement that obligates the City, or any successor owner, to undertake remediation of the above-mentioned properties under state law.

Randall Weiner, the environmental lawyer who handled the case for Smokebrush and the other Plaintiffs, noted that the Supreme Court’s decision will provide motivation for cities to remediate all their pollution that threatens neighboring properties. “Cities should not be hiding behind the fact that the pollution is decades old to escape their obligations to clean up pollutants they create,” he said.

Since 1992, the Smokebrush Foundation has produced and presented innovative arts experiences that foster creativity and collaboration, inspiring positive change in the Southern Colorado community and beyond and is the originator of Uncle Wilber’s Fountain in downtown Colorado Springs. 

It appears the city will undertake cleanup of the site.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include details of the settlement obtained from Smokebrush's attorney.
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Friday, June 26, 2020

Utilities Board votes to retire coal at Drake by 2023

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 6:45 PM

The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant came online in 1925. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant came online in 1925.

The Colorado Springs Utilities Board has made its decision: The public-owned utility will retire coal-power generation at the century-old Martin Drake Power Plant no later than 2023.

That's 12 years ahead of schedule, as the board previously voted in 2015 to retire the plant by 2035. As Utilities developed its 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) — a blueprint for energy generation over the next five years — clean-air activists have demanded an early closure for the benefit of the community's health and the environment.

The chosen plan will not require building a new natural gas plant to replace the Ray Nixon Power Plant, the option that had been recommended by an advisory committee.

"Your decision will chart a course to sustainable, continued growth," Mayor John Suthers told the Utilities Board (which is composed of members of City Council) before they voted on a plan June 26.

Both of the IRPs considered by the board that day would have retired coal at Drake by 2023, and at the Ray Nixon Power Plant by 2030. They would also have both retired the George Birdsall Power Plant (which runs on gas, and is used infrequently) by 2035.

"This will attract new business, increase residential development and strengthen our brand as one of the most desirable cities in America to live," Suthers said.

The other portfolio under consideration, Portfolio 16, was recommended by the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee, or UPAC, which reviewed and evaluated many different options over the past year. That option would have replaced Drake with temporary gas generators and involved constructing a new gas plant to replace Nixon in 2030.

The chosen portfolio, Portfolio 17, was added to the mix of options in recent weeks — after the draft portfolio options were presented to UPAC in late April, but ahead of the June 3 meeting where the committee decided on which portfolio to recommend to the Utilities Board. It will also require temporary natural gas generators, but replaces Nixon with non-carbon resources, such as wind and solar energy, and battery storage.

"Portfolio 17 says that once we add the 180 megawatts that we're going to be doing very soon, that is the end of fossil fuel that we will be relying on, and we don’t need to add gas in 2030 when we get ready to shut down Nixon," Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Aram Benyamin said in an interview after the meeting.

That plan, approved by a 7-2 vote of the Utilities Board (with Board Members Andy Pico and Don Knight opposed), was also endorsed by Benyamin, the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, and the Downtown Partnership.

Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, praised the move to close the plants.

“This bipartisan decision is a strong step for the Colorado Springs community, for our state and for our planet," Polis said in a June 26 statement. "Colorado continues to set an example for the rest of our country when it comes to renewable energy and climate action, and this announcement comes in the wake of numerous electric utilities across the state committing to a transition to clean energy."

Utilities Board Chair Jill Gaebler says she felt comfortable voting for Portfolio 17 after reviewing detailed information from Utilities, and hearing from many people who spoke at meetings and submitted comments over the last year — many of them young adults who advocated for renewable energy over coal and natural gas.

"Through the public process, we really heard, from  ... people from all over the community, but I think I really focused on [and] a lot of your board members looked to the voices of our future, and our younger folks who really do want to have a cleaner energy future," Gaebler said in an interview following the decision.

The new IRP will have a marginal impact on customers' rates, according to an economic analysis conducted by Utilities staff. It also achieved the highest score (out of any of the 17 portfolio options) for reliability, which CSU customers had rated as the most important plan attribute in a customer survey a few months ago.

Burning natural gas produces about half the carbon emissions of coal, but it's not carbon-free. Clean-air advocates balked at the idea of building a new plant as Portfolio 16 would have required.

During the virtual meeting, around a dozen residents spoke in favor of Portfolio 17, and none suggested they would have preferred UPAC's recommendation.

"The Martin Drake Power Plant is a glaring example of environmental injustice and systemic racism in Colorado Springs," said Mercedes Perez, who along with several others mentioned that coal plants, gas plants and fracking facilities are often built near communities of color, who face the brunt of dangerous health effects from polluted air.

Several Utilities Board members brought up a decision several years ago to pay Neumann Systems Group $110 million to install pollution control equipment at Drake (instead of just moving toward closing the plant earlier).

"I think that we [would be] taking a much bigger risk by having to build a gas-fired plant and leaving a stranded asset," Board Member Richard Skorman said of Portfolio 16. "I mean, we made that mistake with the Neumann scrubbers and look where we are today."

Knight said he feared that Portfolio 17 was too risky, because it foresees adding significant battery storage in 2030 to replace Nixon's generation.

"[Portfolio] 17 is based on wishful thinking that 400 megawatts of battery technology is going to be there," Knight said. "[Portfolio] 16 is based on proven technology."

Utilities develops a new IRP every five years, so the energy blueprint could change before Nixon's planned retirement in 2030.

Once Drake's coal-fired units are retired in 2023, Utilities will begin using six trailer-sized temporary natural gas generators that can be controlled remotely, Benyamin says. They'll be set up at the Drake plant until Utilities sets up transmission elsewhere (Benyamin isn't sure where as of yet).

These generators save costs because running them requires only about four people to occasionally do maintenance, Benyamin says.

"About 80 people run a coal plant, because we have to have trains, we have to have a big dozer to get the coal off, we have to get the coal on a belt and then go crush it and then feed the boiler," he says.

Still, Utilities doesn't plan to fire any of the 200 employees who currently work at the power plant — they'll be employed elsewhere, according to Benyamin.

By 2024 or 2025, Drake will be a brownfield site — "like a park," he says.

What else could go there?

"Almost anything would be better than a coal power plant, to be quite honest," says Gaebler, an advocate on Council for downtown improvements. "I'm sure that there will be a robust process that many people will want to engage on as we begin to have those conversations, and I hope to be a part of that."
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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Drought task force activates, Colorado Springs Utilities looks to reservoirs

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 3:37 PM

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As drought conditions deepen, Colorado Governor Jared Polis on June 23 sought activation of the state's Drought Task Force and Phase 2 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan.

