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2013 Longmont election big win for Progressives

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Monday November 11th the City Council members for Longmont were sworn in – among them returning mayor Dennis Coombs. Here’s our photos.

Two new members were also sworn in –

Polly Christensen

Polly Christensen

Polly Christensen replaced Alex Sammoury and Jeff Moore replaced Katie Witt, both winning handily – no recounts this year.

Coombs sailed to victory with a 16% (Correction – 17.84%) margin over his opponent Bryan Baum, breaking out early with a large lead that Baum never managed to match, despite running scandal-free this time around. A push poll of unknown origin may actually have hurt the right-wing candidate by attempting to spread scurrilous rumors and deeply offending voters.

Jeff Moore

Jeff Moore

Sammoury and Witt were pleasant and appeared to be relieved at leaving City Council. Alex said he’d ‘…try and miss them…’ on Tuesday evenings, clearly being ironic. Witt pronounced ‘…you haven’t seen the last of me…’ and was greeting by laughter from the audience.

Well, I suppose we can hope

StephBaumTweets_111213Despite pronouncements from the right that Longmont is a ‘conservative’ town, the ‘left’ ran off two conservative candidates and defeated a tea party ex-mayor decisively. An obviously-planned kerfuffle over a months-old crabby note from Polly Christensen was clearly the Baum’s payback for being ‘pooched‘ in the last election. Super-classy for Abbondanza owner Bob Goff to not only save the note, but put it in the hands of Longmont’s First ‘Lady’ of muck-raking, who cackled gleefully about it. Love how she’s eager to see a fellow Longmonter in the ‘poor house’ – kinda clashes with her sweet, fundraiser persona…

Polly had this to say about her note to Goff:

“Usually Abondanza is my son’s and my favorite place for pizza, wine, and Parchesi. I was exhaused and was feeling a bit accosted by politics at a place where I was hoping to relax and NOT think about politics. I overreacted to the signs in the window and the political stickers on my leftover box. I wrote this cranky note on a scrap of paper. It was ill-considered, harsh, and unnecessary. I regret not just walking away and getting some sleep.”

Longmont's self-proclaimed 'First Lady'

Longmont’s self-proclaimed ‘First Lady’

Interesting tweet about the ‘Old Guard’… and the Pro-Tem vote was planned…? Really?

So, all in all a very interesting night and terrifically revealing of how deep the wounds of the last election were and how badly the right wanted revenge – any revenge.

2013 Colorado Legislature: on the right track with successes

Colorado Capitol dome. Photo by Charles Hanson.

Colorado Capitol dome. Photo by Charles Hanson.

While our national political leaders continue to be embroiled in gridlock at virtually every turn, our state legislators accomplished a great deal this past session. Although the bulk of the political media coverage has been on fringe issues (guns and rural Colorado), lawmakers were focused on jobs, schools, child welfare, voter and civil rights, immigration and the environment. Colorado is a better place to live, learn, love, work and raise children because of the 2013 legislative session.

Here are just 10 of dozens of good bills Democratic majorities in both houses achieved in 120 days:

  1. The ASSET Bill. Colorado’s undocumented students who graduate from high schools will now pay the same in-state college tuition rate as their peers. People with college degrees break the poverty cycle, help strengthen our economy, vote, contribute more to the tax base and are less likely to be in the corrections system.
  2. Making voting easier by sending all voters mail-in ballots. This bill will save counties $4.9 million over the next two years by making elections more efficient.
  3. Legalized civil unions, allowing thousands of committed same-sex couples to have critical legal protections and responsibilities. By recognizing civil unions, Colorado will see its revenue grow by nearly $5 million over the next three years.
  4. Increased tax credits to struggling families to help with medical and child care expenses. The benefits of this bill are self-explanatory.
  5. Limiting high-capacity magazines from 30 to 15 rounds and requiring universal background checks for gun sales. Legally purchased high-capacity magazines were used in both the Aurora Theater and Newtown school shootings. Universal background checks will make every Colorado resident safer.
  6. Reforming the way Colorado contracts business. In 2010-2011 alone, Colorado signed contracts with out-of-state vendors in the amount of $794 million. This bill brings our tax dollars back to our state while focusing on wages and benefits for workers as important considerations.
  7. The Colorado Clean Renewable Energy Bill will create good-paying jobs in rural areas while providing new sources of clean wind and solar energy.
  8. Allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s training and licenses. This law makes Colorado fairer and safer. It reduces our insurance rates because of fewer uninsured motorists and also saves public resources in court time for driving without a license or insurance.
  9. Creating sex ed programs in the schools that are medically accurate and provide age-appropriate information on birth control, abstinence, healthy relationships and disease prevention. This bill will reduce teen child bearing in Colorado, which costs taxpayers and society dearly.
  10. Colorado’s 16- and 17-year-olds can now preregister to vote when getting their driver’s licenses. This good-for-democracy bill will increase civic responsibilities/participation, reduce voter registration errors and save on form processing.

Good things are happening in Colorado thanks to our state legislators. In and around Longmont, this includes Reps. Jonathan Singer and Mike Foote and Sens. Matt Jones and Rollie Heath. We elect people to lead and get stuff done. Our current slate of Colorado legislators is doing just that.

Lawsuit Challenges Oil Shale, Tar Sands on Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2013
5:18 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust, (801) 300-2414
John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435) 259-1063
David Garbett, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 486-3161
Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351
Matt Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 546-0214
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 x 102

 

Lawsuit Challenges 800,000-acre Oil Shale, Tar Sands Plan Across Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

DENVER, Colo. – July 26 – A coalition of seven conservation groups sued the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday afternoon in federal district court in Colorado for allocating more than 800,000 acres of federal public land to climate-warming oil shale and tar sands development without undertaking formal consultation to protect endangered species.

The lands due to be mined are in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming within the Green River Formation, which the U.S. Geological Survey states contains between 353 billion and 1.146 trillion barrels of oil with “high potential for development,” — in fact, so high it holds 2 to 7 times as much as Alberta’s 170 billion barrels targeted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Vast mining, carbon emissions and water use will only worsen climate disruption and Colorado River drying,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with the Grand Canyon Trust. “This plan opens the door to that kind of development, and it does so while ignoring the plight of the creatures most vulnerable to its many impacts.”

“This citizen intervention is necessary because the Department of Interior is sending mixed messages to the public. On one day, the administration issues a statement that the Colorado River’s critical water supply will be protected for people and habitat, and then on another day they announce the most carbon intensive mining practice on the planet can move forward,” said John Weisheit, conservation director with Living Rivers. “The two programs are not mutually beneficial. Interior has to protect the Colorado River, there is no other choice.”

In March the BLM amended 10 resource-management plans, making 687,600 acres available for oil shale leasing and 132,100 acres available for tar sands leasing. The agency refused to conduct formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered species, as required by the Endangered Species Act, despite acknowledging likely impacts to those species.

“The Endangered Species Act requires agencies to consult with the experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service when they know listed species will be impacted,” said Matt Sandler, a staff attorney at Rocky Mountain Wild. “BLM has skipped this step, which will push these species closer to extinction.”

Mining for oil shale and tar sands would industrialize backcountry and destroy habitat, pollute and deplete water, and emit greenhouse gases. The allocated lands encompass habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, Mexican spotted owl and many other threatened and endangered species.

“Our public lands should be managed to protect our air, water and wildlife, not auctioned off for dirty and destructive fossil fuel development that will push us ever closer to climate disaster,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

CBD lawsuit BLM 4-state map

Thursday’s lawsuit comes as atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach 400 parts per million, a milestone in human history. Making fuel from oil shale and tar sands is an energy-intensive process of mining, heating, chemical treatment and refining. Its greenhouse gas emissions would far exceed that of conventional oil. For example, emissions from Alberta’s tar sands development exceed that of conventional oil by several times.

“The BLM should be managing these wild areas for the rich wildlife diversity and recreational opportunities they provide,” said Dan Chu, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, “not for dirty fuels development on a giant scale.”

