Environment

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

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

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

JEFFREY BEALL
  • Jeffrey Beall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City worker berated after Hillside park funding pulled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban deer: Officials set tentative timeline for culling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado's new vehicle-emissions standards in question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPA invites community members to speak about PFC contamination

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

5789845977_37e1a70e45_z.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Springs Utilities to power 30,000 more homes with solar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado Springs Utilities is updating its Energy Vision between now and May 2019 to update renewable energy goals and include long term planning. The public comment period has yet to be announced. 
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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Recycled goods from Colorado Springs find many end users

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 12:40 PM

#2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • #2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio.

Recently, we published a post on the ways China's National Sword policy is affecting recycling in Colorado. Now we're looking at where your waste becomes a valuable commodity.

As mentioned, most waste enters the stream via single-stream recycling. From there it goes to a sorting facility where it's separated by a combination of machines and manual labor. The sorted material is bundled together where it's sold and sent elsewhere to become a new product. Most of the time that transaction is facilitated by a third-party broker.

For example, most of Colorado Springs' Bestway Recycling transactions go through Chicago-based National Fiber, which moves 10,000 tons of material per month.

"[Take] a 20-ounce soda bottle, that's PET- polyethylene terephthalate #1," says Clint Cordonnier, Logistics Manager of Bestway Recycling. "I send approximately three loads of that a month to various mills in [places] like Richmond, Indiana, it goes a lot to Mohawk Industries in Athens, Georgia, where they make carpet out of it." Bestway generates about three 40,000-pound truckloads of #1 plastics per month.

Cordonnier says #2 plastics, High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), are separated into two categories: colored and natural. The colored #2s are mostly laundry detergent containers, while milk jugs comprise 99 percent of the naturals. About 40,000 pounds of HDPE plastics leave Bestway every month. Most of it will go to Advanced Drainage Systems in Waterloo, Iowa, to become drain material, according to Cordonnier.

Even before the National Sword policy, Bestway worked to keep products domestic.
Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet.
"I personally would prefer to keep it here (the US). It seems the freight is a lot less when you're not sending it to one of the coasts or a port and them putting it on a sea container and sending it to another country," says Cordonnier. "It creates jobs here."

Right now, paper is the only product leaving Bestway that ships abroad. Before standards changed last year, it mostly went to China. Now it ships to Mexico. Cardboard mostly goes to Lawton, Oklahoma, to where it's pulped and turned into drywall.

Marcus Redden, Floor Manager at Bestway Recycling's Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), has a unique perspective on recovered materials. He points at a bundle of crushed can with "702" written on the side and says, "at 45-cents for aluminum and 702 pounds, that's over $300 right there."  

All metal products leaving Bestway stay in Colorado Springs and go to either Western Scrap or Colorado Industrial Recycling. Colorado Industrial Recycling, which processes 60 million pounds of metals per year, sends all of its aluminum cans to Atlanta where Novelis, the world's largest recycler of used beverage cans, turns it into another aluminum can. An aluminum can is infinitely recyclable with an average "can-to-can" lifecycle of two months.

Surprisingly, with all the recent changes, prices have remained consistent for Bestway. However, they have had to purchase a new optical sorting machine to try and get cleaner products.

It all depends on the quality of material according to Cordonnier. "I can speak for this facility," he says. "We invest a substantial amount of time and money on our end to get the best product possible, so we're able to sell it at a higher price."

(The Indy reached out to a number of recycling services for comment on their end users, but citing the competitive industry, many declined to share that information.)
Bails of aluminum. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Bails of aluminum.
Materials not recycled are products wasted. The Integrated Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan estimates Colorado throws $267 million worth of recyclable material into the landfill every year. That's largely because 40 percent of Coloradans don't recycle at all.

"Last year, for the first time ever, Colorado set voluntary recycling goals for the state as a whole and then for the Front Range and rural communities," says Ecocycle Communications Director Harlin Savage. "That was a big step forward because we didn't have goals before that time." Ecocycle's 2017 State of Recycling in Colorado says collecting better data is the number one recommendation for achieving recycling goals.

The Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission's goal is to meet the national average diversion rate of 35 percent by 2026, and become among the national bests at 45 percent by 2036. Compare that to California, who currently has a 47 percent diversion rate with a 2020 goal of 75 percent.

It's worth noting, the Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR) chose Colorado Springs for a pilot recycling program starting at the end of last year and aimed at attracting young people to recycle more paper and cardboard. The program shows the clear environmental and economic benefits of recycling.

Colorado Springs does not collect recycling data.
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Monday, July 16, 2018

National Sword recycling program's impacts on Colorado commodities

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct misreported information and figures. We regret the errors.

"The amount (of plastic) that we're producing is supposed to quadruple by 2050. So we're producing this stuff super fast, it never goes away... a lot of it we don't know how to turn into something else, and yet we continue to churn it out at an astronomical rate," says Communication Director Harlin Savage, of Boulder-base Eco-Cycle.

Commenting more specifically on China's National Sword policy, Savage adds, "So that is something that with China doing what it did is kind of a blessing, or a wake up call, that we need to change our relationship to plastic to something that is more sustainable, or healthier, for the planet."

That National Sword policy began on Dec. 31, 2017, banning several types of solid waste, and increasing inspection of recyclable imports to a .3 percent contamination rate. According to University of Georgia research, China has taken 45 percent of the world's plastic waste since 1992. And 4000 shipping containers of recyclables per day from the U.S. alone.

Only nine percent of all plastics ever produced have been recycled the same research shows. Eight million tons of plastic goes to sea every year, according to Ecowatch. By 2050, that will mean more plastic in the ocean than fish. And plastics are six percent of global oil consumption, projected to be 20 percent by 2050. UGA projections estimate the National Sword's restrictions could leave 111 million metric tons of displaced plastic by 2030.

China's reason? Cleaning up pollution issues by reducing the amount of potentially valuable recycling that ends up as waste. Simply put, dirty recycling, a negative effect of single-stream recycling.

The Indy wrote about single-stream recycling when it came to the Springs back in 2009. At the time it led to a 100 percent increase in participation for the simple reason that it's easy to throw all your recycling in one bin and then put it on the curb once a week. Then sorting facilities, aka materials recovery facilities (MRF), separate each individual item of waste, aka commodity.

"We take the separation — I don't want to say headache — out of the customer's hands," says Clint Cordonnier of Bestway Recycling in Colorado Springs. Bestway offers their curbside pick up and sorting service to 50,000 residential customers for an additional $5.50 a month on top of trash.

Bestway relies mostly on manual sorting off a conveyor belt to sort materials. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Bestway relies mostly on manual sorting off a conveyor belt to sort materials.

According to Vice President of Recycling Brent Hildebrand of Denver's Alpine Waste & Recycling, as part of National Sword, China is seeking a .5 percent contamination rate on cardboard and 1 percent on paper.

Bestway's contamination rate is .6 percent. Cordonnier says that's either due to dirty material, or waste that isn't properly sorted. He says they measure by actually opening bundles of sorted material, going through it again and seeing what doesn't belong. So the National Sword's original .3 percent rate was extremely difficult to achieve, that rate changed to .5 percent beginning in March.

Sorting recycling. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Sorting recycling.

"It's kind of hit us in a number of different directions," says Hildebrand, adding that quality restrictions have forced Alpine's Altogether Recycling to slow down its system so materials are easier to sort. On top of slowing down, Hildebrand has had to add labor to help with sorting material. Machines do most of the sorting at Altogether, but they are imperfect and need quality control to pull out any unwanted items. Hildebrand says the recent changes have led to a 15 to 20 percent slow down in production.

Beyond slowed production, an increase in the supply of plastics in the U.S. have driven prices down. "The quality restrictions have created what I would call a glut of tons domestically," says Hildebrand. "So you have local mills that have plenty of materials coming out of them, good material, too. That's driven the price down, of course."

Bestway has seen the biggest impact in the export of paper.

Clint Cordonnier at Bestway Recycling showing how much excess paper he had at one point. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Clint Cordonnier at Bestway Recycling showing how much excess paper he had at one point.

