Environment

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Conservation Colorado grades state lawmakers on environmental issues

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2019 at 5:22 PM

TONY WEBSTER VIA FLICKR
  • Tony Webster via Flickr
Back in May, we reported on nonprofit Mental Health Colorado's release of its 2019 legislative scorecard, which assigned scores to state lawmakers based on how they voted on mental health-related bills.

If voting records on environment-related legislation (such as the notorious "oil and gas bill," Senate Bill 181) play a role in whom you choose to help elect, you also might appreciate this scorecard from Conservation Colorado.

The Denver-based nonprofit gave state lawmakers "scores" based on how they voted on "priority bills that affect Colorado’s land, water, climate, and communities." (Conservation Colorado isn't affiliated with a political party.)

The rankings are based on five bills related to "climate and clean energy," the oil and gas bill, two transportation bills, and five bills related to "land, water and wildlife." Most were approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.

Environmental issues appear to be more polarizing then mental health, based on a comparison of the two scorecards. While Mental Health Colorado assigned scores across the spectrum, most lawmakers got either an A+ or an F when it came to conservation.

Spoiler alert: Three El Paso County Republicans (Tim Geitner, Dave Williams and Shane Sandridge) got big, fat zeroes from Conservation Colorado. For voters who don't like environmental regulations, that could, of course, be a good thing.

Here's a handful of included bills you maybe haven't heard of (and you can view the rest at Conservation Colorado's website):

House Bill 1026: "Parks and Wildlife Violations of Law" increases fines for violations of laws enforced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife — such as possessing live wildlife without a license, fishing without a license, or hunting without a hunter education certificate. It also changes the way fine revenue is distributed.

House Bill 1050: "Encourage Use of Xeriscape in Common Areas" prevents homeowners associations from prohibiting drought-tolerant landscaping in common areas. (There's already a law protecting individual property owners in HOAs who want to xeriscape.) It also requires special districts to allow such landscaping in open space and park land.

House Bill 1113: "Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts" essentially tells hardrock mines they can’t say that water quality can be maintained only through treating water for an indefinite period; they must show that their reclamation plan will lead to an end date for such measures. They must also provide financial assurances "in an amount sufficient to protect water resources, including costs for any necessary water quality 
protection, treatment, and monitoring,” according to the bill's fiscal note.

House Bill 1231: "New Appliance Energy And Water Efficiency Standards," according to Conservation Colorado, "sets new energy and water efficiency standards for many household appliances sold in our state, benefitting Colorado consumers, businesses and our environment."

House Bill 1264: Under a conservation easement agreement, a property owner agrees to limit the use of their land to serve a conservation purpose, in exchange for a state income tax credit. This bill, "Conservation Easement Improvements," extends the state's Conservation Easement Oversight Commission and the conservation easement certification program, and makes various changes to the process.

House Bill 1314: "Just Transition From Coal-based Electrical Energy Economy" creates the "Just Transition Office" to provide benefits for former employees of retired coal plants, award grants, and receive utility reports related to coal plant retirement.

Senate Bill 181: "Protect Public Welfare Oil & Gas Operations" makes major changes to the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado. It grants local governments broad powers to regulate oil and gas operations, including to “zone land use for mineral resource development, to site, monitor, and inspect oil and gas facilities, and to impose fees and fines,” according the bill’s fiscal note.

Senate Bill 236: This bill, "Sunset Public Utilities Commission," will "help Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission — the regulatory body responsible for determining which resources to use to power Colorado’s grid — drastically reduce these emissions by directing utilities in the state to generate more carbon-free electricity and consider the 'social cost' of carbon when planning future energy projects," according to the nonprofit. The bill requires a $1.1 million appropriation to multiple state agencies.

Here's how El Paso County legislators scored, on a 100-point scale.

• Rep. Terri Carver (R): 15

Carver opposed all of the bills except HB 1026 and HB 1113.

• Rep. Tony Exum (D): 100

Exum was excused for HB 1231, HB 1314, SB 236 and HB 1264, but voted for all of other the bills.

• Rep. Tim Geitner (R): 0

Geitner opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Lois Landgraf (R): 8

Landgraf opposed all of the bills except HB 1050. She was excused for HB 1026.

• Rep. Larry Liston (R): 15

Liston opposed all of the bills except HB 1264 and HB 1050.