The groups filing today’s lawsuit are Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Rocky Mountain Wild, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club. Many of the same groups on Monday challenged a new oil refinery in Green River, Utah, that could process fuels derived from oil shale and tar sands mined in lands subject to this lawsuit.

To download a copy of Thursday’s lawsuit, click here.

To download maps of the refinery and state and federal leasable oil shale and tar sands land, click here (high resolution [6.7 MB] or low resolution [1.7 MB]) (for media use).

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

East Boulder County United launches campaign to prohibit oil and gas extraction

For Immediate Release

Contact:      Cliff Willmeng 303 478-6613

Merrily Mazza 720 556-1286

Rick Casey 303 345-8893

The final language for the Lafayette Community Rights Act, which will prohibit new oil and gas extraction within the city, was approved today by the Lafayette City government. This will officially launch the public effort initiated by East Boulder County United to establish a Community Bill of Rights that includes our rights to clean air and clean water, and our right to community self-determination. We hold that the rights of people and communities are the highest governmental authority, and that corporate interests are subordinate to the health, safety, and sustainability of the Lafayette community.

Starting the week of June 9th, East Boulder County United and the people of Lafayette will initiate a large-scale petition drive to place the amendment onto the November ballot for the direct vote of the Lafayette public. It is clear to us that an industrialization of this scale, forced onto this community by State government acting on behalf of oil and gas corporations, is far more dangerous to our public health, environmental sustainability, property values, and democratic decision-making than any threats of State or industry litigation. Hydraulic fracturing and its unpredictable threats to community health, economic viability, and environmental sustainability are too severe, and oil and gas profits are not worth more than human life.

There will be a kick off meeting for the Lafayette Community Rights Act, which will be held at the Vitamin Collage, located at 100 S. Boulder Road in Lafayette, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM on Tuesday, June 11. The meeting will underscore the campaign’s ideas and goals, and train the numerous volunteers in gathering signatures necessary to place the Act to a direct vote of the Lafayette public.

East Boulder County United considers the future and safety of Lafayette part of the new civil rights movement that has bloomed across Colorado and the United States in response to corporate interests and the threats of the oil and gas industry. Like other civil rights movements, we are forced to protect ourselves by confronting the corporate laws that threaten the many for the gain of the few.

The Lafayette Community Rights Act will aim to protect our community members, our city, and our environment, and help to stem the long tide of corporate abuses and their real-life impacts to people and environment. This will begin the march for a just, democratic, and sustainable future.

East Boulder County United
EastBoCoUnited@gmail.com

Hick, job security is not guaranteed.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

If it’s not clear what our governor intends to do to bills that might inhibit oil and gas operations, then our legislators are less informed than I have believed. I hope there is sufficient spine in both houses to override any folly.

In the early 1970s the state almost mandated statewide land-use planning under HB 1041. That measure gave at least implicit authority to the state to “designate” numerous classes of lands as subject to “state interest,” meaning local land-use planning efforts could generally be ignored, if the state wished to do so. Sound familiar?

The Legislature didn’t take long to “come to its senses,” eviscerating the Colorado “Land Use (Control) Commission” by denying that body funding. At the time I disagreed with that move, but if one lives long enough sometimes a different ship comes in.

There is a difference between a matter being of statewide interest and being of interest to the state in each and every spot. Municipalities take precedence even over counties in Colorado.

Does CDOT hold sway where there are no highways? Does the Public Utilities Commission have any jurisdiction where there are no powerlines, generating facilities, pipelines, etc.? If oil and gas development is important to every individual in the state, then operations dedicated to that end are also. With modern production technology one needs not drill everywhere to withdraw oil and or gas somewhere. Best practices would dictate that in some cases, “somewhere” does not always need to be here.

I notice there are no oil wells near the governor’s mansion in Denver. Left unchecked, this governor may have drilling in Rocky Mountain National Park. Don’t laugh; he doesn’t plan on abbreviating his political career just yet. Maybe legislative representatives of the people will have to do that for him.

Fracking: Colorado’s dystopian nightmare

Editor’s Note: Phillip Doe leaves no stone unturned in describing the dangers and destruction that arise from every aspect of horizontal fracking. It’s a must-read for anyone who truly wants to understand the devastation that the oil and gas industry is wreaking on the people and resources of Colorado with the collaboration and complicity of the state’s government.

I went to a meeting earlier this winter in the Colorado Governor’s Office. I’m not a regular. The Governor, John Hickenlooper, Hick to his friends, had called the meeting with Boulder County Commissioners to discuss the county’s draft regulations governing the recovery of oil and gas found in the county’s deep underground shale formations. The fact is that most of the state is underlain by these ancient and organically rich seabeds. All are ripe for exploitation through the use of the industry’s new mining technique called horizontal fracking.

Drilling activities along both sides of the Colorado River, Interstate 70, and the Amtrak rail lines in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Drilling activities along both sides of the Colorado River, Interstate 70, and the Amtrak rail lines in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

In his haste, the governor had apparently forgotten that such meetings require the public be notified at least 24 hours in advance so they can listen in on the public’s business. This law has been on the books since 1972 and is widely used, but imperfectly understood, apparently, by the governor and his lieutenants. Hick was a long-term mayor of Denver before becoming governor. Its use is commonplace in city government.

To an outsider this meeting might sound like a tempest in a teapot, but as in most states with oil and gas reservoirs made recoverable through fracking, the state government of Colorado has said that it, and it alone, has the authority to regulate the oil and gas industry . The counties and cities may write their own regulations, but they must be in “harmony” with the state’s, and can not add conditions or requirements that would harm the industry’s bottom line. They are “preempted” from doing so.

 One of several 400-bed housing complexes (man-camps) for gas field workers. This one is located on the top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

One of several 400-bed housing complexes (man-camps) for gas field workers. This one is located on the top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

With the Boulder contingent, Hick started out by telling them that as a businessman and brewpub owner he’d never been sued; that he’d always been able to broker a deal, that he hoped a deal could be made with Boulder County government.

He went on to say, obligatorily, that he thought public health had to be protected, but added quickly that the oil industry’s property rights must also be protected. To this observer most of what he asserted concerning protecting the public’s rights and investigating their concerns is contradicted by the facts.

For example, he said nothing about the fact that he had already sued the city of Longmont , a city of 86,000 within Boulder County, over its regulations. Longmont’s regulations, labored over by a cautious oil lawyer, but eminently decent man, did not ban fracking within the city, as many wanted, but did make residential neighborhoods, schoolyards and the city’s open spaces off-limits to drilling by the industry.

Hick had sued over these regulations for not being in harmony with the state’s, whose only spacing restriction is that wells must be at least 350 feet from any residence or building in urban areas. Rural restrictions are even more favorable to the industry. There, only a 150 feet setback is required. Some wag has observed that under state planning guidelines a rural folk is worth less than half a city folk, less even than the three-fifths slaves were worth in the “original” Constitution.

Fracturing operation on top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. The green tanks (nearly 100 in this photo) hold the fluids for fracturing and then the fluids that return to the surface after fracturing. Note the tunnel in the upper left, built as a shortcut to a highway. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Fracturing operation on top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. The green tanks (nearly 100 in this photo) hold the fluids for fracturing and then the fluids that return to the surface after fracturing. Note the tunnel in the upper left, built as a shortcut to a highway. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

In the old days, an oil rig stood 150 feet high, thus the rural setback of 150 feet might protect a house or barn if the rig were to topple. New rigs used in horizontal fracking are sometimes taller according to one retired oil field worker and bitter critic of the industry. The critics are legion. Still, many large, rent seeking ranchers and farmers support the looser rural restrictions.

In reaction to the state’s lawsuit against Longmont, citizens launched an initiative to ban fracking altogether within the city. Operating on a shoestring, and laboring against $500,000 the industry dumped on the city to defeat the initiative, the ban vote carried by a remarkable 60/40 margin, demonstrating, perhaps, the power of a well-organized citizenry over big money, even big-oil money.

