Environment

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Colorado Springs Utilities to add solar panels to power 30,000 homes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 3:59 PM

Here's an aerial view of Springs Utilities newest source of renewable energy at Clear Spring Ranch south of the city. This project features 42,000 solar panels that will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes annually. It also moves the city closer to its Energy Vision, which requires 20 percent of total electric energy be produced through renewable sources by 2020. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Here's an aerial view of Springs Utilities newest source of renewable energy at Clear Spring Ranch south of the city. This project features 42,000 solar panels that will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes annually. It also moves the city closer to its Energy Vision, which requires 20 percent of total electric energy be produced through renewable sources by 2020.

In the last few years, the buzz about energy locally has focused on when the downtown Drake Power Plant, powered by coal or natural gas, will be shut down for good.

We still don't have a definitive answer, beyond the official Utilities Board action to shutter the plant by 2035, but Colorado Springs Utilities is taking a significant step toward renewables in seeking to finalize a contract for 150 more megawatts of solar power.

This is in addition to an existing solar array at Clear Springs Ranch about 10 miles south of the city.

Here's Utilities' news release about the coming addition of solar panels:
Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) is finalizing negotiations and in the coming months will award a contract for 150 megawatts of new solar generation plus a 25-megawatt battery storage system by the end of 2023. At this time, it is the largest energy storage facility announced in Colorado.

“Energy storage is an integral part of our ability to transition from fossil fuels to incorporating more renewables into our system,” says Springs Utilities Chief Executive Officer Aram Benyamin.

“We are changing the way we power the Pikes Peak region and are on a path to reduce our carbon emissions by 40 percent or more from 2005 to 2035.”

The battery project will provide the utility with valuable information about improving solar power integration and reducing the need for natural gas to maintain reliability. For this reason, the utility will negotiate an option to add more storage capacity to the battery system in the future.

“This project will familiarize us with utility-scale battery technology and give us the flexibility to seek better pricing as the technology improves and our load growth materializes,” Benyamin explains.

The battery will be used to store less expensive solar energy during the day so that it can be used during more expensive peak demand periods. With the ability to run for up to four hours at maximum capacity, upwards of 30,000 homes will be powered when the battery is dispatched.

The reduction of carbon emissions will be realized by decommissioning one of the utility’s coal-fired power plants and the addition of more solar power. Beyond the 150-megawatt project, the utility is planning to add another 95 megawatts of solar power by the end of the year.

Once all of these renewable energy projects are online, more than 95,000 homes annually will be powered by this carbon-free energy.
Watch a video of the solar array south of the city here.
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Former Fountain resident testifies on PFASs in D.C.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 5:43 PM

Mark Favors, second from left, submitted written testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment. He spoke with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-New York, center, about the effects of PFAS contamination on his family. Also pictured, from left: Chet Whye, Hope Grosse and Loreen Hackett. - COURTESY OF MARK FAVORS
  • Courtesy of Mark Favors
  • Mark Favors, second from left, submitted written testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment. He spoke with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-New York, center, about the effects of PFAS contamination on his family. Also pictured, from left: Chet Whye, Hope Grosse and Loreen Hackett.
An Army veteran who grew up near Peterson Air Force Base was among those in attendance at a House subcommittee hearing March 6 on Capitol Hill. The subject: PFASs, a toxic group of chemicals found in household products and military firefighting foam, and their effects on health and the environment.

Lawmakers questioned representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense while holding up the stories of those — including former Fountain resident Mark Favors — who have been personally affected by the military's decades-long use of the chemicals. PFASs, which researchers have linked to low birth weights, liver and kidney cancer, and thyroid problems, leached into the drinking water supply in areas surrounding hundreds of military installations around the world.
"Mark Favors is a U.S. Army veteran who had 16 family members, 16 family members, diagnosed with cancer, all of whom lived next to the Peterson Air Force Base in Fountain, Colorado," Rep. Harley Rouda, D-California, chair of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment, said in his opening remarks. "Several of those family members are also veterans."
The Department of Defense has taken some actions to address PFASs, including implementing a new type of firefighting foam that it says is safer for public health and the environment. And on Feb. 14, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed its long-awaited PFAS action plan, announcing it would start the process for setting a maximum contaminant level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act for two chemicals in the PFAS group, PFOA and PFOS.
But for many lawmakers and advocates, the steps outlined in the plan weren't enough to address the problem, and to hold the Department of Defense accountable for contamination of communities. (Read more on the plan here.)