"Now paper on the other hand, paper has dropped. You can't send it over there, it doesn't leave you a whole lot of options," says Cordonnier. "So we are still able to move paper like we want to just at less of a price and it's going to Mexico." He says at one point excess paper was backing up his MRF, crowding a bay door and encroaching on the dock. Now two train cars sit outside Bestway filled with paper waiting to be transported south.

Overall, the National Sword's impact on Colorado has been minimal due to the efforts of MRFs to distribute domestically.

"Fortunately, I have worked extremely hard to develop domestic relationships to where it has not his us like it has other people," says Cordonnier. He says for long time he hasn't sent plastics overseas, but kept them in the U.S.

For the time being, Hildebrand says Alpine has avoided any excess supply at their facility. He credits keeping a high quality of material since they opened 11 years ago. "Alpine is known for high quality. So it's material that has a good reputation so typically mills or buyers want our material."

In Colorado, the bigger issue may be the amount going to waste. Estimates by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment show Coloradans recycle about 12 percent of total waste, well behind the national average of 35 percent. Which makes Colorado one of the 20 most wasteful states in the country, tossing $267 million worth of recyclable material every year.

Colorado Springs may be even worse, Ecocycle's 2017 State of Recycling Colorado estimates El Paso County diverts 11 percent. Those numbers are not clear because the Springs does not track recycling rates. 

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

City Council passes creekside camping ban

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 6:00 PM

A trash pile near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek. - MATTHEW SCHIPER
  • Matthew Schiper
  • A trash pile near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek.

City Council voted 6-2 to approve a creekside camping ban that's generated both outspoken support and bitter opposition since city employees introduced it in May.

The ban, targeted at the homeless camps near creeks, will specifically ban all municipal camping within 100 feet of a public stream. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 189 days in jail.

It's already illegal in Colorado Springs to camp on public property, and has been for years. But police currently have to give camp occupants 24-hour notice (under department policy, not city code) and ensure there’s shelter space available before dismantling camps. The new ordinance
will presumably do away with those requirements.

Councilors Yolanda Avila and Bill Murray were the two "no" votes, with Councilor Andy Pico, who has supported the ordinance, the lone absentee.

Murray was unsatisfied with the ban, he said, because he hadn't "heard a clear explanation of how we’re going to enforce it." The actual text of the ordinance doesn't mention enforcement specifics.

Before the final vote, Councilor David Geislinger moved to amend the ordinance to delay implementation until Aug. 10. That motion failed 5-3, with Councilors Geislinger, Murray and Skorman voting in the minority.

Before that vote, Councilor Jill Gaebler emphasized other steps the city was taking to address the homeless issue, including the possibility of a "homeless court" to address infractions by those experiencing homelessness, and Mayor John Suther's alleged statement that local nonprofits will add around 300 low-barrier beds this fall.

Gaebler said one primary reason she supported the ban was trail safety, a topic that supporters of the ordinance brought up at a recent town hall.

"It is a huge issue for our community members who pay their taxes and want to be able to use their trails and open space and feel safe in those areas," she said.

Currently, the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team, along with several other designated officers, is responsible for issuing most citations for the public camping ordinance that already exists.

Lt. Michael Lux, who oversees the HOT Team, said he wasn't sure what changes the new ordinance would bring.

"I’m waiting for clarification on how they want to address this issue," he said. "It's kind of confusing for everybody right now."
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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Celebrate Bike to Work Day winners with Mayor John Suthers

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 2:05 PM

The city's PikeRide bike share program launched last month. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • The city's PikeRide bike share program launched last month.


Bike Month may be over, but let's not forget about the stars of this year's Bike to Work Day.

Mayor John Suthers will announce the winner of the Corporate Challenge, the best breakfast station, the 2018 Commuter of the Year, and the winners of head-to-head competitions on Monday at Trail's End Taproom.

The Corporate Challenge offered businesses the chance to prove their commitment to health and the environment, as measured by employee participation. Companies were separated into “classes” based on the size of their workforce and given a score.

This year, 45 companies and organizations ranging in size from 2 to 5,000 employees went head-to-head, according to a statement from the Bike to Work Day Steering Committee.

