Environment

Friday, November 1, 2019

CORE Act passes House over Lamborn, Tipton objections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson Divide. - JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Thompson Divide.

——-UPDATE WEDNESDAY, OCT. 30——-

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

——-ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, OCT. 29——-

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

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


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

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

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

Among the bill's objectives:

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

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

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

Creek Week features waterway clean-ups and plenty of beer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, Sept. 30:

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

Tuesday, Oct. 1:

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

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

Wednesday, Oct. 2:

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

Thursday, Oct. 3:

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

Saturday, Oct. 5:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• The Purgatoire River Cleanup Day will take place along the Purgatoire River in Trinidad from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Julie Knutson at jknudson@purgatoirepartners.org.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

PFAS study will look at health effects on El Paso County residents

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2019 at 2:29 PM

Contamination of El Paso County water supplies stemmed from the military's use of PFAS-based firefighting foam. - U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO BY AIRMAN 1ST CLASS AMBER POWELL
  • U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Amber Powell
  • Contamination of El Paso County water supplies stemmed from the military's use of PFAS-based firefighting foam.

Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health will study the health effects of toxic PFAS chemicals — found in firefighting foam used by the military — in residents of El Paso County, thanks to a $1 million federal grant.

Colorado is just one of seven states named in a multisite study into the health effects of the chemicals. Nationally, the study will recruit "at least 2,000 children aged 4–17 years and 6,000 adults aged 18 years and older who were exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water," according to a statement from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is funding the project along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Colorado School of Public Health, at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, plans to recruit 1,000 adults and 300 children for the study. Previous research has found that people who lived in the Fountain and Security-Widefield areas, near Peterson Air Force Base, prior to 2015 have higher-than-normal levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood.

The research team will include experts from the Colorado School of Mines, Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the University of Southern California, according to a statement from CU Anschutz.

John Adgate, chair of the school's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the co-principal investigator on the study, says it's not yet clear which members of the PFAS chemical group will be looked at, but the list will likely include "PFHxS, PFOS and PFOA, as well as a bunch of others."

Most extensive research into PFAS chemicals has so far been focused on PFOS and PFOA, while health effects of other PFAS aren't as well established.

"The El Paso County site is interesting because [the contamination is] mostly from firefighting foams, which results in people having elevated blood levels of what's known as PFHxS and PFOS," Adgate explains.

Adgate and his research team found last year that study participants who'd been exposed to the contamination had blood levels of PFHxS about 10 times as high as U.S. population reference levels. Levels of this chemical were also higher than those for residents in other communities exposed to PFAS.


That study included 220 blood samples from people who lived in Fountain or Security-Widefield for at least three years prior to 2015, when PFAS-based firefighting foam from Peterson contaminated the drinking water. This time, the study will likely also include people who lived in the Stratmoor Hills area just southeast of Colorado Springs, Adgate says.

Fountain, Security-Widefield and Stratmoor Hills water districts have all switched to different sources or added treatment systems in the past few years, so the public water supplies are now safe to drink.

Unfortunately, though, that doesn't mean residents who've lived in the area for a while no longer have PFAS — often called "forever chemicals" — in their bloodstreams.

"What's unique about this site is that exposure stopped, but people — because of the persistence of these compounds — people still have, I think, relatively high body burdens," Adgate says. "I'd like to think of it as kind of an unfortunate natural experiment, and it's my hope that the results of the study will provide some peace of mind to people in terms of what their levels are and whether or not it affects their health."

The study will examine health factors including lipids, kidney function, liver function, thyroid and sex hormones, glucose and insulin parameters, markers of immune function, and neurobehavioral outcomes in children.

"We are really excited to have Dr. Adgate spearheading this," says Liz Rosenbaum, who leads the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition, a citizens' group advocating for clean water. Rosenbaum notes that many of the residents concerned about their exposure have already worked with Adgate to have their blood tested.