On the day of this meeting, Hick had not sued over the ban, though he had threatened to do so. In the end, the industry did it for him, with his blessings and encouragement. Indeed as guest speaker at an oil and gas convention in Denver subsequent to the Boulder commissioners’ meeting, he told the assembled oil men that he would bring the full might of the state to bear on their behalf if the industry were to sue over Longmont’s ban. Some find this bully pulpit cheerleading incredible.

Still, on this day he was most keenly interested in seeing that Boulder County did not also author another ban on fracking or enact something more stringent than the state’s rules. He was not openly threatening, but everyone knew the Longmont background.

One of the county commissioners, Will Toor, told the governor that in his judgment a countywide ballot initiative banning fracking, if there were to be one, would pass on a 60/40 basis, just like in Longmont.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), a smart politician, added that he thought the state rules should be a floor, not a ceiling, that the local governments should have that prerogative under their charters. Hick, somewhat surprised if not openly flustered, shot back that they weren’t ready to talk about that. Polis said that he thought that was what they were there to talk about. Clearly, deal making was not really on the agenda.

Later, in the hallway outside the governor’s office, Polis told one of the mothers who had attended the meeting that if an oil well were to be drilled in his backyard he would move. Many would agree, but not many are multi-millionaires like Polis. The mass of humanity, if Hick has his way, will have to endure the toxic fume garden the industry is building in neighborhoods across the state.

Two drill rigs working on a pad where ten wells have been previously completed. In the bottom right you can see ten recovery water tanks. Note also the reserve pit by the drill rigs. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Two drill rigs working on a pad where ten wells have been previously completed. In the bottom right you can see ten recovery water tanks. Note also the reserve pit by the drill rigs. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

So what about the contentions of citizens that fracking is unsafe, despite the industry’s bemused denials to the contrary?

The 2005 Energy Act is a good starting point for this discussion. Written only two years after the first horizontally fracked well was successfully drilled, the act was widely reported to have been written by the industry in the comfort of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, himself the former head of Halliburton Industries, one of the major providers of fracking fluids, an immensely profitable product according to industry observers.

The Act of 2005 is the culmination of a 40-year oil industry lobbying effort in Washington to exempt the industry from practically every foundational health and environmental law on the books. Not even the casino players on Wall Street have been as successful in creating a regulatory world to their liking. The bilking and mayhem are easy thereafter, as we’ve all seen.

Only one reasonable conclusion can be drawn from this sustained lobbying effort, the practice of horizontal fracking is most assuredly not safe. Otherwise there would have been no need to rip out more than 40 years of public health and environmental law from the pages of our civic history.

Drill rig working near Divide Creek in Western Colorado where methane bubbled into the creek during previous drilling activity. You can see two smaller reserve pits and a larger evaporation pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Drill rig working near Divide Creek in Western Colorado where methane bubbled into the creek during previous drilling activity. You can see two smaller reserve pits and a larger evaporation pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Notes on the air we breathe, and other acts of faith

Air and water quality issues are so ubiquitous in areas invaded by the industry that summarizing is difficult. Most astonishing, however, is that neither Colorado nor the U.S. has undertaken a systematic examination of the thousands of citizen complaints. With regards to air quality, these complaints run from skin rashes, to open sores, to nose bleeds, to stomach cramps, to loss of smell, to swollen and itching eyes, to despondency and depression, even death.

In this federal vacuum, several smaller-scale studies have been undertaken in Colorado.

The first in time was a health assessment commissioned by Garfield County, a west slope county home to roughly 10,000 oil and gas wells. The Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) conducted it at the invitation of the county government. That same government curtailed it when the results were thought to be too alarming. Among the findings were high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, at and near well sites. In fact, the assessment states that even at distances of 2,700 feet from a well site, toxic chemicals were still detectable at levels that would increase the chance of developing cancer by 66 percent based on published health standards.

I asked the authors of this study if the governor or any members of his staff had contacted them to discuss the assessment. Remarkably, they said, no. Strange indeed, since this study figured prominently in Governor Cuomo’s announcement that New York State was placing an indefinite moratorium on fracking until the health and environmental impacts of fracking were better understood.

Only weeks old, a first-of-its-kind study from The Endocrine Disruption Exchange , TEDX, measured more than 44 hazardous pollutants at operating well sites, again in Garfield County. Many of them are known to impact the brain and nervous systems; some are even known to harm the hormonal system of unborn babies. The study found prevalence of the pollutants up to .7 of a mile from the well site.

The lead scientist and head of TEDX, Dr. Theo Colborn , an environmental health analyst, who happens to live in Paonia, Colorado, at the doorstep of drilling in Garfield County to the north, has called for the U.S. to make further studies of these chemicals and their impact on all life, right down to the molecular level. Dr. Colborn even sent a letter to the President Obama and First Lady. Here is a video of Dr. Colborn reading the letter she sent to the President Obama and First Lady:

Another peer reviewed 2012 study out of Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine supports Dr Colborn’s results. That study headed by a professor of molecular medicine, Robert Oswald, and veterinarian Michelle Bamberger found significant health links between fracking and livestock exposed to fracking’s air and water byproducts. These animals suffered neurological, reproductive and gastrointestinal disabilities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has one of its high tech air monitoring towers located outside the small town of Erie, Colorado. There are five nationally. It recently released the results of long-term monitoring of air quality at Erie. The results are alarming and consistent with the TEDX and CSPH studies.

Perhaps the study’s most damning finding was that Erie, a bucolic town of roughly 18,000 folk, has air quality spikes, particularly methane and butane spikes, that exceed by 4 to 9 times those of Pasadena, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles, and Dallas, Texas, two cities with some of the worst, health threatening air in America.

NOAA reported that fully 4 percent of the methane gas produced in the Wattenberg field is leaked to the atmosphere and therefore never brought to market. The same NOAA team last year found that 9 percent of the produced gas was being leaked to the atmosphere in a large gas field on mostly Indian land in north central Utah. These percentages do not include gas that is intentionally burned off, called flared by the industry, as an operational prerogative open to the industry without regulatory penalty.

Natural gas processing plant in Ignacio, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Natural gas processing plant in Ignacio, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

That Erie should share this dubious unhealthy air honor with the likes of Pasadena and Ft Worth can only be explained by the fact that it sits at the western extreme of one of the largest gas fields in the U.S., the Wattenberg Field.

The industry has tried to finesse the NOAA findings by claiming the high readings are from auto emissions along the interstate west of the city. NOAA has correctly pointed out that methane and propane are not auto exhaust products. They are clearly indicators of the massive volume of volatile organic gases escaping from oil wells and pipelines in the Wattenberg.

Adding to the science, a recent article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology , concluded from examining the NOAA data that oil and gas activity in the Wattenberg field “contributed about 55 percent of the volatile organic compounds linked to unhealthy ground-level ozone.”

This field, home to about 20,000 wells, is in Weld County, which Erie straddles. It and Garfield County are the epicenters of drilling in Colorado, but the industry sensing Croesus-like riches is branching ever southward and westward from Weld toward Colorado’s population centers. Like Croesus, the industry may have crossed a river of growing discontent that will eventually prove its undoing.

Glycol dehydrators for five wells. These separation units remove water and noxious gases, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) from the natural gas. The tall pipe is for flaring the BTEX and other unwanted gaseous material. The water is then stored in tanks until it can be trucked to evaporation pits. Some dehydrators are connected to pipelines that carry the water directly to waste processing pits. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Glycol dehydrators for five wells. These separation units remove water and noxious gases, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) from the natural gas. The tall pipe is for flaring the BTEX and other unwanted gaseous material. The water is then stored in tanks until it can be trucked to evaporation pits. Some dehydrators are connected to pipelines that carry the water directly to waste processing pits. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Too little noted in the Colorado fracking saga is what the NOAA study underscores. Methane, a gas with 105 times the heat capturing capacity of CO2 over a 20-year time horizon, is escaping at alarming rates from oil and gas drilling sites and pipelines.