The governor's office said in a release the drought spans 81 percent of the state, with severe and extreme conditions affecting a third of the state, including El Paso County.

Colorado’s Drought Task Force includes officials with the departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Local Affairs and Public Safety, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The second phase of the plan means the task force will assess initial damages and impacts of drought in areas experiencing severe or extreme drought and recommend mitigation measures. In addition, the Agricultural Impact Task Force is activated to make an assessment on physical and economic impacts.

Meantime, there doesn't appear to be any plan to further restrict water use in Colorado Springs where customers have been under restrictions since May to water their lawns no more than three times a week.

The Southern Delivery System (SDS), which was activated in 2016, guards against the city running dry. However, the city needs to add other water projects and water resources in years to come to meet the need of an estimated population forecast of 770,000 by 2070, says Pat Wells, Colorado Springs Utilities general manager for water resources and demand management. The utility now serves just under 500,000 people.

Asked why the $825-million SDS doesn't negate the need for restrictions of any kind, Wells says, "A foundational component of our water conservation program for the past couple of decades is focused on outdoor water use and reshaping outdoor water demands — to get people to use the right amount of water."

Wells calls efficient water usage "a foundational practice for water managers throughout the western United States. What we’re trying to do here is set a new normal and create a culture of responsible stewardship."

But usage here continues to climb. According to a report given to the Utilities Board on June 17, usage in May averaged 87.5 million gallons per day (MGD), or about a third more than last May. That pushed up year-to-date demands to an average of 48.7 MGD, which is 7.9 percent more than last year at this time. Also, temperatures in May were 3.6 degrees above normal, and precipitation in May was only 57 percent of normal. So far this year, the region's precipitation ranks at 73 percent of normal.

Colorado Springs currently has more than two years' worth of water in storage, which is good news for gardeners, because more severe water restrictions wouldn't be triggered until the amount in storage falls to a 1.5-year supply, Wells says.
Homestake Reservoir is one of Colorado Springs Utilities essential storage facilities. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Homestake Reservoir is one of Colorado Springs Utilities essential storage facilities.
But things can change. Prolonged drought could deplete that storage. Then what?

"Storage is the cornerstone," Wells says.

Utilities recently completed land acquisition for the 30,000-acre-foot Gary Bostrom Reservoir, the second phase of SDS, which is planned for construction near Bradley Road southeast of the city in the next decade. Another project, called the Eagle River project in the mountains, will create another reservoir, hopefully by 2040 to 2050, Wells says.

"Our system has extreme variability," he says. "We manage that with storage and our complex water system. Even with SDS online there was never any guarantee that Mother Nature wasn’t going to throw us a curve ball."

Some years, snowpack fills reservoirs to the brim and rainfall reduces demand, but not every year.

"What we’re seeing is a lot more variability in the swings," Wells says, noting that water managers study tree rings, climate change models and other data to try to predict what lies ahead.

"While our demand has flattened and we’re serving more customers with the same amount of water," he says, "our supplies are becoming more variable."

As Wells quips, quoting baseball legend Yogi Berra, "The future ain't what it used to be."

Take the Colorado River, which provides water to multiple states and Mexico. It's been in drought conditions for 20 years and provides 60 to 70 percent of Colorado Springs Utilities' supply.

"We are going to reach a point, as demand continues to grow in the West and supplies become uncertain, we’re going to have to use water more efficiently and cut back some of our demand on the Colorado River," he says.

At present, Utilities is capable of delivering 95,000 acre feet of water on demand, but that demand is forecast to rise to 136,000 acre feet in the decades to come.

That's why Utilities is pursuing a multi-pronged approach to expanding its water supply.

"With a growing population, we have to bring in more supplies," Wells says. "Our storage needs grow as our cities grow."

The city spent $1.75 million for water storage in this former gravel pit near Lamar. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • The city spent $1.75 million for water storage in this former gravel pit near Lamar.

Besides storage, Utilities wants to work more deals with agricultural users like it did in the Arkansas Valley in 2018. Another strategy might be to expand the number of non-potable systems used for irrigation. But ultimately, Utilities, like other water providers in the West, likely will be confronted with re-treating and recycling water back into its domestic delivery system.

"In the next 30 to 50 years it may become more technically feasible to do direct potable reuse," he says, noting that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has approved a grant for a Utilities reuse demonstration project in partnership with Aurora, Denver and Colorado School of Mines.

On June 17, the Utilities Board was advised that temperatures are expected to rise above average across the state at the same time when there are no guarantees precipitation will match or exceed a normal year.

And the Drought Monitor, produced by a collection of agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has this to say about the current drought:
Although rainfall deficits only date back a few weeks to a few months, other factors are making things worse, specifically abnormal heat, low humidity, and gusty winds. High temperatures approached triple-digits as far north as South Dakota. All these factors led to broad areas of deterioration in eastern Colorado, southern Kansas, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and adjacent parts of Nebraska. Notably, extreme drought (D3) expanded to cover a large part of southern and eastern Colorado, and adjacent parts of Kansas.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Colorado utilities to exchange power with California under new agreement

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 9:02 AM

Energy imbalance markets make it easier to integrate renewables. - MOONJAZZ, VIA FLICKR
  • moonjazz, via Flickr
  • Energy imbalance markets make it easier to integrate renewables.

It's official: A coalition of Colorado utilities (including Colorado Springs Utilities) will get access to renewable energy from California and other Western states starting in 2022, under a recently finalized agreement.

The nonprofit California Independent System Operator (ISO) oversees the state's electric power system and the Western Energy Imbalance Market, or WEIM for short.

The EIM — which launched in 2014 — is a power-trading market that automatically finds low-cost energy among member utilities in California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, and British Columbia, Canada.

Such agreements are especially useful for incorporating renewable energy sources, because the amount of energy generated by renewable sources like wind and solar is more unpredictable than traditional sources — and could be greater, or less, than what a given community needs.

Thus, utilities that heavily rely on these sources of energy often have surplus energy they need to give away, or a shortage of energy for which they need to buy a replacement.

Colorado Springs Utilities has recently added new solar resources but doesn't have any wind power in its arsenal. In 2019, around half of the utility's generation came from natural gas, 36 percent from coal and 9 percent from hydropower.