Soon, those residents could have a better idea of what the elevated levels actually mean for their health.

Based on conversations with residents, Rosenbaum believes kidney cancer and autoimmune diseases are among the most common health concerns in El Paso County, and those she's spoken with fear their conditions are tied to the PFAS chemicals previously found in public drinking water.

Rosenbaum says she hopes the study will lead to more research — and an eventual federal ban on PFAS in food packaging.

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition helped to pass a state bill this spring that restricts fire departments from using PFAS-based foam. As part of that legislation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is holding policy work group meetings through February to discuss how the state should address the chemicals.

The coalition's "next plan of attack," Rosenbaum says, is passing a state bill that would lengthen the statute of limitations for reporting PFAS contamination.

Lawsuit looms for PFAS manufacturers

Meanwhile, a Colorado Springs law firm is participating in a massive class-action lawsuit meant to hold chemical companies accountable for their role in polluting the environment.

At a recent meeting of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition, attorney David McDivitt of McDivitt Law Firm updated attendees on the status of the case.

McDivitt's firm teamed up with Napoli Shkolnik, a personal injury law firm in New York, to file suit against 3M, the manufacturer of the firefighting foam that contaminated water supplies in El Paso County (and at other sites near military installations around the country).

The case was consolidated with other class-action suits concerning PFAS manufacturers and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where District Judge Richard Gergel on Oct. 4 will hear from scientific experts on both sides in an effort to understand the nature of the contamination before hearing arguments.

Gergel has said the case could represent an "existential threat" to 3M, DuPont and other manufacturers named in the lawsuit.

Still, the road ahead won't be easy. One of the plaintiffs' biggest challenges, McDivitt says, will be overcoming the "government contractor defense," which 3M will likely use to say it's not liable for health effects of PFAS products since it was commissioned by the military to make firefighting foam.
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Friday, September 20, 2019

Climate Strike draws hundreds to City Hall

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Activists unrolled a banner in front of City Hall. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Activists unrolled a banner in front of City Hall.

Holding signs bearing slogans such as "End environmental racism," "Believe in science," and "Don't be a fossil fool," around 300 activists of all ages rallied on the steps of City Hall — and later marched around downtown — to demand action on climate change.

The Sept. 20 "Climate Strike" was part of a global movement, planned three days ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York — a meeting of leaders around the world who hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade.

Hundreds of people gathered to kick off Climate Action Week. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Hundreds of people gathered to kick off Climate Action Week.

Environmental nonprofit 350 Colorado publicized the event and helped coordinate strikes across the state.

In Colorado Springs, the strike included students from Palmer High School, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Colorado College, along with members of the NAACP - Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Group of the Sierra Club. City Council President Richard Skorman was among those in attendance.

Two people hold a sign reading "Time 2 act like your house is on fire. Because it is." - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Two people hold a sign reading "Time 2 act like your house is on fire. Because it is."

The impetus for a Global Climate Strike came from 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (of sailing fame) and 45 other young people who called for students to walk out of school Sept. 20 and make their voices heard. They asked adults to leave work and join in, too.

Other strikes were planned in Denver outside the state Capitol, at Colorado School of Mines in Golden and at Pueblo's Rawlings Library, to name a few in Colorado. They're meant to kick off a worldwide Climate Action Week Sept. 21 to 29.

A high-energy crowd brandished signs and chanted. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • A high-energy crowd brandished signs and chanted.

Colorado's Action Week events are centered in the state's Capitol. They include a weeklong art installation on Denver's 16th Street Mall, protests in downtown Denver during rush hour Sept. 23, and a community garden-building event Sept. 29.

“Climate Change and pollution affects us, the citizens of Colorado Springs, whether we like it or not," said Palmer High School organizer Taylor Saulsbury, who was quoted in a statement from 350 Colorado. "...We are standing up for a future stolen from us whether our teachers or our government like it or not.”