• Rep. Shane Sandridge (R): 0

Sandridge opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Marc Snyder (D): 100

Snyder voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Dave Williams (R): 0

Williams opposed all of the bills.

• Sen. Bob Gardner (R): 8

Gardner opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Owen Hill (R): 8

Hill opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Dennis Hisey (R): 17

Hisey opposed all of the bills except HB 1264 and HB 1050.

• Sen. Pete Lee (D): 100

Lee voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Paul Lundeen (R): 8

Lundeen opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Bike to Work Day is June 26

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Mayor John Suthers and police officers were among those to participate in the 2018 Bike to Work Day. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • Mayor John Suthers and police officers were among those to participate in the 2018 Bike to Work Day.

Colorado Springs' Bike to Work Day is June 26, and there are plenty of reason to press your feet the pedals — starting with your stomach. The event, for which the Independent is a sponsor, features over 30 locations for cyclists to get a free breakfast including local businesses with yummy offerings. (Find yours on the map!)

You don't have to register to get breakfast, but you are encouraged to: It's a way for the city to judge how many people are getting out on their bikes and that factors into a lot of decision-making on how best to accommodate cyclists. You can register as late as the morning of Bike to Work Day!

Feeling nervous about your route? Check the city's bike map to figure out the safest way from home to work.

By the way, Bike to Work Day is just one of many events for Bike Month. So be sure to check out the other happenings.

Here are some tips to keep you safe on the road:

Under state law bicyclists are considered vehicles, however, they are much more vulnerable on the road. Please consider the following safety suggestions to help make for a pleasant ride to work that morning.
• People get around our city on foot, in car, by bus, on bikes and wheelchairs. Let’s be mindful so that we all arrive safely.
• Always wear a helmet.
• Always signal when riding on the road and obey all Colorado traffic laws.
• Be visible and alert to surroundings.
• Respect and be considerate of others on the roads and trails.


Want to hit a Happy Hour on the ride home and get a special deal? Here's the list:

Stop at any one of the local breweries listed below for a special deal as you bike home from work:
• Brass Brewing Co. (318 E. Colorado Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• Brewer’s Republic (112 N. Nevada Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• Cerberus Brewing Co. (702 W. Colorado Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• FH Beer Works Downtown (521 S. Tejon St), $1 off pints for riders
• FH Beer Works East (2490 Victor Pl/ Rock Island Trail & Powers), $1 off pints for riders
• Goat Patch Brewing Co. (2727 N Cascade Ave, #123/ Lincoln Center), BOGO for riders
• Local Relic (320 S. Weber St), ½ off first flight or full pour, plus BOGO select bottles
• Peaks N Pines Brewery (4005 Tutt Boulevard 80922), BOGO for riders
• Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. (2 East Pikes Peak Avenue 80903), free pint with purchase of an appetizer ($10 minimum)
• Storybook Brewing Co. (3121A, N El Paso St), BOGO for riders on BTWD, 10% off for riders all year
• Tap Traders (3104 N Nevada Ave #100), BOGO for riders on BTWD
• Trails End Taproom (3103 W. Colorado Ave), 15% off beer pours for riders
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

City tries "gutter bins" to keep cigarette butts out of creek

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 3:38 PM

"Gutter bins" are shaped like giant socks. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • "Gutter bins" are shaped like giant socks.
To keep pollution out of waterways, city staff are thinking outside the box — and have their minds in the gutter.

In May, the city installed "gutter bins" in three downtown locations. The sock-like devices catch cigarette butts, pieces of Styrofoam coffee cups or whatever else people happen to discard that would otherwise flow down the gutter and, eventually, into the creek.

"The other day we pulled about 15 pounds out of one of them," says city stormwater specialist Jerry Cordova. "...We actually found a brand-new softball."

Cordova's team plans to try out the three bins for a while and possibly add them later in other parts of the city. The devices, manufactured by environmental technology company Frog Creek Partners, come with a price tag, but the bin lids are customizable — so companies who want to "sponsor" a gutter bin could have their names etched on the top, Cordova adds.

"This is one opportunity to [improve the water quality] without making a huge investment up front: Try it, see how it works and we can always scale this larger," he says.

Cordova also runs the Adopt-A-Waterway Program, which allows businesses and organizations to "adopt" a stretch of creek by keeping it clean in exchange for getting their name on a sign. And the city's Creek Week event draws hundreds of volunteers to clean up trash along Fountain Creek each fall.