And Congress is bringing on the pressure.

The same day as the subcommittee hearing, a group of senators signed a letter demanding copies of communications between the EPA, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget, and Department of Health and Human Services regarding the PFAS Action Plan and groundwater cleanup guidelines.

And Colorado Sens. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) were among a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce a bill on March 1 that would require the EPA to designate PFASs as hazardous substances, making polluters responsible for funding cleanup. (An identical bill was introduced in the House in January.)


At the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Katie Hill, D-California, began her question for Dave Ross, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Water, by saying she had been born on an Air Force base where high concentrations of PFAS chemicals had been detected. She asked Ross whether he, like embattled former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, would call PFAS contamination a "national emergency."

"We do believe it is a major national issue for EPA and our federal partners to address," Ross said, citing the agency's successful effort to get manufacturers to voluntarily pull products containing PFOA and PFOS off the market.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, told the story of a woman who grew up in Warminster, Pennsylvania near the Naval Air Warfare Center.

"[Hope] Grosse was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 25 years old," Ocasio-Cortez said. "Ms. Grosse's father died of cancer at 52 years of age, and her sister suffered from ovarian cysts, lupus, fibromyalgia and abdominal aneurysms. She worries that she has unwittingly exposed her own children to [PFAS] chemicals as well... Mr. Ross, do you believe that the EPA should further regulate these chemicals?"

"Yes, and that’s what we’ve stated in our action plan," Ross replied. "We have a robust plan to regulate these chemicals across a wide variety of our programs."

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, asked whether the Department of Defense knew how many active service members, veterans and their families had had been exposed to the chemicals.

"Our health affairs staff is going to be conducting a health study and creating an inventory of those service members that have been exposed through drinking water or occupational exposure and work in coordination with the Veterans Administration to share that information," replied Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment.

The hearing was held the same day that Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, released an updated map with information on 106 military sites where drinking water or groundwater is contaminated with PFASs. (The Department of the Defense has said that there are 401 sites in the U.S. alone with known or suspected contamination.)

The group also released a report with several recommendations for Congress and President Donald Trump's administration.

While the problem of PFAS contamination has persisted for decades without major enforcement actions by the federal government, Congress's renewed interest could move the needle on the issue, says Melanie Benesh, Environmental Working Group's legislative attorney.
"I think Congress will continue to push the [EPA] and do everything that they’re doing now —introducing bills, holding oversight hearings — and I think the states have an important role to play," Benesh says. "State policy tends to move federal policy and tends to move marketplace actions... And then there’s a whole grassroots network of people who have been affected by these chemicals, particularly veterans and military families, and those voices really matter."

Peterson Air Force Base replaced the old firefighting foam in all of its emergency response vehicles in 2016, a spokesperson said. The new, supposedly safer formula is only used in emergencies, and not during training.

Water districts surrounding the base have changed water sources or filtration systems since evidence of contamination began to emerge in 2015.

But the spread of PFASs in drinking water left lasting effects that should have been addressed by the state, Favors argues.

"Despite having a budget surplus in 2018 of over $1.1 billion, the state of Colorado still has not
conducted a formal investigation on the scope of the PFAS contamination, conducted PFAS
blood level tests of our affected children, nor passed legally enforceable MCLs of PFAS in
drinking water," Favors, now a New York resident, wrote in his testimony to Congress.

Favors goes on to list the 10 blood relatives and in-laws he has lost to cancer, all of whom lived for years near Peterson Air Force Base.
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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fisher's Peak in Trinidad will open to the public, thanks to land purchase

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad. - COURTESY OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY/LAURYN WACHS
  • Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy/Lauryn Wachs
  • Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad.

Just east of Interstate 25, a few miles north of the New Mexico border, 9,600-foot-tall Fisher's Peak is a hidden gem in plain sight.

The Trinidad landmark has long been closed to the public. But thanks to a land purchase completed Feb. 28, the peak and the ranch it sits on will open for as-yet-undefined public use within a few years.

The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, two nonprofit organizations focused on conservation and land access, bought Crazy French Ranch and will spend the next two years or so working with the city of Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Trinidad State Junior College to develop a management plan for the peak-containing property. That could include opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and education, says Matthew Moorhead, director of business development and strategic partnerships for The Nature Conservancy.