CSU's Palmer Solar Project, added in April, produces enough electricity to power around 22,000 homes annually, and the Grazing Yak Solar Project added late last year could power 13,000 homes.

In March, Colorado Springs Utilities joined a smaller power-sharing group under a joint dispatch agreement, or JDA. The group is comprised of three other Colorado utilities: Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy Colorado Electric and the Platte River Power Authority.

An agreement between Xcel Energy – Colorado and the California ISO, signed in May, means that the Colorado JDA will join the WEIM in 2022.

“We are excited to take the next step in joining the Western Energy Imbalance Market,” Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy - Colorado, said in a May 21 statement. “Participating in this market will support our efforts to keep customer bills low while providing them with more 100% carbon-free energy from wind and solar resources. That’s both a win for the environment and another way we can help the State of Colorado meet its clean energy goals.”

Before Colorado Springs Utilities joined the JDA, plans were already in the works for the JDA to join the WEIM — a move which CSU predicted would improve rates for customers while decreasing its carbon footprint.

The utility in December announced plans to eventually join the WEIM, with an original target of 2021.

"We are committed to offering our customers clean, more diverse and affordable energy," said CEO Aram Benyamin said in a December statement addressing those plans.
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Monday, April 27, 2020

Colorado Springs Utilities Board gives equal power to cost and environment

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 4:44 PM

The 220,000-panel Palmer Solar project, which recently came online, provides about 60 megawatts of energy to Colorado Springs Utilities customers. - COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Colorado Springs Utilities
  • The 220,000-panel Palmer Solar project, which recently came online, provides about 60 megawatts of energy to Colorado Springs Utilities customers.

A seemingly minor vote taken at the April 22 Utilities Board meeting could potentially alter the future of energy in Colorado Springs. (Or, it could be a merely symbolic step meant to placate clean-air advocates.)

The Colorado Springs Utilities Board, comprised of City Council members, voted to tweak the recommended criteria for scoring energy portfolios.

Based on the results of a customer survey, the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee (UPAC) —  which makes recommendations to the Utilities Board regarding the Energy Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) being developed for the next five years — had assigned weightings to several scoring criteria, which will be used to evaluate portfolio options for the EIRP.

UPAC has reviewed draft portfolio options that include various timelines for retiring the Drake and Nixon power plants and implementing new renewable and carbon-free energy. However, those finalized portfolios and the costs associated with each one haven't been presented to either UPAC or the Utilities Board.

For a breakdown of the draft portfolio options presented to UPAC earlier in April, read our past reporting.

In the evaluation process, each portfolio will be assigned a rating for the attributes of Reliability, Cost/Implementation, Environment/Stewardship, Flexibility/Diversity and Innovation. Those ratings will be multiplied by the attribute weightings to come up with an overall score for each portfolio.

In June, UPAC is likely to recommend a portfolio with a high score (and public support) for approval by the Utilities Board.

UPAC recommended these weightings for scoring portfolio options. - COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Colorado Springs Utilities
  • UPAC recommended these weightings for scoring portfolio options.

At the April 22 meeting, UPAC recommended the following attribute weightings to the Utilities Board for approval:

- Reliability: 32 percent
- Cost/Implementation: 24 percent
- Environment/Stewardship: 22 percent
- Flexibility/Diversity: 14 percent
- Innovation: 8 percent

But after a public comment section in which around two dozen people participated and many lamented that the city's coal-fired plants put the public health at risk by polluting the air, board member Bill Murray proposed a change.

"I would like to bring the cost of implementation down to 22, equal environmental stewardship, and bring innovation up another 2 percent to 10 percent," Murray said. "...My argument, very simply, is we can do better, and therefore we should."

The motion to amend the portfolio attribute weightings to equalize cost and environment eventually passed on a 5-4 vote, with board members Don Knight, David Geislinger, Andy Pico and Wayne Williams in the minority.

Geislinger later voted to approve the amended weightings, while Knight, Pico and Williams remained opposed.

Board member Tom Strand said he voted for the change based on public perception.

"I just want to see that both cost and environment, the optics of those to the community, look like we placed equal weight on both," he said, adding later that the current coronavirus pandemic also supported adding weight to the "innovation" attribute.

Meanwhile, Pico pointed out that transportation was a bigger contributor to air pollution than the public utility before voting against the change.

"The actual mix of generation capacities isn't what's on the agenda today," he added. "What we have here today is just the recommended attributes and weighting."

A public survey, open through May 3, will help UPAC and the Utilities Board determine which portfolio to choose. You can also register to provide input at a telephone town hall, scheduled for 6 p.m. on May 14.
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

EPA finalizes rule officials fear will allow pollution of streams and wetlands

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 1:49 PM

Though this man-made wetland along Fountain Creek likely has running water year-round and, as such, remains subject to federal protection, millions of acres of wetlands across the country no longer will be buffered from pollution under a new rule the Trump Administration's EPA has adopted. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Though this man-made wetland along Fountain Creek likely has running water year-round and, as such, remains subject to federal protection, millions of acres of wetlands across the country no longer will be buffered from pollution under a new rule the Trump Administration's EPA has adopted.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser say's he'll take legal action to protect Colorado waters against harmful aspects of an Environmental Protection Agency rule finalized April 21 that relaxes water quality compliance.

The new rule, advanced by President Donald Trump's administration, defines which governments have say over protecting waters from pollution, removing a good share of those waters in streams and watersheds that previously were covered by the EPA's Clean Water Rule imposed during the Barack Obama Administration.

The Clean Water Rule was finalized in 2015 and designed to protect ephemeral streams (those that don't run year-round) and wetlands that help store and filter water and provide fish and wildlife habitat.

But the Board of El Paso County Commissioners, comprised of Republicans, supports the rule, issuing a statement in response to the Indy's request for a comment:
The Board continues to support the idea that farmers, ranchers, and property owners should be given greater clarity and understanding of who has the regulatory authority over any bodies of water that may be on, or run through, their property.
(Commissioners have long opposed the Clean Water Rule, with former Commissioner Sallie Clark saying it could "impact our ability to handle stormwater," although federal and state officials said the rule actually would make things easier for agencies. After she left office in 2017, she took a post in the Trump Administration's Department of Agriculture.)

Colorado AG Weiser: vows to protect clean water. - ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE
  • Attorney General's Office
  • Colorado AG Weiser: vows to protect clean water.
Modifying the rule will remove Clean Water Act protections from millions of miles of small headwater streams and millions of acres of wetlands, and lift oversight of many currently regulated activities, such as oil and gas development and pipelines.