While volunteers in those two programs can see the immediate difference that picking up trash for a day or two makes, Cordova points out that small pieces of litter accumulated over time can also harm the creek ecosystem.

The "gutter bin" lids are customizable. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • The "gutter bin" lids are customizable.
When someone walking downtown sees a cigarette butt discarded on the sidewalk, they may think, "Oh it's just a cigarette butt," Cordova says.

"But think about all the health warnings that you see about cigarettes and the dangers of smoking. ... Well, all those toxins get stuck in that little filter, that cigarette butt — so when that gets into our water, it's been leaching those chemicals into the water."

What's more, he says, fish will often eat cigarette butts floating on the water, and water fowl nibble them up while pecking at the ground for food.

"It seems like something small, but little things can make big differences, positive or negative, and so that's why we wanted these filters to capture those little pieces that many people overlook," Cordova says.
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Air Force diverted $66 million from other projects for PFAS cleanup

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2019 at 6:06 PM

Military firefighting foam once used at Peterson Air Force Base contaminated the drinking water in Fountain and Security-Widefield. - U.S. AIR FORCE/EDDIE GREEN
  • U.S. Air Force/Eddie Green
  • Military firefighting foam once used at Peterson Air Force Base contaminated the drinking water in Fountain and Security-Widefield.
In March, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee asked the Department of Defense for details about funding diverted from other projects to pay for cleanup and testing for PFAS, a toxic group of man-made chemicals used in military firefighting foam.

On June 5, the DoD responded to Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware by acknowledging that the Air Force had diverted $66.6 million from other projects to pay for PFAS-related efforts. The Army and Navy did not have to divert any funding, according to the DoD's letter.

Many of the projects put on hold involved cleaning up other pollution at former Air Force sites.

They included a $37 million landfill cap repair and soil remediation project at Galena Air Force Station in Alaska, a $8.6 million radiological cleanup at McClellan Air Force Base in California, and $4.5 million groundwater bioremediation and landfill cap repair at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan.

The funding diverted from those and other projects paid for PFAS testing at 16 former Air Force installations, along with groundwater and drinking water treatment for communities around Wurtsmith, Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire and March Air Reserve Base in California.

“Congress needs to ensure that the Department of Defense has the resources needed to fully address its millions of dollars—perhaps billions of dollars—in liabilities related to the DOD-related PFAS contamination in our communities," Sen. Carper said in a statement following the announcement. "Otherwise, the DOD will just keep robbing Peter to pay Paul by putting important projects on standby and stretching budgets to clean up PFAS contamination."
Lawmakers are looking to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, which funds the Department of Defense, to procure more funding for PFAS testing and cleanup.

The bill already requires the DoD to phase out all firefighting foam that contains PFAS by 2023. While military installations including Peterson Air Force Base have switched to a version thought to be safer, and have stopped using the foam for training purposes, the military continues to use foam with "short-chain" PFAS chemicals, thought to be safer for public health and the environment.

On June 13, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would reimburse water districts (including those in Security-Widefield and Fountain) for treating and mitigating PFAS in drinking water.

“In the wake of contamination, local water districts around Peterson Air Force Base took the initiative and covered the cleanup costs to ensure the safety of drinking water for residents,” Bennet said in a statement. “This amendment will ensure these districts receive the full reimbursement they deserve.”

A separate amendment filed by a bipartisan group of senators would expand monitoring and testing of PFAS, and set a deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFAS, two types of PFAS chemicals once found in firefighting foam.
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Friday, June 7, 2019

PFAS chemicals found in food illustrate scale of toxic problem

Posted By on Fri, Jun 7, 2019 at 12:35 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
The PFAS problem just got a little scarier.

According to a leaked sampling results presented at an international conference in May, Food and Drug Administration researchers detected toxic, man-made PFAS chemicals in produce, meat, dairy, grain and seafood products across the U.S.

"This really is another blow to those who live in contaminated areas who are already experiencing negative economic impacts and fears of elevated health risks from PFAS contamination," says Jamie C. DeWitt, a pharmacology and toxicology professor at North Carolina State University.

A few days after the results were leaked, The Food and Drug Administration acknowledged it's investigating public exposure to the toxic, man-made chemicals through the food supply.