Teen activist Emma Tang joined the rally. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Teen activist Emma Tang joined the rally.
At one point, Colorado Springs protesters chanted about closing the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, a central issue for local environmental activists. The plant is scheduled to be decommissioned no later than 2035.

However, activists have repeatedly demanded that Colorado Springs Utilities close the plant (along with the Ray Nixon Power Plant in Fountain) as soon as possible.

A recent study by Strategen found that the Drake coal-fired units, which came online in 1968 and 1974, would cost $42.5 million more over 30 years to run compared to wind and solar.
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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Top 7 local environmental stories this week

Posted By on Tue, Aug 27, 2019 at 5:00 PM

In late August, these stories were making headlines:

1) Groundwater samples from several areas on the Air Force Academy tested above the Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory level for two toxic, man-made chemicals, PFOS and PFOA.
COURTESY THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy the City of Colorado Springs
2) Colorado Springs city officials continue to look for a way to settle the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 lawsuit against the city alleging violations of the Clean Water Act. Recent court filings cited efforts toward a “global settlement” with defendants: EPA, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The lawsuit claims the city violated its federal and state discharge permits by neglecting its stormwater system. A settlement could include higher monthly stormwater fees for Springs residents to fund additional drainage work.

3) Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order directing the state to conserve wildlife migration corridors and big game winter range.

4) Blue-green algae has been found in Homestead Ranch Regional Park pond, El Paso County said in an Aug. 23 release. Test results from other ponds in the county are pending. It’s the third body of water found to contain the algae, which poses a health risk. Some authorities report dogs have died in other states after being exposed. Algae also taints Prospect Lake at Memorial Park, and Pikeview Reservoir, part of Colorado Springs Utilities’ system. All three are closed until further notice.

5) The Colorado State Forest Service began accepting grant applications from organizations seeking to restore forested areas, improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk on non-federal land in the state.

6) State and national experts confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer, an invasive and highly destructive tree pest, in Broomfield.

7) Colorado Springs Utilities will kick off a series of workshops to devise integrated resource plans for electric and natural gas by hosting a meeting Aug. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Conservation and Environmental Center, 2855 Mesa Road. The meetings will help determine how the city achieves its “energy vision” in the next 30 years. Factors include economic, environment, resiliency and innovation. Watch the meeting on Utilities’ Facebook page; submit questions and comments to energyvision@csu.org.
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Polis pitches Impossible Burger, and people are mad

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 9:21 AM

Burger King recently began serving Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger. - COURTESY IMPOSSIBLE FOODS
  • Courtesy Impossible Foods
  • Burger King recently began serving Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger.

"Have you tried Burger King’s new Impossible Burger?" Gov. Jared Polis wrote in an Aug. 15 Facebook post. "Right now it costs $1.00 more than a beef [W]hopper, and like many consumers, I can’t tell the difference on taste; but with new technology and efficiency it’s only a matter of time until a similar product costs less than beef."

Polis recently met with state Department of Agriculture staff and encouraged them to think about ways to address market demand for plant-based proteins, Colorado Politics reports. He didn't issue any specific directives, but offered meat-free Impossible Burgers to staff at the department's new research facility.

Some Colorado ranchers took the comments as a slap in the face.

The Colorado Livestock Association, for one, released a statement with the headline: "Colorado Governor starts food fight with farmers and ranchers."

"For the Governor to suggest that Colorado agriculture begin focusing on growing vegetables for plant-based proteins is confusing to the farmers and ranchers who have worked the land in rural Colorado for decades," the statement says. "Not only because Colorado’s arid climate doesn’t allow for growing the extensive list of ingredients in plant-based burgers and alternative proteins, but also because Colorado’s beef industry contributes so much to the state’s economy."