The suspense is mounting: Initial calculations of the corporate winners were incorrect, due to an error in the formula that counted participants who'd registered in two or more breakfast locations. The city will update its website with the correct winners in coming days, according to the announcement.

The Bike to Work Day Awards and Recognition Celebration will be held Monday, July 9, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Trail's End Taproom. Bike parking will be available, and organizers encourage guests to ride.

In other cycling news: The city just launched PikeRide, a bike share program that allows riders to check out a pair of wheels for free. Brave reporter Bridgett Harris tested them out for last week's cover story.
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Monday, July 2, 2018

Fireworks: All you need to know about fire and fun on the Fourth of July

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 2:50 PM

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As wildfires rage across Colorado, several cities and towns have decided to call off their public fireworks displays this year. But there's still places to get your Fourth of July fix:

Summer Symphony: Memorial Park 
All of the streets in Memorial Park and many of the surrounding streets are closed from 2 to 10 p.m. July 4. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • All of the streets in Memorial Park and many of the surrounding streets are closed from 2 to 10 p.m. July 4.


The Colorado Springs Philharmonic headlines this annual free event, also featuring activities, concessions and a 5:30 p.m. performance from Air Force Academy band Wild Blue Country to kick off the night. The Philharmonic plays at 7 p.m. and fireworks start at 9 p.m. Get there early to snag a prime spot.

Rollin' on the Riverwalk

The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo hosts its 15th annual show on the AMR Confluence Plaza, proclaiming that "the show will go on" despite a 217-acre fire this weekend in Pueblo County (now 100 percent contained). Gates open at 5 p.m., with a 7 p.m. performance by rock 'n' roll band Doctor Fine and fireworks at 9 p.m. Admission is $3, but military and kids under 3 get in free. Vendors will have food for purchase.

Sky Sox vs. New Orleans Baby Cakes

The first 1,000 fans participating in this great American pastime — baseball — get mini flags, and everyone can enjoy a fireworks display following the game. Tickets start at $12.

Fireworks have been canceled in Cripple Creek, Manitou Springs and Woodland Park.

That's due to dry, windy conditions fueling fires across Colorado. The Spring Creek fire west of Walsenberg has burned over 50,000 acres and was 5 percent contained as of July 1, the Denver Post reports. Northwest of Cripple Creek, the Chateau fire has burned more than 1,500 acres and was 0 percent contained. And north of Buena Vista, the Weston Pass fire has burned over 4,000 acres and was also 0 percent contained, according to the Post.

Then there's the Sugarloaf fire west of Denver, the Badger Creek fire on the Wyoming border, and the 416 and Burro fires in southwestern Colorado.

So remember, leave lighting up the night to the experts this year. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office reminds residents that unincorporated parts of the county are under Stage II fire restrictions, meaning it's against the law to light campfires, sell or use fireworks, smoke outside an enclosed vehicle or building, engage in public prescribed burning, or cook outdoors on private property (propane and gas grills are allowed).

All fireworks are prohibited, and burn restrictions are in place, in Colorado Springs, Monument, Fountain, Manitou Springs, and all of Teller County.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

City Council approves creekside camping ban in initial vote

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 3:59 PM

Trash piles like this one, near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek, aren’t uncommon along the Springs’ waterways. That waste can end up polluting water. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Trash piles like this one, near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek, aren’t uncommon along the Springs’ waterways. That waste can end up polluting water.

In a first vote, City Council members approved by 7-2 an ordinance that bans camping within 100 feet of creeks. Councilors Yolanda Avila and Bill Murray were opposed.

The ordinance, pushed by City Councilors Tom Strand and Merv Bennett, would specifically ban all municipal camping within 100 feet of a public stream. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 189 days in jail.

The ordinance targets homeless camps along creeks, which proponents say pose risks to health and public safety. It cites the above-standard presence of E. coli in the Fountain Creek watershed, indicated by a September study by the U.S. Geological Survey (though scientists haven't determined whether human waste was a significant factor in the contamination).