"The widespread use of PFAS and their ability to remain intact in the environment means that over time PFAS levels from past and current uses can result in increasing levels of contamination of ground water and soil," reads a recently added page on the FDA's website. "...PFAS can occur in food primarily through environmental contamination, including contaminated water and soil used to grow the food."

Advocates note that PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge, which contains waste from residential and industrial sources, could spread PFAS to soil when used as fertilizer. Currently, there are no federal regulations requiring testing of sludge for PFAS.

There are more than 5,000 chemicals in the PFAS group. Their use in household cooking products, food packaging, paints, fabrics and firefighting foam was once more widespread, but studies linking two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, to serious health conditions has led to some efforts by government agencies to limit them.

Colorado recently banned the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS (except when required by the military).

And several years ago, the FDA got manufacturers of certain “long-chain” PFAS chemicals, thought to be more harmful to health and the environment, to agree to stop using them in items such as nonstick pans and packaging.

However, little is known about the health and environmental effects of newer, "short-chain" chemicals still in use by manufacturers. Some environmental advocates dispute that they are much safer.

Leaked results obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy organization, show that FDA researchers found PFOS — one of the more widely studied, long-chain PFAS chemicals — in approximately half of the meat and seafood products they tested from across the U.S. But the FDA determined the levels of PFOS in those products probably weren't a health concern.

However, chocolate cake with chocolate icing contained high levels of a little-studied short-chain chemical, PFPeA. That chemical was never approved by the FDA for use in products that contact food, says Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund. Neltner hypothesized that the contamination came through greaseproof paper.

"That may happen because of a loophole in the law that says the company can determine something is safe without ever telling FDA," Neltner says.

The researchers also found PFBA (a short-chain chemical once used to make photographic film) in pineapple samples, and PFHxS in sweet potatoes.

PFHxS, like PFOS, is a long-chain chemical previously used by the military in firefighting foam. Notably, residents who lived near the Peterson Air Force Base while the foam was in use recently tested for blood levels of this chemical 10 times higher than that of the general population.

The leaked results describe how PFAS in firefighting foam contaminated milk samples at a dairy farm in New Mexico near an Air Force base. Those products were determined to be unfit for consumption and discarded.

Finally, according to the leaked presentation, the researchers detected the PFAS chemical GenX and numerous other PFAS in samples of leafy greens grown within 10 miles of a PFAS production facility in the eastern United States — though they determined those levels probably did not constitute a health concern.
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Gov. Polis signs final bills into law, announces five vetoes

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5.

At a June 3 appearance in Colorado Springs, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said this year's legislative session delivered victories for health care and education.

He emphasized that 95 percent of the 454 bills he signed "were bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats working together to make Colorado better."

Polis vetoed five bills on May 31, three of which concerned state occupational licensing requirements. The vetoes drew consternation from lawmakers in Polis' own party, including Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge. Duran sponsored House Bill 1212, which would have extended a program requiring managers of homeowners associations, or HOAs, to have state licenses.

“We are greatly disappointed that the work we have done to protect homeowners’ biggest investments in their lifetime — their homes — has been undone," Duran said via a statement from the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Colorado Legislative Action Committee. CAI is an international membership organization for homeowners, HOA managers and businesses that provide services for HOAs.
"Managers of HOAs will no longer have to be licensed, which means they are not required to have background checks, demonstrate any knowledge of core competencies, show they understand Colorado HOA law or get continuing education," Duran continued.

On the other hand, Polis' vetoes drew rare approval from some conservatives.

“Governor Polis is right to veto legislation that makes it harder for Coloradans to find work," said Jesse Mallory, the state director of libertarian and conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Mallory was quoted in a statement from the group.

"Too often occupational licenses—government permission slips to work—are misused to protect entrenched interests, slamming the door on the dreams of would-be entrepreneurs," he added.

With his veto statement, Polis issued an executive order directing the Department of Regulatory Agencies to review existing and potential laws around HOAs and their managers, and recommend strategies for "efficient and effective" regulation.

"Before any unregulated occupation is to be regulated, or any regulated occupation is to be continued, the state should complete its due diligence to ensure that regulation will, in fact, ensure consumer safety in a cost-efficient manner," Polis wrote in his veto letter. "This bill does not meet that threshold."

Similarly, Polis vetoed Senate Bills 99 and 133, which would have required licenses for sports agents and genetic counselors. Both bills were sponsored by Democrats.