To even consider methane recovered through fracking as an effective transition fuel in the fight against climate change , natural gas releases would have to be at less than two percent of volume. Presently, scientists at Cornell University estimated releases of methane to be at 4 to 7 percent of product recovered, making it worse, over the critical short term, than coal for climate change. This is of course without regard to the huge quantity of gas that is flared to the atmosphere as CO2.

An effective zero emission standard for health threatening and climate warming volatile gasses such as methane is technologically reachable, but don’t expect it to be part of Colorado oil and gas rule making. Here, the “little guys” in the drilling business are sometimes given exemptions from even the most rudimentary health considerations such as requiring enclosed holding tanks for fracking return water, deceptively called, green completion. The state’s position is that these “small guys” are not technologically equipped to install these tanks, which, in reality, are only a halfway measure, but better than open pits. Such a requirement would put them out of business says the state’s regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). This agency has a dual charge. It is also charged with protecting public health.

One activist mother from Erie told me that the COGCC’s environmental exceptions for technologically challenged drillers is like arguing that a person who flunks out of medical school should still be allowed to perform brain surgery because that was his expectation and his monetary well being depends on it. Clearly, public health does not lead the list of governmental concerns at fracking discussions.

Compression station with separation unit. The separation units remove water from the gas as it comes into the facility and before it goes into the pipeline. For safety purposes, the gas must enter the pipeline at a pressure greater than that of the existing natural gas supply line. Huge diesel-driven fans cool the generators that create the pressure. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Compression station with separation unit. The separation units remove water from the gas as it comes into the facility and before it goes into the pipeline. For safety purposes, the gas must enter the pipeline at a pressure greater than that of the existing natural gas supply line. Huge diesel-driven fans cool the generators that create the pressure. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

So, despite all the compelling evidence to the contrary, we are still assured by the industry that all is well. Our air is safe. Hick, like them, is confident in the wisdom of not knowing, though just recently he did make a bow toward sanity by asking for a little over one million dollars for air quality studies. Dr. Colborn, operating on a very tight budget, spent more than $400,000 monitoring the air emissions from just one well in Garfield County.

The governor, however, is not alone in singing the virtues of ignorance. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inexplicably eliminated air quality impacts from its long awaited environmental study of fracking. A draft of this study will be released in 2014, with a final promised in 2015 after it has been peer reviewed by industry soldiers, sans air.

Insider review by the industry of its own operations has led my friend Wes Wilson, a retired EPA environmental engineer, to simply shake his head in disbelief. Undue industry influence is what caused him to blow the whistle on EPA’s Bush era white wash of fracking’s potential impact on public health back in 2004.

“We didn’t ask BP to participate in the evaluation of the DeepWater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. That would have caused howls of outrage from the public,” says Wilson. “We should feel the same outrage here, for, in truth, the impacts of fracking, as presently practiced, will have a much greater impact on public health and the environment than DeepWater.”

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex near Interstate 70 and the Colorado River. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex near Interstate 70 and the Colorado River. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Notes on the water we drink, and some we shouldn’t

Water use has received more attention, perhaps, than air quality in the Colorado debate over fracking, for after all, you can see it, but still it is in the not-to-worry register of state politics. Water is said to be king in the west, but from a regulatory standpoint it is a true pauper.

In Colorado, water is owned by the public, so says the state’s constitution, but it is treated as private property, most of it controlled by big agriculture and ranching, many of the same rent seekers who champion the irrational 150 foot setback.

Some background information is necessary to understand the potential impact of fracking on Colorado’s water, which, as many know, is projected to be a dwindling resource in the West as a result of climate change.

A grassroots organization, Be the Change , of which I am a board member, has aggregated information from state and federal websites on land leased to the oil industry. Be the Change did this because neither the state nor feds would, though they’ve been asked to do so, repeatedly.

Their calculation shows that at the start of 2012 approximately 9,000 square miles of public land in Colorado had been leased to the industry. This is roughly 10 percent of the state. Private land leases are thought to be greater, realistically much greater since most of the land in the Wattenberg field and on Colorado’s eastern plains is private. Thus, conservatively, 20 percent of the state is effectively owned by the oil and gas industry. Mineral rights overwhelm the rights of surface owners. This, too, is a source of concern and outrage by urban dwellers who never, until now, thought they would have to deal with an oil well as a fire-belching, air-choking neighbor.

The public/private leases combined constitute a landmass greater than that of nine states and rivals the size of West Virginia, a truly unfortunate arithmetic coincidence. But West Virginia will soon be left in Colorado’s exhaust since approximately 70 percent of Colorado is underlain by these deep oil bearing shale formations, and new leasing is continual, perhaps in the 1,000 square mile range annually.

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex for processing water from gas wells. Trucks unload water at the upper tier, allowing it to evaporate as it falls. The white dots in the pits are ‘misters’ to enhance evaporation. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex for processing water from gas wells. Trucks unload water at the upper tier, allowing it to evaporate as it falls. The white dots in the pits are ‘misters’ to enhance evaporation. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), for example, sold off about 69,000 acres on Feb. 14 of this year. About 25 percent of the parcels went for $2 an acre, a minimum rate established in 1922 and that hasn’t been adjusted since. A quarterly event, dependent primarily on the interest expressed by industry speculators who nominate the land, this sale was originally scheduled for roughly double the acreage, but objections were great from the public, with the result that considerable land was withdrawn, at least temporarily. The BLM, when assessing suitability for oil and gas leasing, is often operating from environmental documents that are more than 30 years old, well before horizontal fracking with its huge water requirements was even dreamt of. These leases are for 10 years. The state has a similar minimum, but its leases are for a shorter five years, with a one year option.

Surely, someone, maybe even the governor, should want to know how this staggering transfer of ownership, for that is effectively what an oil lease is, will impact the state’s land, water, wildlife and recreation base. This knowledge is particularly important if one is interested in the potential water demand of thousand of fracked wells on these ever growing 20,000 square miles of oil leases. By comparison, the Bakken oil field in North Dakota , the new darling of the industry, is thought to measure only about 15,000 square miles.

Governor Hickenlooper at a recent meeting of the big water users and developers in the state said, unremarkably, that water is our most important resource. One could hope he was channeling W.H. Auden who observed, “Thousands of people have lived without love, but no one has lived without water.”

Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that Hick’s recitation was one of those made-for-the-audience statements, containing not even the least notion of what it was going to take to protect Colorado’s water in the face of massive new industrial demands from fracking.

The estimates for the number of new wells in the state over the long term are dicey, at best. The state has made none and apparently has no plans to do so. Thus, a swipe-at-the-sky estimate using industry statements made in public forums must serve as the basis for an estimate. An industry hydrologist said at a public meeting in Castle Rock, CO, a couple of years ago that they expected 60,000 new wells in the state over the next 20 years. More recently an industry spokesperson said that there could be 100,000 new wells in the state in 30 years. These would be in addition to the industry’s 50,000 presently producing wells in the state. These projections are not out of line with the estimated acreage under lease to the industry.

The 100,000 new well projection also jibes with recent drilling permit data. Last year 3,770 drilling permits were approved. If this number were to be repeated annually over the next 30 years, we might expect at least 100,000 new wells. In 2007, before natural gas prices tumbled from the production glut, 8,000 new well permits were approved. So, a projection of 3,300 new wells a year, where oil is the prize, not gas, is well within historical bounds.

Private evaporation pit for a complex of wells owned by a single company. Notice the white water truck with a red cab, emptying into the pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Private evaporation pit for a complex of wells owned by a single company. Notice the white water truck with a red cab, emptying into the pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

A wild card factor in the estimate game is the rarely discussed possibility that many of these wells will be refitted to tap different shale formations both above and below the Niobrara formation which is currently the big play—apparently an ersatz gambling term the industry likes to use to describe its development activities. These formations number as many as eight in some parts of the state. Development of these other shale formations would also increase well and water demand numbers.

As a general rule a vertically fracked well, which almost all of the 50,000 presently producing wells are, requires about 250,000 gallons of water in the initial frack. They can be and often are fracked multiple times to keep the oil and gas moving to the surface.