Colorado Springs has had a camping ban on public property for years, but police currently have to give camp occupants 24-hour notice (under department policy, not city code) and ensure there’s shelter space available before dismantling camps. The new ordinance, Strand says, would make the ban easier to enforce by doing away with those requirements.

Councilor Andy Pico spoke out at the June 26 City Council meeting in support of the ban. In response to concerns of other councilors that the ban ignored the broader issues of pollution and homelessness, Pico said the ban was a necessary first step on the path to solving them.

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a broken fan belt," Pico said. "And [creekside camping] is our broken fan belt and we need to fix this right off the step."

Councilor Murray questioned whether the ordinance would survive a legal challenge. (The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has voiced concern about the ban, and in the past, courts have found that cities cannot outlaw homeless people’s basic survival — which could be at issue if law enforcement doesn't ensure there's shelter space available before forcing campers to move.)

Murray pointed out two reasons the ordinance might not pass legal muster: It wouldn't keep campers from walking down to the creek to dump waste, and the city doesn't have solid data to prove that campers caused contamination.

"How do we sustain a court challenge that says we actually targeted these people instead of attempting the resolution, which we understand is [shelter] beds?"

Councilor Bennett responded by saying the ordinance could save people living in creekside camps from flash floods and would protect the general public from the risk of contaminated needles left by campers, as possible reasons a ban would be defensible.

Dee Cunningham, executive director of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, works with the police department’s Homeless Outreach Team to clean up camps after officers have told their occupants to move on. For years, she's seen campers dump waste into the creek, she said, and her reaction to the ban's initial approval was positive.

"I’m really pleased with some forward momentum," she said.

Shawna Kemppainen, the executive director of Urban Peak, a nonprofit that serves youth experiencing homelessness, said her agency will remain focused on helping people get out of homelessness regardless of whether the ordinance becomes law.

"Anything that's going to make it more difficult for people to find a place where they can be when they don't have a place inside to be is just going to make their walk out of homelessness more challenging," Kemppainen said. "It's not to say that [issues such as creekside camping] are not important issues, but we have to put our focus and attention on the places where we can really make some headway that helps clear the path for people."

A final vote is expected for July 10.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Colorado will adopt California's vehicle emissions standards

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Gov. John Hickenlooper's executive order requires Colorado to develop a Low Emission Vehicle plan. - STOCK_PHOTO_WORLD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • stock_photo_world / Shutterstock.com
  • Gov. John Hickenlooper's executive order requires Colorado to develop a Low Emission Vehicle plan.

Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment must develop a Low Emission Vehicle, or LEV, program based on California's emissions standards, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced June 19.

The executive order is a reaction to the federal government's rollback of vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for model years 2022 and beyond. The rollback could have "serious consequences for Colorado's efforts to meet our clean energy goals by increasing carbon dioxide emissions from Colorado's vehicle fleet by approximately 1.9 million tons a year by 2030," Hickenlooper's order reads.

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

Colorado joins 12 other states that have already adopted California's standards.

The announcement drew a flurry of reactions from organizations on both sides of the clean-air debate. Colorado Moms Know Best, a network of parents promoting clean air, clean energy and environmental protection, had effusive praise for Hickenlooper. "Head Mom" Jen Clanahan issued the following statement:

Moms across Colorado are already thankful that we get to raise our kids in this beautiful state and today we have another reason to be grateful. We are thrilled to hear about Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order that will lead to cleaner air which means healthier kids.

The actions threatened and taken by the Trump Administration to roll back national fuel efficiency standards will lead to more pollution and sicker kids. Pollution from vehicles can cause severe respiratory and other health problems, especially in the still-developing lungs of young children or those with asthma.

Thankfully, we live in Colorado where Governor Hickenlooper is committed to the cleanest air in the country. His Executive Order will mean cleaner cars and that means fewer asthma attacks for the one in 12 children who suffer from asthma in our state. It means fewer missed school days from sick kids. It means our children can play outside without parents worrying about air pollution harming their still-developing lungs. And it means the choices for families shopping for a new car can include models that will put more money back into the family budget and less money spent on gas.