Weiser called the Waters of the United States rule "too limited," noting it excludes a "significant percentage" of Colorado’s waters from Clean Water Act protections.

"The final rule threatens to create unacceptable impacts to the state’s ability to protect our precious state water resources, and, in the absence of extraordinary state efforts to fill the gaps left by the federal government, will harm Colorado’s economy and water quality," Weiser said in a statement.

He conceded the final rule does protect important agriculture exemptions and provides continued assurance that states retain authority and primary responsibility over land and water resources important to Colorado. "However, the federal government’s decision to remove from federal oversight of ephemeral waters, certain intermittent streams, and many wetlands is based on flawed legal reasoning and lacks a scientific basis," he said.

Weiser didn't explain what legal action he plans.

“This rule will negatively impact Colorado’s economy and environment,” said John Putnam, the state's director of Environmental Programs. “Once again, Colorado and its sister states will need to step in to address EPA’s failure to comply with the Clean Water Act and other laws."

Last year, Gov. Jared Polis and Weiser warned against the EPA’s proposed rule change, citing the U.S. Geological Survey's National Hydrography Dataset, which estimated that 44 percent of Colorado’s streams are intermittent and 24 percent are ephemeral. That means at least 68 percent of Colorado's waters are temporary in nature, which will be removed from protection under the new rule.

Polis and Weiser, in public comments in response to the proposed rule change, noted Colorado is a headwaters state, containing the start of four multi-state river systems: the Platte,  Arkansas, Rio Grande and Colorado. They wrote:

Many of these headwaters comprise a web of wetlands, ephemeral streams, and intermittent streams, which are often connected to traditionally navigable waters. These waters have critical importance to the quality of water used by Colorado and nineteen downstream states for drinking, agriculture, recreation, and the health of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

This rule threatens huge swaths of Colorado’s waters; waters used by 19 states and Mexico that Colorado is obligated to protect. It’s estimated that almost 70% of Colorado Waters could be impacted by this rule.

With this action, the federal government has left us with an environmental protection and economic recovery gap. It is now up to the state to provide the necessary protection of both Colorado’s economy and the environment. We are going to do everything we can, while also addressing the impacts from COVID-19, to ensure Coloradans live in the healthy state they deserve,” said Patrick Pfaltzgraff, director, Water Quality Control Division.
Other environmental groups also opposed the rule change, including Trout Unlimited. “We cannot overstate how far this sets us back when it comes to protecting our water,” said the group's president and CEO Chris Wood. “No one wins when our water supplies are polluted. Allowing chemicals or waste to be dumped into headwaters during the dry part of the season harms the people who live downstream when the rainy season comes.

"You can bet on gravity every time," he added. "Whatever is in our headwaters will ultimately end up in our own backyards. Headwaters and wetlands are some of the most important components to our network of streams and rivers. They’re like the capillaries in our bodies. If they’re unhealthy, so is everything else. Americans should not, and will not, allow our water to be jeopardized in this way.”
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Monday, April 13, 2020

Colorado Springs Utilities committee sees draft options for retiring coal plants

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2020 at 10:53 AM

Drake will likely need to be retired by 2030 to comply with state law. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Drake will likely need to be retired by 2030 to comply with state law.

The Utilities Policy Advisory Committee has been meeting since last summer to hear presentations from Colorado Springs Utilities staff to get public feedback and form recommendations to the Utilities Board about which energy portfolio it should choose.

On April 1, the committee met via an online teleconference where staff presented a draft outline of different portfolio options with various timelines for retiring coal resources and adding renewables, such as wind and solar power.

CSU is also soliciting feedback from the public in a new survey that came online April 1, to help inform UPAC's formal recommendation to the Utilities Board in June.

During the April 1 meeting, Michael Avanzi, energy planning and innovation manager at CSU, walked through 16 potential portfolios including options for retiring the coal-fired units at the Martin Drake and Ray Nixon power plants to achieve different goals for carbon-free and renewable energy.

Carbon-free resources include more options than just renewables, Avanzi explained. Resources that aren't considered renewable but are carbon-free include natural gas with carbon capture technology and modular nuclear reactors.

According to CSU's current plan, or "reference case," Drake and the George Birdsall Power Plant (which runs on gas, and is used infrequently), would be retired in 2035. That's the existing timeline, but it likely doesn't align with state legislation passed last year, which set goals for statewide carbon emission reductions.

"To meet the 50 percent reduction by 2030 in carbon emissions — which is the minimum state requirement that's been put forward by legislation — to meet that requirement, we're essentially looking at having to retire the Drake plant no later than 2030 to meet that requirement," Avanzi said.

The current outline for IRP possibilities groups the portfolio options into five different "pathways," which have various energy goals.

Pathway C, for example, would replace coal resources with renewables such as wind and solar, along with something called "demand-side management," or DSM, which is essentially finding ways to reduce the amount of energy that residential and commercial customers consume. (Any IRP that the Utilities Board approves will require some amount of DSM, Avanzi said.) The options in that pathway would mean CSU would be powered by 100 percent renewable resources by 2050.

Portfolio 15 — one of the options in Pathway C — is perhaps the most ambitious, and would require switching to 100 percent renewable resources by 2030. To achieve that, Drake would be retired by 2026, and Nixon and Birdsall would be retired by 2030.

When looking at the timelines for retiring Drake, most of the portfolios fit somewhere between the reference case and the Pathway C portfolios — and it's difficult to compare them without looking at how each option will affect energy costs, a factor that won't be analyzed until later in the IRP process.

The next UPAC meeting in May will include more information on how each portfolio would affect energy costs and customer rates.

Staff presented a draft outline of 16 different portfolios for the Integrated Resource Plan. - COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Staff presented a draft outline of 16 different portfolios for the Integrated Resource Plan.

Pathway A, which is closest to the reference case, would retire Drake by 2030 and Birdsall by 2035, replacing those plants with either gas or renewable resources like wind and solar. Pathway A does not include retiring Nixon before 2050. This pathway would half CSU's carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve either 90 percent carbon reduction or 100 percent renewables by 2050.

In pathway B, Drake would be retired by 2026 and Birdsall by 2035, reducing carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050 — with multiple options for retiring Nixon depending on the timeline of reduction goals. Drake, Nixon and Birdsall would be replaced by gas resources and demand-side management.

Pathway D has the goal of 100 percent carbon reduction by 2050, and would retire Drake by 2026, Nixon by 2030 and Birdsall by 2035.