"Licensing in the United States over the years has at times prevented minorities and the economically disadvantaged from having the ability to access occupations," Polis wrote.

He also vetoed Senate Bill 169, which would have made changes to the budget submission process for information technology projects, saying that it limited the governor's ability to manage state contracts.

House Bill 1305 would have given tribal governments access to state databases for conducting background checks in child welfare cases. In his veto letter, Polis said the bill contained errors that would have forced tribes to comply with state child protection requirements. So in place of the bill, he issued an executive order allowing tribal governments access to the state databases while leaving out those mandates.

"In Colorado, we respect our government-to-government relationship with the Tribes," Polis wrote. "We also are committed to making resources available to assist the Tribes in conducting their governmental responsibilities."

In other news, here's some highlights from the list of bills Polis recently signed.

EDUCATION

House Bill 1032: "Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education" appropriates money ($1 million annually) for the state’s grant program for schools that want to add comprehensive sexual education, closes a loophole that allowed private contractors to collect government money for teaching abstinence-only classes in public schools and ends an exemption for charter schools to the requirements. It also prohibits schools that have sex ed courses from teaching religious ideology, using shame-based or stigmatizing language, employing gender stereotypes, or excluding the experiences of LGBT individuals.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and Sens. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Don Coram, R-Montrose
House Bill 1110: "Media Literacy" creates an advisory committee to make recommendations for ways to teach K-12 students how to read news critically, and discern fake news from the real thing. It allocates $19,800 from the state's general fund to the Department of Education for this purpose.
  • Sponsors: Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Evergreen, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood
Senate Bill 007: “Prevent Sexual Misconduct At Higher Ed Campuses” requires higher education campuses to adopt policies on sexual misconduct based on minimum requirements set out in the bill. It provides for oversight and requires training on the policies.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Pettersen and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Reps. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora

LGBT RIGHTS

House Bill 1039: "Identity Documents For Transgender Persons" makes it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to change the gender on their birth certificates (without court order, surgery or doctor recommendation).
  • Sponsors: Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City
House Bill 1129: "Prohibit Conversion Therapy for A Minor" prevents licensed mental health and medical professionals from attempting to change a minor’s gender identity or sexual orientation through therapy. Democrats, who won control of the Senate last fall, were finally able to pass this bill on the fifth annual attempt.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Esgar, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

House Bill 1176: The "Health Care Cost Savings Act of 2019" creates a task force to analyze the costs of alternative health care financing systems, such as single-payer, and make a report to state legislators. Polis signed the bill, but noted his concern that the bill's appropriation (around $100,000) wouldn't be enough to hire an analyst. He directed the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to let him know in October whether legislators should request more money next session.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette
House Bill 1279: "Protect Public Health Firefighter Safety Regulation PFAS Polyfluoroalkyl Substances" bans firefighting foam that contains certain toxic, man-made chemicals: those classified as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. (An amendment to the bill makes an exception for when PFAS-containing foam is "required for a military purpose.") The bill also requires manufacturers to disclose when personal protective equipment contains PFAS.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, and Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs, and Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Dennis Hisey, R-Colorado Springs
Senate Bill 077: "Electric Motor Vehicles Public Utility Services" requires public utilities to facilitate charging stations and to support the adoption of electric vehicles.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver

COURTS AND PUBLIC SAFETY

House Bill 1324: "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" adds protections against lawsuits viewed by First Amendment advocates, media organizations and others at infringing upon free speech. Specifically, it allows defendants accused of libel or slander to ask a judge to dismiss a civil case on the grounds that they were simply exercising their constitutional right to free speech or to petition the government.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Cutter and Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Sen. Foote
Senate Bill 179: "Enhance School Safety Incident Response Grant Program" adds funding to an existing state program, which funds nonprofit-led school safety training for law enforcement and school districts. The bill appropriates $1.16 million to the Department of Public Safety for the program.
  • Sponsors: Sen. Lee and Rep. James Wilson, R-Salida
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Friday, May 31, 2019

City Council approves Maverik gas station next to Cheyenne Creek

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 4:53 PM

Maverik’s Fillmore Street location opened in 2018. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Maverik’s Fillmore Street location opened in 2018.
City Council voted unanimously May 28 to approve a gas station and convenience store in a streamside overlay zone, despite protests from Ivywild residents over traffic and environmental concerns.