Today, families say "thank you" to Gov. Hickenlooper.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers appealed to legislators to reverse the order, saying in a statement that the economic cost of implementing regulations would outweigh the benefits:

A poll conducted last week by the Auto Alliance showed that a majority (61 percent) of Coloradans are opposed to the state fuel efficiency standards being dictated by California. And that makes sense because Colorado is already a national leader in sales of low emission vehicles. Importing California’s standards could saddle Coloradans with a huge financial burden without providing any additional contributions to the environment.

As it stands now, Coloradans may be looking at the kind of high gas prices that Californians pay to purchase carbon neutral fuel. If state regulators and policymakers move forward with adopting California’s standards on zero emission vehicles, Coloradans would be looking at paying millions, if not billions, of dollars to create the kind of infrastructure that would encourage people to buy these vehicles.

Moreover, under the California program, there could be a significant reduction in the choice of vehicles for Coloradans, particularly when it comes to trucks and other large vehicles.

We hope that state regulators and legislators will reverse course on this issue and implement the kind of standards that work for Coloradans.
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Rocky Mountain Wolf Project calls for animal reintroduction amid pushback

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 4:38 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com

If anyone is a leading authority on wolf reintroduction, it's Mike Phillips. The conservation biologist first captured a wolf in Minnesota in 1980 and has since amassed decades of experience. His research has studied the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies, red wolves in the Southeast and Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. He's the co-author of The Wolves of Yellowstone, which details the reintroduction that he oversaw with the Yellowstone National Park Wolf Restoration Program. And more recently he co-authored Awakening Spirits: Wolves in the Southern Rockies, which, like his recent presentation in the Springs, advocates for reintroducing wolf populations to Colorado.

Though native, wolves have not roamed Colorado since the 1940s, when unregulated hunting pushed populations to the brink of extinction. The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, and wolves were listed as an endangered species one year later in the Lower 48. The animals are still listed as endangered in Colorado.

Since the year 2000, there have been three documented wolf sightings in state. In 2004, a female gray wolf was hit by a car on I-70; in 2006, a collared gray wolf was found dead due to poison near Rifle; and a hunter shot a wolf he mistook for a coyote in 2015.

Though seemingly unable to shed the stereotype of the "Big Bad Wolf," statistically, wolves do not kill people, according to Phillips.

“[Historically] wolves don't pose a threat to human safety,” Phillips told the audience, throwing his hands up emphatically. “That’s just a fact.”

But just three weeks prior to Phillips' presentation, Mesa County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to oppose any efforts to expand or reintroduce wolves in the county, citing threats to moose populations and livestock, and the spread of disease. Phillips says it's rare for a wolf to kill livestock, and if/when it does the wolf is older, or injured, and it's not normal pack behavior. 
A map presented by the Colorado Wildlife and Wolf Center depicting wolves historic ranges in the U.S. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • A map presented by the Colorado Wildlife and Wolf Center depicting wolves historic ranges in the U.S.

Between 1997 and 2015, Phillips says 117 cattle were killed by wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. That's 0.002 percent of an estimated six million cattle during that time. He also notes that ranchers are compensated for their loss when it does happen. The 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act authorized up to $140,000 per eligible state from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for wolf loss compensation and preventing future conflicts. The Act replaced Defenders of Wildlife's Wolf Compensation Trust, which paid $1.4 million over 23 years to compensate ranchers. Defenders of Wildlife, which works to protect native animals and their habitats, contributes funds to help states initiate wolf compensation programs. In lieu of the Wolf Compensation Trust, Defender's created the Wolf Coexistence Partnership, which works with ranchers on nonlethal techniques to keep wolves from livestock.

As for the threat to the moose population and of disease, Phillips says wolves rarely hunt moose because of their size, and disease is also rare.

Although Colorado Parks and Wildlife wouldn't stop a natural repopulation, Phillips says it's very unlikely, if not impossible, for wolves to re-inhabit Colorado without human help. The main reason is because to the north, Wyoming aims to limit wolves to the northwest corner of the state. Outside of the designated areas — 88 percent of the state — wolves are considered predatory and can be killed without consequence, which has kept the animals from migrating to Colorado.