"Pathway D is similar to Pathway C except it opens up additional resource options to us such as nuclear and carbon capture resources," Avanzi explained.

Then there's Pathway E, which includes two portfolios that Avanzi said were added at the request of local clean-air advocates. That pathway would entail retiring Drake by 2023, Nixon by 2026 or 2030, and Birdsall by 2035. This would mean replacing Drake with aeroderivative gas turbines, powered by natural gas with fuel oil available as a backup. (Natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal.) The Pathway E portfolios would achieve 90 percent carbon reduction by 2050.

Replacing coal with aeroderivative gas is "the only scenario where we can retire the Drake plant by 2023," Avanzi said.

Clean-air advocates say it's imperative to retire Drake as early as possible in order to alleviate air pollution and protect the public health.

"A 2023 close date for Drake benefits our whole community," local Beyond Coal activist Lindsay Facknitz told the Indy in a recent text message. (Beyond Coal is a national campaign run by the Sierra Club, a national environmental group.) "Retiring Drake and Nixon coal plants will protect our community's health, save CSU customers money, and to do our part to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.”

A Denver Post analysis recently found that Drake is the second-biggest nitrogen oxide polluter in Colorado. However, it's important to note that Drake has the capability to run on either coal or natural gas, and the plant doesn't always run.

"We constantly evaluate the lowest cost source of energy and at times we will not run units at Drake as we commit other energy sources, such as renewables (solar) and natural gas fired sources," a CSU spokesperson explained in emailed answers to the Indy's questions. "Due to the price of natural gas as a fuel source and the fact that our demand is lower during this time of year, our Front Range Power Plant has been able to generate the majority of energy for our community."

The customer survey (open until May 3) aims to get a sense of customers' preferred pathway. It asks customers to indicate how much more they'd be willing to pay on a monthly utility bill to implement each pathway's goals for reducing carbon emissions and switching to renewables.

Residents can also send feedback on outlined portfolio options to energyvision@csu.org. Given the current COVID-19 crisis, the public workshop scheduled for May 7 will become a telephone town hall.

The town hall is tentatively scheduled for May 14 at 6 p.m., the CSU spokesperson said. More information on how to participate will be available on CSU's website when the details are confirmed.
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Monday, March 9, 2020

BLM move to Grand Junction criticized in congressional watchdog report

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2020 at 12:30 PM

The BLM will move its Washington, D.C. headquarters to an office in Grand Junction. - U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • The BLM will move its Washington, D.C. headquarters to an office in Grand Junction.

Both President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, have touted a decision to move the Bureau of Land Management's headquarters to Grand Junction from Washington, D.C. to keep the agency more focused on the areas it serves.

"Today is a historic day for our nation’s public lands, western states, and the people of Colorado," Gardner said in a tweet the day the move was announced. Other Colorado lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Reps. Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn, have also expressed their support.

But in a recent report, the federal Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency, criticized the Interior Department decision.

"BLM minimally or did not address key practices for involving employees and key stakeholders in the process of developing" agency reforms including relocation, the report found. The GAO also notes that the BLM didn't adequately explain how it would measure the benefits of transferring staff — which, it claimed, would include better management, communications and customer service.

The BLM has about 10,000 employees, 97 percent of whom are already located in the western U.S., where the agency manages around 245 million acres of public land for uses such as energy extraction, mining, timber harvesting, livestock grazing and outdoor recreation.

The decision to move BLM staff from D.C. to the new Grand Junction headquarters, as well as Western offices in Denver and Phoenix, involved relocating 311 positions — or 179 people, since many of those positions were vacant — by July 2020, according to the GAO report.

On Sept. 18, the BLM notified D.C. staff that their positions would be relocated, the report says, and sent them a memo on Nov. 12 giving them 30 days to accept or decline the reassignment. They would have an additional 90 days to move West.

"BLM also created a consideration request form intended to allow employees to ask for extension of their scheduled report date," the report adds. "According to agency officials, employees could also use these forms to ask for reassignments to other positions, considerations of other geographic locations, and reasonable accommodations."

But only about half accepted the reassignment. Another 81 either declined or left their positions, according to the GAO report.

The GAO also wanted more detailed justification for the move based on performance measures:

"BLM developed 5-year and 20-year analyses in which it calculated the cost differential between keeping staff in Washington, D.C., and relocating them to Grand Junction and field locations," the report says. "However, these analyses did not include justifications or explanations for assumptions made. For example, the analyses assumed a baseline attrition rate of 25 percent for positions slated to be relocated. In addition, BLM did not conduct a sensitivity analysis. These analyses also did not include other costs, such as travel to Washington, D.C., from all the new staff locations, or factors such as the effect of staff relocation on productivity."

In its Feb. 28 response to a draft version of the GAO's report, the BLM said it had developed "outcome-oriented performance measures," but would take the office's recommendations under consideration and "follow through as appropriate."

Regarding the GAO's recommendation that the BLM create a strategic workforce plan to fill vacant positions, the agency said that it "has a comprehensive recruitment process underway."

The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation policy and advocacy organization that has long opposed moving the BLM's headquarters, issued a statement further decrying the decision after the report was released.

"In dismantling the BLM headquarters in such a shoddy, irresponsible way, [Interior] Secretary [David] Bernhardt is playing with people’s livelihoods and threatening our public lands," Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said in the statement.

“The GAO report is more proof that Secretary Bernhardt’s only goal was an exodus of civil servants who he thinks stand in the way of doing favors for his former corporate clients,” she added, referring to Bernhardt's past experience as an oil and gas lobbyist. Some Democratic lawmakers have pushed for an investigation into Bernhardt's potential conflicts of interest in this area.

In a March 6 statement following the report's release, the BLM had a different take:

"We have received the GAO report, and while it is worth noting that the report did not fully appreciate the fundamental difference between a relocation and a reorganization, the report did thoroughly refute Chairman [Rep. Raul] Grijalva [D-Arizona]’s assertion that this effort was 'hastily planned,' the statement said. "The report recognizes that the BLM established goals and outcomes for the initiative, used data and evidence to inform its decision-making, took steps to manage and monitor the relocation process, and adopted measures to ensure strategic workforce management.

"The relocation of the Bureau’s headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado and its employees to other Western states is commonsense, and the Bureau will be better positioned to better serve the American public through this relocation in executing its multiple use mission.”
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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bear trash ordinance takes effect soon — are you ready?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 10:44 AM

A bear peeks out of a dumpster west of Trinidad in 2001. - MICHAEL SERAPHIN, COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE
  • Michael Seraphin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • A bear peeks out of a dumpster west of Trinidad in 2001.