"We can make sure that this is a well-managed, a properly-managed natural area that protects everything living there that makes it special," Moorhead says. "At the very same time ... we’re able to provide for the kind of public recreational access that’s going to bring a cultural and economic and educational value to the citizens of Trinidad, Las Animas County and Colorado."

Great Outdoors Colorado — which invests a portion of state lottery proceeds into state parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces — has awarded a $7.5 million grant for the Fisher's Peak Project, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has pledged an additional $7 million.

After the management plan and financing is in place, the two nonprofits will turn over the property to a local or state entity, such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the city of Trinidad, Moorhead says.

The project could have widespread appeal to Coloradans who might not otherwise visit Trinidad. Colorado College's 2019 State of the Rockies poll showed 90 percent of Coloradans believe the outdoor recreation economy is important to the future of their state and the Western U.S. And the town doesn't have other recreation opportunities nearby that compare with what Fisher's Peak offers, Moorhead says.

In fact, he adds, the only way the public can currently access the state land adjacent to Fisher's Peak is by first crossing into New Mexico and undertaking a difficult hike.

“The ranch embodies the amazing history of this area, we look forward to conserving that for future generations,” Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico was quoted in a statement from The Nature Conservancy. “We are also excited about the economic opportunities that public lands and recreation can bring to our community.”
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Thursday, February 14, 2019

EPA will look at regulating PFAS chemicals

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 12:36 PM

Doug Benevento, left, and Peter Wright, right, discuss EPA's plans to address PFAS problem.
  • Doug Benevento, left, and Peter Wright, right, discuss EPA's plans to address PFAS problem.

On Feb. 14, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a conference in the city of Fountain to announce plans to address toxic chemicals that have been found in the area’s drinking water, and in the water of communities across the nation.


The chemicals at issue: PFASs, man-made contaminants found to have originated primarily, in the Fountain area, from firefighting foam used by the Air Force Academy for training purposes.

The EPA’s plan outlines steps to develop new analytical tools for four key areas: human health and ecological effects, significant sources of these chemicals, cost and effectiveness of treatment methods, and how best to support stakeholders. However, this plan does not include a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for drinking water, though citizens have been calling for an MCL since the EPA first toured affected areas in 2018.

Representatives from the EPA, regional administrator Doug Benevento and senior counsel to the administrator Peter Wright, said they were bound by the processes put in place by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and had to undergo certain legal steps to declare an MCL and recommend treatment, such as gathering data and undergoing a period of public comment.

The EPA has started this process to set an MCL for two types of PFASs (PFOA and PFOS). By the end of 2019, they hope to propose a regulatory determination for establishing an MCL for both — it may take longer to actually establish that MCL, but they do not have a solid timeframe.

They also announced that the EPA has already issued direct enforcement orders in eight instances of contamination, and have begun steps toward regulating PFASs as dangerous chemicals. They plan to issue groundwater cleanup recommendations soon, but offered no solid timeline.

(You can watch the full presentation on the EPA for Region 8’s Facebook page. Dough Benevento takes the podium for opening remarks at 39 minutes in.)

If all of this strikes you as less than a firm plan, you're not alone. The Environmental Working Group released a statement that read in part:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called PFAS management plan would only make the nationwide crisis of pervasive pollution from fluorinated compounds worse, EWG said.

The plan from the Trump EPA, released today, would not stop the introduction of new PFAS chemicals, end the use of PFAS chemicals in everyday products, alert Americans to the risk of PFAS pollution or clean up contaminated drinking water supplies for an estimated 110 million Americans.

Instead, it perpetuates the agency’s record of foot-dragging on establishing meaningful protections against a class of chemicals linked to cancer, thyroid disease and weakened childhood immunity, among other serious health harms. 

The release goes on to lay out what the EWG believes the EPA ought to do to address PFASs and protect the public. Read the full release here.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Senate votes to reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 10:22 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.

The U.S. Senate has passed a massive public lands package that includes legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The package, Senate Bill 47 — which encompasses more than 100 bills addressing land exchanges, national parks, wildlife conservation, recreation and more nationwide — soared through on a vote of 92 to 8. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement championing the legislation's passage. Gardner, like his counterpart, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, has been a vocal supporter of reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund, which expired in September after legislators failed to reauthorize it, had been used since 1965 to buy and preserve land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

"The [Land and Water Conservation Fund] has a direct impact on public lands in Colorado and will be used to protect our state’s natural beauty for future generations," Gardner said in the statement. "I’m thrilled we were able to finally permanently reauthorize this commonsense program supported by Coloradans across the political spectrum."