Impossible Foods' "Impossible Burger," which Burger King recently began serving (Bloomberg reports it's available in 15,000 restaurants and food service locations), contains soy and potato proteins, coconut and sunflower oils, and methylcellulose, a common culinary binder. The company, one of several rapidly growing plant-based protein companies, is valued at around $2 billion, Bloomberg reports.

The Impossible Burger could soon come to supermarkets as well — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently gave preliminary approval to the company's use of soy leghemoglobin, a color additive, for retail sales.

In 2017, agriculture (including livestock, agricultural soils and rice production) contributed to 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Livestock account for about a third of agriculture-related emissions, due to the methane they produce as part of their digestive processes.

But the Colorado Livestock Association argues that ranchers can't just switch from cattle to soy and potatoes.

"Livestock producers utilize grazing land that is too mountainous, dry or nutrient poor to be farmed and would otherwise go unused," its statement says. It adds that the technology used in beef production today is the "most efficient and sustainable in history."
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

City and EPA say they're working on "a global settlement" to end the stormwater lawsuit

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2019 at 12:58 PM

An example of the city's stewardship of drainage canals, viewed in 2017. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • An example of the city's stewardship of drainage canals, viewed in 2017.
Look for the city of Colorado Springs and environmental regulators to reach a "global settlement that encompasses an agreement on relief for all violations" in the Environmental Protection Agency's 2016 lawsuit against the city for failing to comply with Clean Water Act regulations.

That "global settlement" also could come with higher stormwater fees, because the stormwater fee measure voters approved in November 2017 contains a clause allowing the city raise the fees to satisfy a court judgment.

On Aug. 19, parties to the case filed a statement in federal court saying they've "made significant progress toward settlement" but not revealing the details.

Rather, the statement said, "For the past nine months, the Parties have been working toward a global settlement that encompasses an agreement on relief for all violations alleged [in the lawsuit].... and are continuing their work."

Considering the statement says a settlement could cover all violations, it wouldn't be surprising to see Colorado Springs agree to spend more to correct its long-neglected stormwater system.

On July 24, the court granted a motion to vacate further litigation deadlines and stayed the lawsuit until Nov. 22.
A stretch of drainage way running through the city, as seen in 2017.
  • A stretch of drainage way running through the city, as seen in 2017.
A status conference was to take place Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court, Denver.

The EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sued the city in November 2016, alleging violations of the city's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit, which befouled creeks and, ultimately, the Arkansas River.

Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District later joined as plaintiffs.

A trial in September 2018 ended with a ruling from U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, now deceased, that the city did violate the permit by improperly waiving permanent stormwater best management practices (BMP), failing to oversee and enforce temporary BMP requirements, and improperly approving the design and installation of and failing to ensure the long-term operation and maintenance of a detention basin. The allegations were specific to certain sites. (Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane apparently has replaced Matsch in the case.)

The city's stormwater ballot measure, which imposed residences $5 per month via their utilities billings and non-residential properties $30 per developed acre starting in July 2018, 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.)

Read the Aug. 19 court filing here.
 
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Friday, August 16, 2019

Council debates adding new short-term rental requirements

Posted By on Fri, Aug 16, 2019 at 6:05 PM

Some councilors say more regulations are necessary to prevent renters from throwing large, noisy parties in residential neighborhoods. - GOODSTUDIO VIA SHUTTERSTOCK
  • GoodStudio via Shutterstock
  • Some councilors say more regulations are necessary to prevent renters from throwing large, noisy parties in residential neighborhoods.

Colorado Springs City Councilors recently engaged in yet another spirited debate over short-term rentals (STRs), which are usually booked through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. This one addressed occupancy and density, two issues have been repeatedly brought up by residents who desire more restrictions on the rentals.

There was no consensus among Council at the Aug. 12 work session — other than the decision allow an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed changes.

The meeting began with Principal Planner Morgan Hester explaining staff's proposal for regulating the number of occupants an STR can have. Under city code, no more than five unrelated people can stay in a single-family residence at any given time. And through a combination of housing and fire codes, code enforcement can say no more than 16 related people can occupy a residence. But in a short-term situation, these regulations become difficult to enforce, Hester said.