The new horizontally fracked wells take much more water, approximately five million gallons per well for the initial frack. They, too, it is thought, will be refracked, but the frequency is unknown given the activity’s infancy. The head of technical development for Halliburton has said, however, that refracking will require marginally more water with each refrack to be affective.

For purposes of attempting to estimate the overall water demand from fracking over a 30 year planning horizon, we can posit that by the year 2043 about 80 percent of the 100,000 new wells would be horizontally drilled and that the remaining 20 percent would be vertically drilled. This extremely conservative configuration would result in a water demand of 13.4 billion gallons for new wells in that year, or in the language of water planning, 41,000 acre feet. (An acre-foot, af, is 326,000 gallons, the amount of water required to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot).

It is extremely important to note that water use by the industry is like no other. When they use water, they destroy it for any other use. When cities and agriculture use it, about 50 percent of it is returned to sustain streams and be reused by those downstream. So, while 41,000 af would be enough water for the domestic needs of about 410,000 people only half of it is actually consumed, with the other half being available for, in this example, another 410,000 people downstream.

By comparison, when the industry uses 41,000 af of water it consumes it all; thus, in reality, it is using enough water for the domestic needs of more than 800 thousand people. This consumption calculation is usually overlooked or ignored by industry apologist, both inside and outside government.

And remember something approaching the 41,000 af of annual demand in the 30th year would have been necessary to the industry for many years prior. Indeed, such demand might continue on indefinitely into the future, depending on the industry’s level of success in mining the multiple shale formations that underlie much of the state.

Still, it’s when one attempts to add in the potential water demand from refracking existing wells that the gallons begin to resemble something even Henry Paulson would recognize as really big.

For example, if one fifth of all wells needed to be refracked every year to sustain some level of production in a population consisting of 80 thousand horizontally fracked wells and 70 thousand vertically fracked wells, the annual water requirement, in the 30th year, could exceed 270,000 af annually, or enough water for the domestic needs of over five million people since fracking’s demand is based on 100 percent consumption or destruction as explained above. And here again something resembling this water requirement for refracking would have been required for many years previous and many years following. By comparison Denver’s present annual water demand, both residential and industrial, is approximately 240,000 af, only half of which is actually consumed.

And even if only one tenth of all wells needed to be refracked annually, the demand, based on 100 percent consumption, when added to what is projected for new wells is still staggering. This is particularly so in light of the fact that all of Colorado’s rivers on the front range, generally the rivers draining the east side of the continental divide, are already over appropriated; that is, there are more people with water rights than there is water to satisfy those rights. In fact, the taxpayers of this state have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to neighboring states, either through cash penalties or other forms of compensation, for water the state’s agricultural users have stolen.

Cannons shooting water to increase evaporation at the Ignacio natural gas processing plant. Note the cracks in the dirt berm in the foreground. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Cannons shooting water to increase evaporation at the Ignacio natural gas processing plant. Note the cracks in the dirt berm in the foreground. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

A few years back, the U.S. Supreme Court in ruling against Colorado in the Arkansas River case said, condemningly, that Colorado knew or should have known that it was stealing water that belonged to Kansas. The taxpayers have always paid the costs of reparation, not the farmers who stole the water, but that is old news.

Add to this mix that climate change is predicted to reduce snow pack and runoff in the southern Rockies. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in a new study predicts the annual flow of the Colorado River will be reduced by nine percent because of future temperature increases caused by climate change. It did not look at additional decreases that might result if the snow pack were also diminished. But NOAA has added to the grimness of our water future in a new report that projects a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in Colorado’s snow pack by 2100 if CO2 emissions continue to grow at a modest rate. Thus further diminishing spring runoff to the Colorado and other rivers heading in the state, as well. Always, the Colorado River has been the river the water tycoons have targeted when more is needed, and more is always needed as long as the public can be gulled into paying for development.

One could argue that using some portion of the public’s water for fracking couldn’t possibly be any worse than using it to raise corn which is then turned into ethanol. Ethanol is probably a net energy loser. Some may recall that Cornell’s Professor Pimentel, among others, argued back in 2003 that it took more energy to produce ethanol than it generated. In Colorado, about 86 percent of the public’s water is used by agriculture, much of it to grow corn. Nationally, about 40 percent of all corn is converted to ethanol.

Alas, science-based assertions that ethanol was just another chimera did not stop the U.S. from adding requirements that some portion of every gallon of gas sold in this country has to contain the stuff. This came to be in that glory of American law making, the aforementioned Energy Policy Act of 2005. The virtue of ethanol in our gas tanks was a favorite nostrum of then Senator Ken Salazar. He, advertising himself as the senator for rural America, said ethanol would save the country. Colorado, incidentally, is one of the most urbanized states in the union. Salazar will soon be returning to the state since his resignation as Interior Secretary. The Denver Post is already touting him as a gubernatorial candidate in 2016, presumably after Hick leaves to run for President, an idea floated most recently in a New York Times editorial. He should have the oil industry’s financial backing.

Still if the oil industry wants the public’s water in what, by any reasonable yardstick, will be significant quantities, there should be a wide ranging public discussion of our water dilemma and how best to guarantee a future that protects the public’s water resources and the natural splendors of the state. That discussion does not seem to be on the Governor’s radar. He, in fact, has said repeatedly that he hopes the concept of self-regulation can continue to form the underpinnings for the state’s relationship to the industry.

In Colorado, trucks haul fluids more than 100 miles one-way into Utah on Interstate 70 (where the speed limit is 75 mph) to a large open pit facility. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

In Colorado, trucks haul fluids more than 100 miles one-way into Utah on Interstate 70 (where the speed limit is 75 mph) to a large open pit facility. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Industry self-regulation is self-fulfilling in this instance since Colorado only has 16 inspectors to oversee the states 50,000 operating wells. These inspectors have responsibility over the state’s 80,000 non-operating wells, as well. Further complicating enforcement is the fact the state regulations disallow local environmental, health, and law enforcement staff any independent inspection or enforcement powers. It would seem that we have self-regulation by design.

The potential demands on Colorado’s fresh water should alarm every sentient being in the state. It’s too bad most of them have no recognized rights.

Equally disturbing is the way the industry is allowed to dispose of the polluted water that returns to the surface as part of the initial oil and gas production phase. Most of this flow-back water, as it is termed, is trucked off and reinjected into old wells that have been authorized for the purpose. Called Class II wells, about 200 of them are being used for fracking wastewater disposal , though the COGCC, recognizing the huge long-term demand, has recently drafted new regulations that would allow all nonproducing wells to become disposal wells. As I stated earlier, roughly 80,000 of these wells pock the state.

Some of course probably won’t be tapped, for some are within yards of schools and playgrounds and some others will be reopened given the new technology. Some others as Shane Davis of Fractivist has shown in his invaluable study of wells in Weld County actually are shallowly buried beneath new housing. Their reuse might prove difficult. Some sense of the magnitude of the potential waste-water disposal problem is gained by looking at the situation in Texas. There, according to state data, more than 50,000 disposal wells are used to service 216,000 active drilling wells.

It would be folly to deny, as one bobs down the vast river of deregulation big money and political mendacity have created under the guise of job creation, that the greed heads don’t rule the regulatory world in Colorado, if not the nation. In this regard Colorado looks a lot like Nigeria.

How much frack water is disposed of through the above described process? Well, from information gained from state studies done in North Dakota—there are no comparable studies available in Colorado—early returns of water from a newly fracked well vary from 11 percent to more than 50 percent of the injected water.

In addition to the early flow-back water, other water, called produced water, continues to be carried back to the surface over the operative life of the well, though in much reduced quantities. It too is destined for the reinjection graveyard. Information gathered in Texas, where disposal tracking is valued, suggests as much as 70 percent of the initial frack water volume, eventually, may have to be reinjected into disposal wells.

Although there is some reuse of frack water in the field, whatever is left is ultimately reinjected. Many alarms are being sounded about this practice. The former chief scientist in EPA’s Class II well permitting program has become suspicious of how the program is metastasizing well beyond its rather modest beginnings and has warned that all of these supposedly safe disposal wells will ultimately leak and, therefore, hold the fearful potential of infecting surrounding groundwater.