The project, which will be Maverik's third location in Colorado Springs, was approved by the Planning Commission in April at the recommendation of staff. City Council's approval was also required because the company had to apply for a variance to vacate an existing alleyway on the project site at Tejon Street and Motor Way.

But the more contentious issue to residents was another variance allowing a gas station next to Cheyenne Creek, in a streamside overlay zone where city code explicitly prohibits convenience stores with fuel sales.

At the City Council meeting, city planner Matt Fitzsimmons defended the project, explaining that none of the gas station components would be inside the streamside buffer zone 70 feet from the creek.

As part of the site itself falls within that buffer, the entire property is also designated as streamside overlay. That designation will require Maverik to make improvements along the creek by adding a trail and vegetation.

Maverik representatives argued that their state-of-the-art system for trapping runoff and fuel spills, including detention basins and triple-walled pipes, would keep contaminants out of the water. They also cited a traffic study that found most customers would come from adjacent streets, and wouldn't go out of their way to visit the store — meaning traffic wasn't likely to increase by much.

But for Valerie Fix and her son, Alexander Fix, both of whom testified at the meeting, those statements were dubious.

"Though they assure us they have the best of facilities and detention basins, even the best of detention basins could not stand up to a flood," Alexander Fix said, pointing out that the property is downhill from the rest of the neighborhood. He added that the city should wait until a different traffic study for the area is finished before approving new development.

"I support infill and smart development in our communities. This is just the wrong thing in the wrong location," Valerie Fix said. She recounted a recent episode in which one of Maverik's underground fuel tanks at its store in Lander, Wyoming, leaked into the Popo Agie River. The company was ordered to make repairs and pay $1 million on top of the $1 million provided by a financial assurance account, K2 Radio reported in April.

Landscape architect Chis Lieber countered that the improvements Maverik has made to its system since then would prevent such a situation from occurring in Colorado Springs.

While the Fixes were the only two people who testified against the project at the meeting, Fitzsimmons said he received 30 letters from residents opposing the project, and just three letters from people supporting it.

Eric Wyatt, who said he had lived in the area for 50 years and owned 13 local properties, argued in defense of the Maverik store.

"Going inside of the Kum 'n' Go convenience store and the Maverik convenience stores, I really notice the Maverik stores are a lot nicer," Wyatt said. "... I am for Maverik and what they’re doing there. I think they’re doing a first-class job, and I say a win-win."

In the end, city councilors also sided with the developers.

"I’m not crazy about the notion of a national chain, another national chain store in an area that’s kind of a strip for that," Council President Richard Skorman said. "That whole South Nevada corridor is almost all national chains, and I’m not crazy about the notion of another one, but that’s not my criteria to be able to weigh in on this."

Councilor Bill Murray said he was more worried about fuel leaks with gas stations that use older equipment than Maverik stores, which use newer fuel infrastructure.

"Make a mistake, you’re going to pay big time," he added. "And we all know that. So I’m going to support it."

Editor's note: The original version of this web story didn't include the proposed Maverik gas station's location at Tejon Street and Motor Way.
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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Colorado Springs locals advocate for clean cars

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 at 3:17 PM

From left: Retired Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, energy consultant John Duprey, medical and public health student Jake Fox, and City Councilor Tom Strand speak in support of clean car standards. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • From left: Retired Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, energy consultant John Duprey, medical and public health student Jake Fox, and City Councilor Tom Strand speak in support of clean car standards.

City Councilor Tom Strand was among a group of locals who spoke out against the Donald Trump administration's rollback of clean car standards at a press conference April 24.

Strand, along with retired Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, energy consultant John Duprey, and medical and public health student Jake Fox, urged action to oppose the move.

"I'm just asking everyone, in particular our two United States senators, Sen. Bennet and Sen. Gardner, to do what they can to ensure that these rollbacks are reconsidered," Strand said. "I think that if we continue on with the clean-car standards into the second phase that we'll in fact have more jobs in our state, we'll in fact create a much healthier environment."

The clean car standards Strand referred to were implemented under the Barack Obama administration in 2012. They were aimed at cutting down on harmful pollution from vehicle emissions, and came in two phases: 2012-2016 and 2017-2025.

But the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have moved to roll back the initiative, freezing emission standards at 2020 levels.

Fox emphasized the public health risks of the rollback.

"In El Paso County it's estimated we have about 13,000 children, and 60,000 adults with asthma and chronic lung disease," Fox said. "When they breathe polluted air, they are much more likely to land in our emergency departments and intensive care units. It's imperative that we keep our air clean to protect these vulnerable populations in our communities."