Gardner sponsored or cosponsored several Colorado-related bills that were included in the package.

Bennet also issued a statement praising the public lands package. He led or co-led several of the bills, including some that were collaborations with Gardner.

“It’s rare that a bipartisan lands package moves in Congress, so this bill is a significant accomplishment for communities across Colorado,” Bennet said.

Bennet tried to get his Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which combined four previously introduced bills to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, included in the package, but that amendment did not pass.

Conservation groups in Colorado and beyond applauded the public lands package, especially the fund's reauthorization.

“Today’s vote is a big step toward ending the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued this amazing and incredibly important conservation program," Carlos Fernandez, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “Thank you, Senators Bennet and Gardner, for championing this effort. Your leadership and stalwart support has helped get this legislation to where it is today."

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.
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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Green New Deal proposes sweeping environmental change

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 3:52 PM

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, co-author of the Green New Deal, and target for anti-socialist rhetoric. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, co-author of the Green New Deal, and target for anti-socialist rhetoric.
A bill rolled out in the U.S. House Thursday, Feb. 7, aims to make the U.S. net-zero, emissions wise, by 2050.

Dubbed the “Green New Deal,” the legislation backed by New York freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey proposes an overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure, energy and transportation sectors. Both lawmakers are Democrats.

The bill echoes some of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ priorities laid out in his January State of the State address, and was released the same date that Democratic Senate hopeful Mike Johnston of Denver announced his own green energy proposal.

Polis in January reiterated a campaign pledge to make the state’s energy supply totally renewable by 2040: “That means modernizing both our grid infrastructure and our regulatory processes to ensure all Coloradans are reaping the full suite of benefits associated with swift adoption of renewable energy,” the governor said. “It means working to electrify our cars and busses and trucks ... And it means taking advantage of modern technology to use energy more efficiently — cleaning our air and saving consumers money in the process.”

The federal legislation taps similar goals, although it offers more concepts than details. Among the Green New Deal’s goals:

• To achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions “through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.”

• To create “millions of good, high-paying jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security” for all Americans.

• To invest in infrastructure and industry

• To promote justice and equity “by stopping current, preventing future and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustralized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities and youth” — all so-called “frontline and vulnerable communities.” 

It proposes doing so through a massive infrastructure reconstruction effort reminiscent, the bill’s authors said, of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s iconic “The New Deal,” which stabilized a Great Depression economy through jobs and infrastructure construction.

Included in the Green New Deal’s vision:

• Meeting 100 percent of the nation’s power demands through renewable, green energy.

• Building efficient power grids.

• Upgrading the nation’s existing buildings to maximize efficiency.

• Embracing ecologically sound manufacturing processes.

• Encouraging reinvestment and support for family and sustainable farming.

• Overhauling the transportation network to include zero-emission cars and boost high-speed rail.

“Today is a really big day for our economy, the labor movement, the social justice movement, indigenous peoples and people all over the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a Thursday press conference. “Today is the day we truly embark on a comprehensive agenda of economic, social and racial justice in the United State of America.”

The proposal offers more breadth than details, and the price tag for the massive overhaul was not immediately known.

Adding to its uphill battle, the response from leaders on both sides of the aisle has been tepid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during her Thursday press conference, said “We welcome the enthusiasm that is out there ... The Green New Deal points out the fact that the public is much more aware of the challenge that we face, and that is a good thing.”

But John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and chair of the Senate Republican Conference, derided the plan: “It’s a socialist manifesto that lays out a laundry list of government giveaways, including guaranteed food, housing, college and economic security even for those who refuse to work,” he said in a statement. “As Democrats take a hard left turn, this radical proposal would take our growing economy off the cliff and our nation into bankruptcy. It’s the first step down a dark path to socialism.”

Read the proposal's full text below:
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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Democrats introduce bill to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Two Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress they say would safeguard 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.

The 82-page Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act, would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, expand access to existing protected lands and prohibit new oil and gas development in some areas. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet and freshman Rep. Joe Neguse, the legislation "unites and improves" four bills spearheaded by Bennet and other Colorado legislators — including now-Gov. Jared Polis and former Rep. John Salazar — in previous years.