——-UPDATE FRIDAY, FEB. 21 AT 7:10 A.M.——-

City spokesperson Kim Melchor contacted the Indy to clarify that the city seeks voluntary compliance with the ordinance.

"We ask the public’s patience as neighbors work to comply with this new ordinance, Neighborhood Services Manager Mitch Hammes said in a quote provided by Melchor. "You may contact neighborhood services if you have bear activity in your neighborhood due to unsecured trash and we will work to educate neighbors. Our goal is for people to voluntarily comply with the ordinance, however, continued non-compliance may result in fines,” Hammes said.


If you live on the Westside, be prepared to comply with a new trash management ordinance that takes effect March 1 — or bear the consequences.

Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved the bear-resistant trash ordinance back in October. It applies to most areas west of Interstate 25, where native black bears tend to visit.

According to the city, homeowners, renters and businesses must comply with the ordinance by:

• Securing their trash in a garage, shed or other secure structure. Trash bins should only be outside of the secure structure on trash collection days from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. The majority of homes will already meet this requirement with standard practices.
• For those who cannot store their trash in a secured structure, they will need to obtain a bear-resistant trash can. Certified bear-resistant waste containers can be provided by your trash collection company, or you can purchase your own certified containers.
This practice applies to all properties and zoning designations within the Bear Management Area to include single-family residential, multi-family residential, commercial, and industrial uses. Recycle bins do not have to be bear-resistant.

Violators could face fines of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second and $500 thereafter if they don’t use bear-resistant trash cans or put out their waste before 5 a.m. on trash collection day and take in the container by 7 p.m.

The ordinance allows a resident to appeal a citation in certain circumstances.

The goal is to reduce confrontations between bears and humans, and to reduce bear euthanizations in Colorado Springs resulting from those confrontations.

A Durango study funded in part by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) found that the number of conflicts between humans and bears could be reduced by more than half when residents used bear-resistant trash containers.

Many regional mountain towns, including Palmer Lake and Manitou Springs, have similar ordinances.

If you see a bear near your home, try to scare it away by yelling, blowing a whistle or clapping your hands, CPW recommends. Never approach a bear.
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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Water pollution bill progresses in state Senate

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2020 at 11:38 AM

  • Shutterstock
A state bill that will increase criminal penalties for violating water quality laws was approved on second reading by the Senate on Feb. 11, and is likely to get the Senate's final approval this week, before it heads to the state House.

Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, would increase penalties for polluting state waters from $12,500 currently to $25,000 per day for “criminal negligence” violations, as well as a year in jail, and from $25,000 currently to $50,000 per day for “knowing and intentional” violations, as well as up to three years behind bars.

Knowing or intentional pollution would be prosecuted as a class 5 felony.

While testifying to the Senate Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 6, Winter said the bill aligns Colorado's own pollution laws under the Water Quality Control Act with the federal Clean Water Act governing the same crimes.

"Federal action has been going down in recent years to protect our waterways," Winter testified, saying that recent reports showed the number of new cases prosecuted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency are at a 20-year low, and that the agency was too short-staffed to adequately police pollution.

No water pollution crimes have been prosecuted under Colorado law, while only two have been prosecuted under federal law in the past 10 years, Jason King testified on behalf of the Colorado Department of Law, which supports the bill.

The bill is also sponsored by Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Gray wolves initiative qualifies for 2020 ballot

Posted By on Tue, Jan 7, 2020 at 10:23 AM

The gray wolf has been functionally extinct in Colorado for 75 years. - JOHN AND KAREN HOLLINGSWORTH/USFWS
  • John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS
  • The gray wolf has been functionally extinct in Colorado for 75 years.

A group working to restore gray wolves to the Colorado wilderness has qualified for the state's 2020 general election ballot, the Colorado secretary of state's office announced Jan. 6.

The Restoration of Gray Wolves initiative's proponents, led by Gail Bell and Darlene Maria Kobobel, had to collect 124,632 valid signatures to put it on the ballot. They submitted 215,370 — about 139,000 of which were projected to be valid, based on a random sample.

If approved by a majority of Colorado voters, the initiative would allow for the reintroduction of gray wolves on designated areas west of the Continental Divide. A specific restoration plan would be developed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, a citizen board appointed by the governor, with public input.

Ranchers and farmers — many of whom have been opposed to efforts in other states to reintroduce gray wolves — would receive compensation for loss of livestock caused by gray wolves.

According to the initiative language, wolves were an "essential part" of Colorado's habitat in the past, but have been functionally extinct for 75 years.

The commission would hold statewide hearings before developing a management plan for reintroducing gray wolves. It would have to take into account "scientific, economic and social considerations," begin reintroduction by Dec. 31, 2023, and include:

• the selection of donor populations of wolves;
• the places, manner and scheduling of reintroduction;
• details for establishing and maintaining the wolf population; and
• methods for determining when the population is self-sustaining, and when to remove it from the endangered species list.

Under the ballot initiative, the commission could not impose any land, water or resource use restrictions on private landowners in order to carry out wolf restoration efforts.

The initiative also directs the state Legislature to designate money in the state budget to pay for the restoration, in order to cover any costs exceeding the money available from the state's wildlife restoration fund.

Legislative staff calculated the initiative would cost $344,000 over the fiscal year that starts in July of 2021 and $467,000 the following year. Those first two years would be for creating the restoration plan — so costs would likely increase in future years.

Those costs would probably include acquiring about 10 wolves per year, transporting them and housing them, as well as paying compensation to ranchers and farmers. But staff didn't estimate the costs of actual restoration, as they'd depend on the specifics of the restoration plan.

In their analysis, staff also noted that Colorado would require federal approval for restoration efforts, because the gray wolf is designated as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. But in March of 2019, the federal government proposed removing the gray wolf from the list — meaning it must decide by March of this year whether to do so. If the wolf is removed from the endangered species list, then federal approval wouldn't be necessary.

Reintroducing gray wolves may also decrease populations of animals such as deer and elk available for hunting, the analysis notes, but could foster more interest in outdoor recreation (other than hunting) by having a positive effect on some ecosystems.