Mark Williams, a University of Colorado hydrologist studying western energy development is quoted in a recent ProPublica article as saying, “You are sacrificing these aquifers … By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”

The seriousness of his assessment is given new meaning by the fact that in Mexico City deep aquifers, more than a mile deep, are being considered as a new long-term water supply as traditional sources dry up or become overtaxed.

Many other physical scientists have sounded the same alarm about production wells. Perhaps chief among them is Cornell Professor Anthony Ingraffea , himself a former industry scientist. It is his estimation that about seven percent of wells will leak almost immediately, 60 percent will leak in 30 years, and all will eventually leak. His concerns are more than borne out by a Duke University study in the Pennsylvania Marcellus showing remarkably high incidences of groundwater contamination associated with relatively new fracked wells. The industry has rolled up into its traditional pill-bug denial configuration, deflecting all charges.

Despite the industry’s trademark see-no-evil stance, some of the industry’s own studies relate the danger and substantiate Professor Ingraffea’s research. Schlumberger the industry’s clear leaders in fracking technology, along with Haliburton, said early on that under sustained well head pressure five percent of wells would fail within a year, 26 percent of wells at age four and 60 percent would fail at maturity, 32 years.

A 2009 study by members of the Society of Petroleum Engineers reached similar conclusions. Neither of these last two studies could be confused for the ranting of fire-breathing Jacobins.

In Colorado roughly 60 percent of the state’s water is groundwater. Much of it may be at risk if the production and injection free-for-all continues. And if that weren’t enough we can add that we don’t really understand the nature of the risk since we don’t know the chemistry of the water being injected. Yes, this water is largely unmeasured as to it constituents because it is exempt from the requirements of federal environmental law.

But consider this, in Douglas County south of Denver, one of the richest counties in the nation, ground water overdrafting is of epidemic proportions, having fallen more than 300 feet as a result thereof. It may be that in the future, a significant part of the supply for those inhabitants will have to come from even deeper aquifers. Will those aquifers be polluted and rendered unusable by our present shortsightedness?

The governor would do well to recognize that in storytelling the fellow who poisons the well is always the villain. Even the greater villain, in the modern day story, perhaps, is the overlord who accommodates it.

End Notes: Down a very deep rabbit hole

Not long ago a New York Times editorialist asked, given our plodding indifference to climate change, if we were going to be able to “avoid the greatest intergenerational environmental injustice of all time?” The fellow asking the question was Thomas Lovejoy, a professor of science at George Mason University and chairman at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.

His answer was muffled in doubt. In particular he wondered if we could act soon enough to limit heat-trapping gasses from exceeding the critical threshold of a 2 degrees C increase by 2100. True, many of us will be dead by 2100, I for sure. But my grandchildren and yours might not be if we act quickly to embrace a concept Nathaniel Hawthorne called the magnetic chain of humanity, but, of course, any variation on the notion that we-are-all-in-this-together will do.

Our link in this magnetic chain would be to simply insist that all venting and flaring of gasses at wellheads must cease except in the case of emergency.

As stated earlier, the technology is already developed to accomplish this. In addition, state law forbids waste in the production of natural resources. But that prohibition has probably gone the way of the constitutional prohibition against subsidizing private corporations. They have been overturned by the courts in whack-a-do rulings or simply ignored by the political ruling class armed with internal memos undoing the done.

All wells could not be converted at once, of course. So closures would have to be instituted until they could be. After all, waste of a natural resource, remember, has long been forbidden by our state law, and as the politicians are fond of saying, this is a nation of laws.

This prohibition would also apply to any new wells in that production could only commence once pipelines were in place to capture both the oil and gas. Oil can be stored on site, but gas cannot, at least not without substantial costs to the industry. This is the reason that in North Dakota the natural gas is simply flared and vented. The waste there was recently described as being great enough to power all the homes in Chicago and Washington, D.C. combined.

Norway, for instance, employees the waste-limiting regimen described above. They allow no production until the infrastructure is in place to capture both the oil and gas produced. Another big difference between Norway and the U.S. is that the resource is treated as a national resource, not one to be exploited by every character with an appetite for riches and who happens to own a checkbook, a drill bit, and a pickup. Denmark’s production is regulated as well to serve the national needs and accounts for over 25 percent of national revenues annually, though most goes into a rainy day trust fund for when the oil peters out.

Unlike Norway we continue down a path laid out by the industry. Waste, while illegal, is acceptable as long as it serves the industry’s bottom line. The true extent is unknown because it is unmeasured by the state. Thus, we are reduced once again to making our own calculations. So, if from four to seven percent of the 1,500 billion cubic feet of gas produced in Colorado in 2011 were lost through a leaky process as documented by NOAA and calculated by Ingraffea and others, we, in Colorado, would have wasted between 60 billion and 105 billion cubic feet of methane gas to the atmosphere. This is enough gas to heat between 750 thousand and 1.3 million Colorado homes. According to the census there are 2.2 million housing units in the state.

If we add in the amount of gas that is flared, which is almost certainly a greater amount, we can see that what is wasted in Colorado might not heat all the homes in Chicago and Washington D.C. combined, but is certainly enough to heat all the homes in Colorado.

For the public to regain control of the water it owns, several things need to be done? First, and most importantly, a serious water demand study with projections extending out at least 30 years must be conducted. Factored into these projections of demand must be a realistic examination of the sensitivity of our future water supply to climate change.

The reality of climate change has simply been ignored as the water buffaloes continue to look at the worn out solution of more dams financed by the public for the enrichment of the few, most recently the developers, but now, too, the oil industry. In this regard, know that we already have more than 2,000 reservoirs in this state, over half of them on the Front Range. Many often will not fill if climate change hits hard the southern Rockies as many climate scientists predict.

Water conservation, particularly in the agricultural sector which, as stated earlier, uses about 86 percent of the water, will almost certainly have to become more than a politician’s palliative if we are to realize a rational water future. Future conservation might even include the curtailment of corn-ethanol production, with its high demand for water and petrochemical fertilizers—but only if sanity reigns.

The result of the study will indicate where and how much water might be available to the industry. It is quite possible the study under certain climate change futures might indicate no safe availability. In which case, the industry would have to seek more expensive fracking mediums. In British Columbia, propane is reportedly being used successfully instead of water for fracking. Its use has the beauty of simplicity: gas in, gas out, thus, greatly reducing the wastewater disposal factor, though not the groundwater contamination threat.

Clearly, this sort of analysis needs to be done before more land is leased to the industry or more water destroyed. In a rational world, one in which the planet’s and public’s well being came first, this analysis would have been done already and the consequences understood.

Remember, too, that when the climate-change-denying, job-whores start their whine that jobs come before fustian concerns over our constitutional rights to “public peace, health, or safety,” remind them there will be a host of new jobs available in the oil patch. It will take a lot of people to install the controls needed to curb the huge waste of methane into the atmosphere at wellheads and along aging pipelines.

Because we really have no understanding of what we are doing in this dystopian nightmare of our own making, a moratorium on new leasing and horizontal fracking must be instituted. If Hick and his cohorts in the legislature cannot be made to understand our mutual responsibility in the climate change battle, or more personally our responsibility to the health of our fellows, human and otherwise, the folk will have to invoke its right to direct democracy through the initiative process, which our constitution describes as the “first power … reserved by the people.”

Commercial evaporation pits that accept fluids from independent truckers for a fee. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Commercial evaporation pits that accept fluids from independent truckers for a fee. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

The initiative process is hated by the political elite, but it is the grand gift to us from the writers of our constitution who understood the corrupting power concentrated wealth had in the 19th century over federal and state legislatures, particularly as used by the railroad barons. The oil industry is more than a worthy modern-day replacement.