So, staff proposed limiting the number of people over the age of 12 who can stay overnight in an STR to two. There would be no limit on younger children.

That proposal got a mixed reception from councilors.

Councilor Don Knight suggested the age should be lowered to 2 years old, the age "when you go from a crib to your own bed," he said.

Councilor Wayne Williams agreed. "Otherwise you wind up that the neighborhood has, in this two-bedroom house, a couple [Boy Scouts of America] Scoutmasters, and 30 11-year-old scouts, which has a significant impact on the neighborhood," he said.

But Councilor Andy Pico said he was "queasy" about adding an occupancy requirement that could be difficult to enforce, and Councilor Jill Gaebler was staunchly opposed.
"I think [the proposed ordinance] is completely complicated and unenforceable," Gaebler said. "...We’re being completely inconsistent across housing types."

"If I have a two-bedroom house and somehow have five, six, seven, eight, nine, kids, should I be able to live in my house? Should I be able to visit a house that has two bedrooms?" she asked.

Councilor Bill Murray suggested instead adopting a regulation like one he said he had experienced while staying in Breckenridge, where any complaint against an STR that led to a call to law enforcement simply incurred a fine. Councilor Yolanda Avila agreed with that suggestion.

Staff's second STR proposal would add density requirements; namely, that only a certain number of STR permits could be issued to homeowners in a particular area.

City staff's recommendation was that "no short term rental unit shall be located within five lots along the same block face of another short term rental unit." But Hester presented Council with two other options.

One would be to issue short-term rental permits only to residences outside a 500-foot buffer surrounding the closest permit holder. Another would be to only issue one permit per block face. (Existing permit holders would be grandfathered in under all three proposed options.)

"This is unwieldy, to say the least," Councilor Murray said of the density proposal. "It picks winners and losers. It really doesn't, I think, resolve the overall problem of concern of misuse of the particular property at the disadvantage of your neighbors."

"I would rather us concern ourselves with performance — are you trashing up your neighborhood? ... Instead of sitting here and saying, 'Well, you can have [a permit], but I'm sorry, you're 500 feet away, you can’t have it,'" he added.

Councilor Tom Strand, who was also skeptical about the proposed occupancy requirement, thought the density restrictions could be problematic.
"I think we have to decide: Is this a problem that is in search of a solution, or the reverse?" he said. "[The density requirement] might work in some neighborhoods where it would allow people to have, you know, a reasonable use of their property, and in other neighborhoods it would be too restrictive."

Councilor David Geislinger seemed open to both the density and occupancy proposals, more aligned with Knight and Williams than the other councilors.

Council President Richard Skorman proposed having a public meeting on the proposed occupancy and density requirements in September, and starting that meeting earlier than normal to accommodate plenty of time for comment.

When City Council last passed an ordinance regulating STRS in September of 2018, City Council Chambers were overflowing with impassioned residents on both sides of the issue.

The ordinance that ultimately passed (and went into effect Dec. 31) limits the number of STRs per lawful dwelling unit and per property; bans STRs in trailers, tents and other mobile or temporary structures; requires that neighbors be given an emergency contact available 24/7; allows the city to shut down or suspend nuisance rentals; requires an annual $119 permit and the payment of applicable taxes (those who use sites other than Airbnb need a sales tax license); and sets forth a variety of other standards and rules meant to enhance safety and promote neighborhood tranquility.

Opponents, led by the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, had hoped for changes to the proposed ordinance that would have banned non-owner-occupied STRs and capped the number of STRs in the city.

The Neighborhood Preservation Alliance's leader, Michael Applegate, told the Indy in July that he was still pushing for those additions, as well as a guest registry (so police can track STR users) and better enforcement of a limit on unrelated people staying in the same home.
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Toxic algae closes Prospect Lake; bacteria can harm people and pets

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 2:55 PM

PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
The city of Colorado Springs closed Prospect Lake in Memorial Park Aug. 9 after a water sample taken that morning tested positive for a toxin, cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae.