A recent
Outside Podcast questions the theory of how reintroduction of top down predators can create a trickle effect on an ecosystem, and how much credit wolf reintroduction should get for the health of the Yellowstone ecosystem over the last 20 years. According to Outside, the benefits of wolves are exaggerated, not giving enough credit to increases in other predators like grizzlies, or the effects of drought, which also contribute to the thinning of elk and deer herds. (Thinning herds makes for healthier woodlands, according to Outside.)

But Phillips and his colleagues counter that wolves, over time, can restore balance to an ecosystem if they exist in large enough numbers. In the Yellowstone example, multiple pack reintroduction thinned deer and elk herds and increased herd movement. That movement not only aerates the soil and creates healthier woodlands, but also increases competition between coyotes and wolves, and decreases predation on smaller mammals. This is all in line with the idea of Trophic Cascade, and the trickle down affects everything down to waterways and aquatic life.

Phillips and the
Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, a collaboration of 20 organizations focused on restoring wolves in Colorado, advocate that wolves would have a similar effect in Western Colorado. And given the amount of public lands, populations of deer and elk, and a majority in favor of their reintroduction (60 percent of Coloradans over 20 years), it would make for a simple transition.

"Western Colorado represents a true
mother-load of ecological habitat for the gray wolf," he says. “All we have to do is put them back."
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Town hall shows sharp division over creekside camping ban

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 10:58 AM

Dozens of residents packed City Council Chambers for a town hall on the proposed creekside camping ordinance. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Dozens of residents packed City Council Chambers for a town hall on the proposed creekside camping ordinance.

Citizens on both sides of a proposed ban on creekside camping gathered June 14 at City Hall to voice their opinions before City Council.

The proposed camping ban, pushed by City Councilors Tom Strand and Merv Bennett, would specifically ban all municipal camping within 100 feet of a public stream. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 189 days in jail.

Colorado Springs has had a camping ban for years, but police currently have to give camp occupants 24-hour notice (under department policy, not city code) and ensure there’s shelter space available before dismantling camps. The new ordinance would theoretically make the ban easier to enforce by doing away with those requirements.

Supporters of the ban, who slightly outnumbered opponents speaking at the town hall, tended to focus on the issue of safety around creeks and trails, where several mentioned they had been accosted or threatened by individuals camping there. Others emphasized the need to keep waterways clean — both for health and aesthetics reasons.


"The reason people come to Colorado Springs and for tourism is generally west of the Interstate, and this is having a negative effect on our tourism industry, our mom-and-pop industry, up throughout the whole pass,

" said Welling Clark, former president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors. Clark added that the complex problem of creekside camping could not be solved without regional cooperation.


Homeless camps near stormwater infrastructure put the city's water quality at stake, said Westside resident Sharon Mullaly. "We’ve got an EPA lawsuit because of our lack of efforts to keep the storm drains clear."

Opponents of the camping ban argued that it disregards the rights of individuals forced to live outside, and ignores the root problem: the lack of affordable housing in Colorado Springs.

And it's not just campers causing the trash problem, said Aimee Cox, a former Manitou Springs city councilor.


"The dog waste in this community is prolific," she said. "And if we really want to begin to address some of the water quality issues and share this equitably, we’d say we can’t have dogs within 100 feet of the waterway either. But if you do that, that begins to impact people who are housed and they wouldn’t stand for that."


Colorado Springs resident Juliette Parker pointed out that even if the ordinance kept the people experiencing homelessness from setting up camp away from streams, it couldn't keep them from polluting the water.

"You know what they’re going to do when they need to go to the bathroom or wash their hands, all the things that you’re trying to prevent? They're going to walk 100 feet," she said.


District 2 Councilor David Geislinger ended the town hall on a note of relative optimism.


"This is an incredibly complicated issue because there are so many right sides," Geislinger said. "I think it is right to protect our waterways, to protect our environment, but it is equally right as people have said, that people who are outside, have a place to go to the bathroom, to wash their hands, and to wash their clothes. Just because one side is right doesn’t make the other side wrong, and tonight I heard a respect for that."


The creekside camping ordinance is scheduled for a first vote June 26.
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