If we assume that, in the near term, some water might be available to the industry as a result of the comprehensive water supply study, the present free-for-all, in which every petty water provider can sell to the industry on the spot market for a tidy profit, must be eliminated

First, speculation in water as a commodity is forbidden by our constitution. If anyone is to receive the benefit of a market sale it should be the public to which the water belongs constitutionally and, in many cases, has paid for through federal and state subsidized water development programs.

Perhaps no one would be surprised, given the lay of the land in Colorado, that even though the public owns the water, it has never received any monetary consideration for the “beneficial use” of that water. On the other hand, if the public ever needs its water back to satisfy a growing population or to restore a river or stream, it must pay a market rate to reacquire it. The state’s constitution says the right for the beneficial use of water shall never be denied, but it does not say that reasonable compensation cannot be built into the transaction.

Secondly, the oil industry, like every other developer in the state, must be made to demonstrate they have a reliable water supply and identify the source of that supply as part of the leasing and permitting process. Evasion of this requirement, as the BLM and the state have allowed, by pretending that there is no relationship between land leasing for oil development and cumulative water demand is nothing short of idiocy. If they lease, we must assume they intend to drill, at least exploratorily, and that water will be the fracking medium.

Moreover, saving any short-term, fresh-water surpluses by injecting them into our rapidly receding Front Range groundwater reservoirs should always be considered. This water-reserving approach would help provide a long-term insurance policy against an uncertain water future, particularly since underground reservoirs tend to collapse once stripped of the structural equilibrium the mined water provided.

A complication in reclaiming the public’s right to protect its water supply from destruction whether by fracking or any other use is contained in a law the legislature passed in 1979. This legislation took deep ground water out of the public estate and gave it to the state water engineer for his administration. This was done so that developers in Douglas County could continue to over appropriate the groundwater that was otherwise threatened by the constitutional requirement to appropriation, that is, you can’t appropriate something that is already used.

To accomplish this slight of hand, they created a new class of water, calling it non-tributary groundwater. Apparently, they would have us believe it came from the center of the earth, not from slow surface percolation into deep aquifers. The result of this misbegotten assault on the public’s estate is a 300-foot decline in the groundwater table, as mentioned earlier. Unwittingly their malfeasance has set the stage for a inevitable fight between the oil industry and the developers over who gets the rest, the stuff the legislature apparently thinks came from the center of the Earth.

In this regard, it should not go unnoticed that in the writing of the state’s constitution considerable debate surrounded who should be the owner of the water in Colorado, the state or the public. The Populists won the day, arguing that if they gave it to the state, the state would let the wealthy and the corporations steal it.

We need to take back what is ours, and, despite the framer’s best efforts, perhaps they knew, someday, we might have to seek our own remedies. Perhaps that’s why they reserved for us the “first right” of legislation, the right of direct democracy, the right of the initiative.

As for Hick, he probably doesn’t agree with any of this. Why only last week he was back in Washington regaling Senators with stories of his derring-do in drinking fracking fluid . If it didn’t hurt him, it must be ok, reasoned he. What he didn’t say was that the fracking fluid he was drinking is quite expensive and is not known to have been used anywhere in Colorado. Equally unclear is whether Hick shows any of the signs Dr. Colborn’s studies indicate are associated with breathing fracking chemicals. Among them are a loss of empathy, smaller head size, and reduced cognitive powers.

As an activist told me at a rally against fracking at the state capitol, he wanted Hick to drive up near Longmont, where a spill of more than 80,000 gallons of green fracking fluid occurred last week, and drink a dram or two of that stuff. He said to those gathered, “now folks, that would be an acid test.”

In the end, if Hick and his administration can’t be turned toward defending the public interest, the public will have to go it alone with the support of a growing number of legislators who know their political future may depend on joining this fight against unregulated fracking. In fact, many are beginning to realize it is not so much a question of political well being as being on the right side of history.

In the short term that means every like-minded community, grassroots and public interest group in the state should sign on to help Longmont in defending its right to ban, either materially, with amicus briefs, or simply in letters of open support.

Last month, the city council of Fort Collins , the state’s fourth most populous city, passed a preliminary ban on all drilling within city limits. It also issued a letter of support to the people of Longmont. Can other cities be far behind?

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Wes Wilson contributed to this article.

This article has been reposted from EcoWatch.org with permission of Phillip Doe. – FRL

Staying the course for marriage

Rethink Church - First United Methodist Church

Boulder, Colorado – In spite of the rejection of revised policies regarding inclusion of LGBTQ individuals voted on last week by the international gathering of United Methodists in Tampa, Florida, a local congregation is vowing to move forward on its own path of inclusion and social justice.

First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.”   Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.

“It’s heart-breaking what happened – or more accurately, didn’t happen – in Tampa this week,” senior pastor Dr. Patrick Bruns stated following several votes which rejected efforts to open up institutional church policies to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in full acceptance and participation in the church.  “But I am reassuring our congregation and the Boulder community that those votes were far from the final word.  Our commitment to following Jesus’ Path has been called out even stronger and we plan even more energetically to pursue bold action, non-violent resistance, and courageous commitment to love, justice and peacemaking.”

Rev. Bruns made news recently by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender.  Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation recently notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.

“It has been a unifying and energizing experience in our congregation to have leaders who are so committed to social justice and inclusivity,” noted Becca Tice, chairperson of the Affirming and Welcoming Committee which promotes the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the church.  “We won’t pretend that this week’s votes weren’t enormously disappointing but we don’t intend to be defined, defeated or deterred by those votes.”

United Methodists from around the globe gather every four years to consider changes to their Book of Discipline which serves as both “Constitution” and more specific, practical guidebook for how the church is to be run.  Policies detrimental and discriminatory to lesbian and gay individuals have been included in the Book of Discipline since the early 1970s but the actual implementation of policies, in practice, has varied from state to state and country to country.

Closer to home, United Methodists in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming (known as the Rocky Mountain Conference) will gather for their annual conference in Denver about six weeks from now.  Decisions made by the international conference likely will be fodder for both formal and informal discussion at that conference.  Many local individuals already are contemplating actions to express their grave disappointment and disapproval of the votes by the international body and considering ways to bring about future changes.

“We honor and respect the tremendous good work which the United Methodist Church has accomplished in so many ways since its beginning in the 18th century,” said Justin Livingston, Chair of Church Council. “We believe our world needs more instruments of God’s love, grace, and justice, not fewer, and that’s why we will continue to embrace everyone as welcomed participants in God’s family as we experience it at First United Methodist Church of Boulder.”

What does it mean to ‘rethink church’?  Come and see for yourself.

Drillers and frackers want farmers’ water

Dust bowl farm

You can't eat sand

As I read this article in the Longmont Times-Call the other day, I shook my head with disbelief. On the very same page was an article titled “Driest March in City History ends with heat” and then looked at the snow percentages (of normal) in the weather section:

Copper Mountain 57 percent; Independence Pass 46 percent; Vail Mountain 12 percent; Lake Eldora 32 percent; Loveland Basin 69 percent; Niwot 62 percent; Wolf Creek Summit 69 percent; Rabbit Ears 39 percent; Hoosier Pass 64 percent.

Something isn’t adding up. If oil and gas companies are buying up the water that our farmers need to grow our food, then what will we eat? Can we depend on other states to provide our food when they’ve suffered from the same dry spell we have? This is a clear example of market demand gone haywire. Our water (the water that belongs to the people of Colorado) is being sold to the highest bidder (oil and gas companies) so that they can make record profits at our expense, while in the meantime, we will get very thirsty and hungry and have our air, water and soil poisoned. Can you squeeze blood from a turnip? Where is this water going to come from? There isn’t enough water. Since when do we put the needs of corporate powers over the needs of the people? It was recently reported that natural gas is going to be shipped to the highest bidders in Asia. An LNG terminal on the West coast has been reconstructed so it can now export liquid natural gas.

What I’m seeing here is voodoo math. Our water is being stolen from us so that oil and gas companies can ship their products overseas while we are left hungry, thirsty, and then footing the bill for oil and gas company profits.

It’s time to conduct a thorough investigation on the economics of screwing the people of Colorado. There is no time to waste.