The gray wolf initiative is the third initiative so far on the 2020 ballot, after a referendum on the National Popular Vote law and another initiative changing language in the state constitution to explicitly say that only citizens can vote.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the initiative would require 55 percent voter approval. In fact, the initiative constitutes a statute change, which requires only a simple majority.
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Friday, November 22, 2019

Rep. DeGette's Wilderness Act heads for House vote

Posted By on Fri, Nov 22, 2019 at 9:29 AM

The Wilderness Act would protect 17,900 acres in Browns Canyon. - BOB WICK
  • Bob Wick
  • The Wilderness Act would protect 17,900 acres in Browns Canyon.

Rep. Diana DeGette, the Democrat representing Colorado's 1st Congressional District, has introduced a version of the Colorado Wilderness Act each year since 1999.

This year, for the first time, it was referred by a House committee to be voted on by the full chamber.

“This bill will permanently protect 32 unique areas across our state from the threat of future development and the destruction caused by drilling for oil and gas,” DeGette told lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee. “It will help grow Colorado’s thriving tourism economy, and our multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.”

The bill would designate more than 600,000 acres of public land in Colorado as wilderness areas, the federal government's highest level of protection. Wilderness areas are open to hiking, camping, hunting and other types of non-motorized outdoor recreation, but closed to development.

  • Courtesy Rep. Diana DeGette
Committee members on Nov. 20 moved 21-13 to approve the Wilderness Act for a vote.

Here's a few of the proposed protected areas:

• 35,200 acres in the Beaver Creek wildlife area about 20 miles southwest of Colorado Springs.
• 17,900 acres in Browns Canyon National Monument, a popular whitewater rafting site southeast of Buena Vista.
• 25,600 acres in Demaree Canyon, an area northwest of Grand Junction with hiking opportunities.
• 33,300 acres in the Dolores River Canyon in southwestern Colorado, near the Utah border.
• 32,800 acres in Grape Canyon, a ravine area south of La Junta.
• 26,700 acres at Handies Peak, a fourteener east of Telluride.
• 28,200 acres in the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area, northeast of Grand Junction.
• 38,200 acres at Redcloud Peak, a fourteener southeast of Ouray.
• 37,600 acres at Sewemup Mesa, a popular  hiking area southwest of Grand Junction.
• 26,600 acres at the Palisade, a rock formation southwest of Grand Junction.

Republican committee member Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose district includes Colorado Springs, declined to support the bill.

Lamborn said that while he appreciated DeGette's efforts to make sure areas used by the military for high-altitude aviation training could still be used for those purposes, he found the wilderness designation to be overly restrictive.

He added that Mesa, Montezuma and Dolores boards of county commissioners had all issued resolutions opposing the bill. One concern was that a wilderness designation could restrict fire mitigation near residential areas.

Another bill protecting wilderness areas in Colorado, which recently passed the House without much Republican support, is the Colorado Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act. That bill creates about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, protects 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, and prohibits oil and gas development on 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide.

The CORE Act could face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Sen. Cory Gardner, the Republican from Colorado, has yet to declare his support. 
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Friday, November 1, 2019

CORE Act passes House over Lamborn, Tipton objections

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 2:18 PM

Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area.

A bill that adds protections for 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado passed the U.S. House on Oct. 31, along mostly partisan lines.

Just five Republicans voted in favor of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act — and Colorado's own GOP representatives weren't among them.

The CORE Act's narrow victory might appear to cast a shadow on its odds of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate, especially given a White House policy statement threatening to veto the legislation, as reported by the Colorado Sun.

But Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet — who has worked over the past decade to craft a bill that he says accounts for perspectives across the political spectrum — remains optimistic about the CORE Act's prospects.

"We can't find a similar precedent in the history of America where a president of the United States has reached out to threaten to veto with a bill like this bill," Bennet said on an Oct. 31 press call. "It's never happened. I'm shocked that it happened here, especially when it has such a broad bipartisan consensus of support in Colorado and there's such tremendous support at the local level."

"We're not going to let that dissuade us," he continued. "We're going to continue to work with the Coloradans that have worked so hard over the last decade to get this bill passed."

(See our previous reporting for a brief recap or detailed summary of the CORE Act.)

Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose 5th Congressional District includes Colorado Springs, refused to support the bill, arguing on the House floor that it does not take local concerns into account.

"While the goals of the public lands legislation in this bill are certainly admirable and well-intended, and I have great respect for the bill's sponsor...it is clear that this proposal lacks the type of local consensus required for a bill of this scale," Lamborn said on Oct. 30.

He and Rep. Scott Tipton, the Republican representing Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, said some stakeholders and local leaders affected by the CORE Act (the majority of which concerns Tipton's district) didn't feel their voices had been heard by the Democratic legislators crafting the legislation.

"This week alone, we received letters from Montezuma County, Dolores County, Rio Blanco County, Montrose County, Mesa County, all of which have various concerns about the CORE Act today," Tipton said during the debate. (Most of those counties do not contain land impacted by the legislation but are adjacent to an area it protects from future oil and gas development.)

Lamborn and Tipton also said they were concerned that a high-altitude aviation training site for the Army National Guard could be jeopardized by proposed wilderness area expansions included in the bill.

Rep. Joe Neguse, the bill's House sponsor, disputes those characterizations.

"We have yet to receive any opposition from a community in the state of Colorado to a provision of this bill that impacts that community," Neguse says, noting that commissioners in Pitkin, Ouray, San Juan, Eagle, Summit, Gunnison, San Miguel and Garfield counties support the CORE Act, as do several towns and municipalities.

The next step for the CORE Act is a Senate committee hearing.

Bennet says he's already spoken with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, about placing the CORE Act on the committee's hearing schedule. He expects that won't be an obstacle.

A potentially larger hurdle for the CORE Act will be obtaining the support of Colorado's Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has expressed some hesitation. While the legislation could pass without Gardner's support, such a feat would be tricky given that Republicans control the Senate.

Gardner recently told the Colorado Sun that he hasn't ruled out voting for the CORE Act, but would like to see changes related to water rights and livestock grazing.

Gardner's Democratic challengers for his contested Senate seat next fall have already seized on the possibility of his opposition — apparently counting on Colorado's natural landscapes to pull on voters' heartstrings. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper's Senate campaign, for example, has already launched digital advertisements urging Gardner to support the CORE Act.

“Coloradans need a Senator who will stand up for public lands and listen to local communities,” Hickenlooper said in an Oct. 31 statement. “Now that the CORE Act has passed the House and is heading to the Senate, I am calling on Senator Gardner to join me and Coloradans from across our state in supporting it.”
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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Colorado Democrats' public land bill up for vote in U.S. House this week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 9:29 AM

  • Thompson Divide.