In response to the proposed rollback last year, Colorado — along with 13 other states and the District of Columbia — will adopt its own Low Emission Vehicle Program standards for cars and trucks, modeled after California's. Gov. John Hickenlooper began that state rule-making process with a June executive order, which was finalized by a unanimous vote of approval from the state Air Quality Control Commission in November.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association sued the state government over the new standards in February, alleging that they would hurt working families by increasing automobile prices. Colorado Senate Republicans released a statement supporting the lawsuit.

Duprey, a local energy consultant and the owner of The e-bike Company, called such state and local environmental policies "the last line of defense for the health and the economies of our communities."
"Colorado, D.C. and 13 other states have exercised their rights under the Clean Air Act to establishing strong pollution standards to protect our citizens and our environment," Duprey added. "Having clean air to breathe is a basic human right. It does not belong only to those who are wealthy enough to live in environments where they're not affected by that."

Retired Lt. Col. Bidlack emphasized that rolling back emission standards could increase the harmful effects of global warming.

"Back in 1998, I was asked to write the first draft of the Department of Defense's statement on  the effect of climate change on the U.S. national security, and then I had two major conclusions," he said. "The first is that it will cause new conflict and the second is it will act as a force multiplier and will make other situations worse in traditional combat."

On Jan. 17, Gov. Jared Polis ordered the Department of Public Health and Environment to also develop a proposal for a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, which would require manufacturers to supply dealers with a certain number of electric vehicles. The state's Air Quality Control Commission will decide in May whether to approve CDPHE's proposed ZEV program.

After the event, Strand expressed more caution when asked about his support for a ZEV program.

"I think that technology needs to be worked on very carefully," Strand said. "In terms of zero emissions, that's a great goal, but I don't think we ought to jump into that too quick."

Strand called himself "kind of a moderate," saying that was why he didn't mention climate change in his remarks, "because I know that there are different sides to that argument."

"But I do think that the clean car standards just make eminent good sense, that we continue along that path," he said. "And I think since we're, as a city and a state, we're kind of a right-to-rule kind of a community ... to have these things pushed down on us by either the federal EPA or the National Transportation Agency is something that I think we ought to take a hard look at."

A video of the event was live-streamed on the Facebook page of Defend Our Future Colorado, a project of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. However, Ashley Lynch, a senior account executive with Resolute Consulting who publicized the event, said it was not organized by Defend Our Future or any one organization but was the product of concerned citizens coming together.

Defend Our Future, which has team members on college campuses in Colorado, Arizona and Pennsylvania, is focused on "building a diverse coalition of partners that share the goal of finding actionable and common sense solutions to solving climate change," according to its Facebook page.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Gov. Polis signs major oil and gas bill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 5:51 PM

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Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 181 into law on April 16, setting into motion major changes to the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado.

The new law grants local governments broad powers to regulate oil and gas operations, including to “zone land use for mineral resource development, to site, monitor, and inspect oil and gas facilities, and to impose fees and fines,” according the bill’s fiscal note.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will move from “fostering” the oil and gas industry to “regulating” it, and will add new rules aimed at protecting health and the environment. The law makes that a full-time, seven-member board appointed by the governor with the Senate’s approval. Only one board member can hail from the oil and gas industry.

The bill first passed the Senate on March 13 with a vote of 19-15, and passed the House on March 29 with several amendments, one of which requires that local regulations are “reasonable” in scope. The Senate approved House amendments on April 3, sending the bill to the governor's desk.

The law's opponents — who argue that it could hurt state and local economies supported by the oil and gas industry — are already seeking to recall certain elected officials that supported the bill and to overturn the new law.

Weld County Commission Chair Barbara Kirkmeyer, along with John Brackney, a former Arapahoe County commissioner, have filed ballot initiative language with the Colorado Secretary of State. Once that's approved, they'll need to gather nearly 125,000 petition signatures to refer an initiative to voters.

Their ballot initiative would remake the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission into a board selected by retired judges from a list of nominees. (Senate Bill 181 lets the governor appoint the board with the Senate's approval.)

Under the ballot initiative, the Commission would also have to adopt the rules that were in place on Dec. 31, 2018. SB181 changed those rules to protect public health and the environment.
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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
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  • 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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