"This bill is the result of years of hard work from local leaders, businessmen, sportsmen and conservationists across Colorado," Bennet said in a Jan. 25 conference call announcing the legislation.

Not since 1993, when Congress passed the Colorado Wilderness Act, has this much Colorado land been preserved at once, Bennet told the Denver Post.

Should Congress pass the CORE Act this year, Bennet's likely to leverage it if he runs for president — which he told MSNBC he was "thinking about" just a day before announcing the new legislation, after an uncharacteristically emotional speech on the Senate floor had catapulted him into the national spotlight.

(Does Bennet's verbal takedown of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., pass fact-checking muster? Check out this analysis from PolitiFact.)

Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area.

Anyhow, here's a quick summary of each section of the CORE Act (formerly separate bills):

Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act

Last year, Bennet introduced this bill in the Senate, and Polis sponsored its counterpart in the House. Neither got a vote.

This section of the CORE Act would create three new wilderness areas totaling 21,000 acres in the Tenmile Range west of Breckenridge, Hoosier Ridge south of Breckenridge, and Williams Fork Mountains north of Silverthorne. In the Tenmile Range, a new 17,000-acre recreation area would protect access to hiking, hunting and mountain biking. The bill would also expand three existing areas — Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak and Holy Cross — by a total of 20,000 acres. Two new wildlife conservation areas, Porcupine Gulch and Williams Fork, would comprise a total of 12,000 acres.

Under this bill, the 29,000-acre area surrounding Camp Hale, where Army troops trained in skiing and mountaineering during World War II, would become the first ever National Historic Landscape. This section creates a $10 million fund for "activities relating to historic interpretation, preservation and restoration" in the Camp Hale area.

The bill would also adjust boundaries around the Trail River Ranch in Rocky Mountain National Park to ensure continued public access, protect water rights for Minturn, a town southwest of Vail, and grant several parcels of land in Grand County to the U.S. Forest Service.

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

San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act

Bennet introduced this bill last spring. Subcommittee hearings were held in the fall, but it never reached the Senate floor.

The CORE Act's version of the bill designates new wilderness areas and expands others — including Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels — near Telluride, Norwood, Ouray and Ridgway in southwest Colorado. It also creates two special management areas where roads and most motor vehicles would be prohibited: the 22,000-acre Sheep Mountain area between the towns of Ophir and Silverton, and 790-acre Liberty Bell East area near Telluride.

This bill also prohibits future oil and gas development on 6,600 acres in Naturita Canyon.

In total, this section of the CORE Act protects about 61,000 acres of land in the San Juan Mountains through new wilderness areas, expansions, and oil and gas restrictions.

Stakeholders in San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan counties "came together over a decade ago to plan for the future," San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper said on Bennet's Jan. 25 conference call. "All sides compromised again and again, and then again, and the result is the designations and boundaries of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill we have today."

Thompson Divide. - JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Jon Mullen, courtesy of The Wilderness Society
  • Thompson Divide.

Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act

Bennet introduced this bill in 2017, after which it languished in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The CORE Act version protects around 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development, while preserving existing property rights.

"There's just some areas where the costs to the community outweigh any potential benefit of drilling, and Thompson Divide is surely one of those places," said Bill Fales, a local rancher on Bennet's conference call. "What is on top of this land is much more valuable to us than any petroleum that might lie below it."

This section of the CORE Act also creates a leasing program to generate energy from excess methane produced by abandoned and existing coal plants in the North Fork Valley, a region on Colorado's Western Slope.

Curecanti National Recreation Area. - NPS/VICTORIA STAUFFENBERG
  • NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act

Last introduced by Sen. John Salazar in 2010, this bill formally establishes the boundaries of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which includes three reservoirs on the Gunnison River. Though the National Park Service has co-managed the area since 1965, it has never been legislatively established by Congress. The bill makes some administrative changes to the way the land is managed, gives the Bureau of Reclamation jurisdiction over Curecanti's three reservoirs, and ensures that the public will have greater access to fishing.

Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck spoke in support of the bill on Bennet's conference call.

"The need to declare that boundary designation and have management plans...has been the desire of this community for decades," Houck said, pointing out that Curecanti's Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado.

"You can count on the support from the greater Gunnison community to provide a voice to match our values around this legislation to protect these amazing and cherished places for now and into the future," he added.

Go to the next page for maps of each area.




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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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