The White House issued a statement saying that if the CORE Act were “presented to the president in its current form, his advisers would recommend that he veto it," the Colorado Sun reports.


House lawmakers could soon weigh in on a bill that would add protections for 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act — sponsored by Colorado Democrats Rep. Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet — would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, and prohibit oil and gas development on 200,000 acres of public land in the Thompson Divide. The 84-page bill was placed on the House calendar for a vote the week of Oct. 28.

It unites and builds upon four bills spearheaded by Bennet and other Colorado legislators, including now-Gov. Jared Polis and former Rep. John Salazar, in previous years.

If the CORE Act wins House approval, and later makes it through the Senate, the bill would be the first statewide Colorado wilderness legislation to become law in more than a decade, Neguse's office notes in a statement.

“From Gunnison to Carbondale, to Eagle and Summit Counties, and so many other communities across our state, Coloradans have been waiting for over 10 years for Congress to act to preserve the lands they love," Neguse is quoted as saying. "I’m excited to lead on this legislation on the House floor that was written by Coloradans to conserve Colorado; and look forward to next week’s floor proceedings."

Among the bill's objectives:

• Create three new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range west of Breckenridge, Hoosier Ridge south of Breckenridge, and Williams Fork Mountains north of Silverthorne. (Public lands designated as "wilderness areas" receive the federal government's highest protection from human impact, making them prime places for outdoor recreation.)
• Designate the 29,000-acre area surrounding Camp Hale, where Army troops trained in skiing and mountaineering during World War II, as the first ever National Historic Landscape.
• Create new wilderness areas and expand others in the San Juan Mountains.
• Prohibit future oil and gas development on 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, while preserving existing property rights.
• Formally establish the boundaries of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which includes three reservoirs on the Gunnison River. (Though the National Park Service has co-managed this area since 1965, it has never been legislatively established by Congress.)

Though Bennet has said he worked with a wide range of rural stakeholders in crafting the CORE Act, it remains to be seen whether Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate will jump on board in support. Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has not signed on as a cosponsor.

In the Democrat-led House, three Colorado Democrats have signed on as cosponsors: Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette and Jason Crow.
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Monday, September 30, 2019

Creek Week features waterway clean-ups and plenty of beer

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2019 at 1:43 PM

  • Courtesy Fountain Creek Watershed District
Sept. 28 kicked off Colorado Springs' annual Creek Week Clean-Up, a nine-day schedule of events aimed at beautifying local waterways.

Since the first Creek Week in 2014, the event has more than quadrupled in size, with 2,791 volunteers and 99 groups participating last year. In total, Creek Week volunteers have picked up more than 84 tons of trash.

Missed the clean-ups last weekend? Never fear — there's still time to pitch in.

View a full list of remaining clean-ups at the Creek Week website. (There's too many to list them all here!) Contact the crew leader to register.

Below, view a sampling of clean-ups, fundraisers and more creek-related events. All events are open to the public, and most are free.

Monday, Sept. 30:

● Clean-up at Bear Creek Park East from 4 to 6 p.m. At 5 p.m., a representative from Environment Colorado will discuss historic contamination of water supplies from toxic PFAS chemicals near Peterson Air Force Base. Contact Crew Leader Alli Schuch at allischuch@gmail.com.

Tuesday, Oct. 1:

• The Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region will install a temporary "Pikes Peak Litter Letter Project" public art piece on a berm off Cimarron Street, east of Interstate 25 and south of America the Beautiful Park. The piece consists of metal letters constructed by Concrete Couch and filled with trash collected on public land and around waterways. A public dedication at 4 p.m. will include remarks from local leaders.

Goat Patch Brewery, located at 2727 N. Cascade Ave., will host a "Bleating Heart Night" Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week from 5 to 9 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 2:

• The Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise will host a clean-up at America the Beautiful Park from 2 to 4 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Jerry Cordova at jcordova@springsgov.com.

Thursday, Oct. 3:

• Children ages 3 to 6, with an adult, can enjoy a Fountain Creek Nature Adventure at Fountain Creek Nature Center, located at 320 Pepper Grass Lane in Fountain. Today's theme: "Outstanding Owls." Prepaid reservations (required for all attendees) are $3 per person including siblings and adults.

Saturday, Oct. 5:

• Volunteers from Westside Cares, in partnership with COSILoveYou and Chapel of Our Saviour Episcopal Church, will meet at 9 a.m. at Vermijo Park and work along the Fountain Creek Waterway from 25th Street to Ridge Road. OCC Trash Fairies will also clean up the Vermijo Park area from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Luke Scott at luke.scott1124@gmail.com.

• El Paso County Parks will host a clean-up at Bear Creek Dog Park from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Dana Nordstrom at dananordstrom@elpasoco.com.

● El Paso County Parks will host a clean-up of Fox Run Regional Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Nathan Robinson at nathanrobinson@elpasoco.com.

● El Paso County Parks will host a clean-up at Bear Creek Nature Center and Regional Park from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Mary Jo Lewis at maryjolewis@elpasoco.com.

● Cross Creek Metropolitan District will host a clean-up at Cross Creek Park in Fountain from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Elise Bergsten at elise.balancedmgmt@gmail.com.

• The 4th Annual Clean n Crawl: Fountain Pick n Sip, a Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week, starts at 1 p.m. at Peaks n Pines Brewery, located at 212 W. Illinois Ave. in Fountain. Tickets cost $25 per person, $40 for two or $50 for families. They include trash clean-up, free T-shirts, two beers and food. RSVP to Alli Schuch at allischuch@gmail.com.

● The city of Manitou Springs will host a clean-up at Memorial Park in Manitou Springs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Mike Essam at messam@comsgov.com.

Manitou Brewing Company, located at 725 Manitou Ave. in Manitou Springs, will host a Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week from 1 to 3 p.m. For every pint purchased, $1 goes to support Creek Week, and volunteers can take 10 percent off food.

● Pueblo County will host a clean-up of Runyon Lake in Pueblo from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Andrea Crockenberg at crockenberg@pueblocounty.us.

Brues Ale House Brewing Co., located at 120 Riverwalk Place in Pueblo, will host a Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week with discounts for Creek Week volunteers all day.

• The Purgatoire River Cleanup Day will take place along the Purgatoire River in Trinidad from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Julie Knutson at jknudson@purgatoirepartners.org.
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