The banks of the lake are dotted with closure signs and the swim beach is roped off. Swimming, bathing, paddleboarding, boating of all kinds and other water activities are banned. No pets are allowed in the water.

Fishing areas remain open, but anglers are urged to clean fish well and remove guts.
Media around the county have reported that blue-green algae can be deadly to pets. Dogs in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas died recently after being exposed to the algae in lakes.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

NORAD: Melting Arctic increases enemy threat potential

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 1:00 AM

NORAD's base at Cheyenne Mountain. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • NORAD's base at Cheyenne Mountain.

America and Canada may be threatened by cruise missile attacks due to the Russian Navy deploying warships on Arctic sea lanes, NORAD and Northern Command commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said, according to the The Maritime Executive.

O’Shaughnessy’s remarks came in a July 23 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He commands the bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and NorthCom, based at Peterson Air Force Base.

As Arctic ice recedes, maritime actors will find new avenues of approach to North America, he said.

Navigating the Arctic requires specialized training and equipment, and Russia is designing difficult-to-defeat hypersonic cruise missiles for its fleets, The Executive reported. “When I look at the cruise missile threat,” O’Shaughnessy said, “I see that as one of the biggest threats we face.”

National Geographic reported in May, “[T]he Arctic is now warming faster than any place on earth, and its protective barrier of sea ice — which once kept commercial and military ambition in check — is melting away.”
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Help for watersheds

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Grasses and reeds growing by small reflecting pond in the Four-Mile Recreational Area, in the San Isabel National Forest. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Grasses and reeds growing by small reflecting pond in the Four-Mile Recreational Area, in the San Isabel National Forest.
Three agencies will cooperate on projects to protect watersheds in the White River and Pike and San Isabel National Forests.

Colorado Springs Utilities, the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service will spend a combined $15 million to restore areas of the forest and promote wildfire mitigation over the next five years.

“Through partnerships like this one, land managers and water providers in Colorado can help ensure clean, reliable water for present and future generations,” Mike Lester, state forester and state forest service director, said in a release.

Projects will span 11,000 acres of watersheds.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Weld County, state commission wage war of words over oil and gas

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 12:01 AM

Local governments can now set stricter rules than the state for oil and gas. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Local governments can now set stricter rules than the state for oil and gas.

As Weld County, the state’s largest producer of oil and gas resources, sets up its own regulating and permitting system, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission warns that a new state law doesn’t allow jurisdictions to come up with less stringent regulations than the state’s.

Senate Bill 181
, a contentious piece of legislation passed earlier this year, changes the state’s relationship with the industry by moving from “fostering” oil and gas development to “regulating” it, and gives local jurisdictions the power to impose further regulations.

In response to that law, Weld County commissioners created an internal oil and gas department earlier this month.

But the state commission warned that while the law “provides local governments with siting authority over oil and gas surface locations, it does not diminish the COGCC’s authority to regulate the orderly development of oil and gas throughout the state.”
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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Colorado Springs Utilities plans new reservoir

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2019 at 3:33 PM

Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado.

Aspen Journalism reported July 17 that Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora are stepping up efforts to build another reservoir on lower Homestake Creek that would hold up to 20,000 acre feet of water, or enough to serve roughly 40,000 households per year.

The two partners in the transmountain Homestake project have applied to the U.S. Forest Service to drill for soils testing at four potential dam sites.

The Aspen news agency also reported the partners must obtain congressional and presidential approvals to adjust the Holy Cross Wilderness boundary to accommodate a dam.

If the reservoir is built, water would be pumped through a tunnel under the Continental Divide to Turquoise Reservoir at Leadville and on to the two cities.
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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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