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Who’s behind the ‘information attacks’ on climate scientists?

Editor’s Note:  Free Range Longmont is pleased to be able to reproduce this in depth investigative report and expose on American Tradition Institute/American Tradition Partnership/Western Tradition Partnership.  The report details the vast network of funding by interrelated businesses and think tanks who are determined to manipulate public perceptions of the environmental and economic threats of climate change.   

We are also honored to have been able to contribute to the extensive research performed by the Institute of Southern Studies (ISS).  ISS has been in existence since 1970 and has established a national reputation as an essential resource for grassroots activists, community leaders, scholars, policy makers and others working to bring lasting social and economic change to the region.


This article is reproduced in its entirety from the website for The Institute for Southern Studies.

This week, in a courtroom in Prince William County, Virginia, a hearing will take place that could have implications for the privacy rights of scientists at colleges and universities across the country.

It’s part of a lawsuit brought by the American Tradition Institute, a free-market think tank that wants the public to believe human-caused global warming is a scientific fraud. Filed against the University of Virginia, the suit seeks emails and other documents related to former professor Michael Mann, an award-winning climate scientist who has become a focus of the climate-denial movement because of his research documenting the recent spike in earth’s temperature.

By suing the university, the American Tradition Institute wants to make public Mann’s correspondence in an effort to find out whether he manipulated data to receive government grants, a violation of the state’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

But a Facing South investigation has found that the Colorado-based American Tradition Institute is part of a broader network of groups with close ties to energy interests that have long fought greenhouse gas regulation. Our investigation also finds that ATI has connections with the Koch brothers, Art Pope and other conservative donors seeking to expand their political influence.

‘A Hostile Environment’

Michael MannThe controversy involving ATI began in January, when the group submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to U.Va. seeking documents connected to Mann (photo at left), who now directs the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. After the school was slow to produce the materials, ATI along with Virginia Del. Robert Marshall (R), another global-warming skeptic, filed a lawsuit in May seeking to expedite the documents’ release. This week’s hearing will consider Mann’s motion to intervene in the case in order to protect privacy interests he does not think will be adequately protected by the other parties.

A physicist and climatologist with advanced degrees from Berkeley and Yale, Mann’s research contributed to the “hockey stick graph,” which shows a sharp rise in the earth’s temperature in recent years. He was also among those caught up in the so-called “Climategate” controversy, involving emails hacked from a British university that climate skeptics claimed showed global warming was a fraud. Multiple investigations by Penn State, the National Science Foundation’s Inspector General, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and British parliament have cleared Mann and others of misconduct and determined that the content of the emails in no way changed the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity.

Despite those exonerations, however, Mann became the target of a separate ongoing investigation launched last year by Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a global-warming skeptic who issued civil subpoenas for Mann’s emails and other documents. A Virginia judge dismissed the investigation, but Cuccinelli — who previously challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gas pollution endangers public health — is now appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia. ATI is seeking the same documents as Cuccinelli.

ATI’s lawsuit has been widely condemned by science, academic and civil liberties groups, who describe it as a politically motivated intrusion into academic freedom. The board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that such legal challenges “have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas.” Earlier this year, public-interest groups including the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the U.Va. president noting that the Virginia public documents statute expressly exempts scholarly data of a proprietary nature that has not yet been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.

“While we need freedom of information laws to hold public officials accountable, the law has exemptions for good reason,” said Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the letter’s signatories. “Scientists should be able to challenge other scientists’ ideas and discuss their preliminary thinking before their analyses are complete and published.”

But ATI has fired back against the scientists and academics, accusing them of taking part in a conspiracy to mislead and defraud the public.

“Once again these self-interested groups — who hope to protect their billions of dollars in government funding of dubious, unsupportable research — accuse ATI of ‘harassment and intimidation’ of scientists,” ATI Executive Director Paul Chesser said in a statement. “It shows how blind they are to the fact that ATI has acted in the interest of sound, verifiable science and for the protection of the hard-earned money that taxpayers are forced to relinquish for such research.”

ATI’s Western roots

American Tradition InstituteThe American Tradition Institute’s foray into the Virginia case marks the expansion of a controversial group already known for its fierce advocacy on behalf of oil, gas and coal interests in Western states.

The American Tradition Institute was launched in Colorado in February 2009 as the nonprofit Western Tradition Institute, changing its name to ATI last year.  WTI, in turn, was a spinoff of the Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) — a 501(c)(4) political advocacy group backed by energy interests.

“They are offshoots from the same poisoned roots,” said Peter Fontaine, the attorney representing Michael Mann in the ATI lawsuit.

WTP, which has since changed its name to American Tradition Partnership (logo above), describes itself as a “no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda.” It was first registered as a Colorado nonprofit in 2008 by Scott Shires, a Republican operative with a checkered past: He was fined over $7,000 for campaign finance violations in Colorado, pleaded guilty in a scheme to fraudulently obtain federal grants for developing alternative fuels, and was tied to an illegal gambling ring. WTP was active on behalf of oil and gas industry interests in the 2008 commissioners race in Garfield County, a center of Colorado’s energy industry.

Last year, the then-Western Tradition Partnership also backed a Colorado ballot initiative that would have allowed voters to opt out of the state’s renewable energy standard, which requires 30 percent of the electricity produced by investor-owned utilities to come from renewable sources by 2030. WTP missed the filing deadline to put the measure on the ballot, but ATI is picking up the slack: The group has sued Colorado over the standard, and is targeting similar renewable energy promotion programs in Delaware, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico and Ohio.

The groups have not only been fighting on behalf of the energy industry: They’ve also been targeting laws that restrict corporate money in elections and that require disclosure of contributions. In 2009, Western Tradition Partnership sued the city of Longmont, Colo. over their local Fair Campaign Practices Act. The city eventually settled the suit and agreed to drop requirements that political donors have their identities disclosed on campaign advertisements.

And in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, WTP successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Montana Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, which prohibited independent expenditures by corporations to influence political campaigns — a law originally aimed at powerful mining and railroad interests in the state.

But even while it has fought to weaken election laws, WTP has at times run afoul of them. A decision issued last year by the Montana Commission of Political Practices found that the organization had broken state campaign laws by failing to register as a political committee or properly report its donors and spending. The investigation discovered that the group had solicited unlimited contributions to support pro-mining, pro-logging and pro-development candidates in Montana and avoided disclosing the contributions by passing them along to a sham political action committee that in turn ran attack ads against Democrats.

As Commissioner Dennis Unsworth said in his decision, the group’s wrongdoing “raises the specter of corruption of the electoral process.”

A window into the climate-denial industry

Paul ChesserIn the Western Tradition Partnership’s Winter 2010 newsletter, the group announced that it changed its name to the American Tradition Partnership. It also reported in an article datelined North Carolina that it had launched the American Tradition Institute, a think tank that would be “battling radical environmentalist junk science head on.”

The group would be led by Paul Chesser, who they described as a “noted climate scholar.” In fact, Chesser (photo at left) is not a scientist but has long worked in what environmental advocates call the “climate denial machine”: a network of organizations, many backed by energy interests, that work to create doubt about the science of human-caused global warming.

According to his bio, Chesser grew up in Rhode Island and worked as an accountant in Los Angeles. He launched his reporting career in North Carolina, where he edited two weekly conservative Christian newspapers, The Raleigh World and The Triad World. Now defunct, the papers were owned by World Newspaper Publishing, whose stated purpose is to “bring journalism informed by a distinctly Christian worldview to major cities across America.”

From there, Chesser moved to the John Locke Foundation (JLF), a free-market think tank based in Raleigh, N.C. that has been a leading voice of climate denial in North Carolina. The Locke Foundation decries what it calls “global warming alarmism” and promotes the views of global warming skeptics like Patrick Michaels, who left the climatologist’s office at the University of Virginia in 2007 over controversy about his funding sources and fringe views.

The Locke Foundation was founded and is largely funded by Art Pope, a North Carolina millionaire and leading conservative benefactor. As a national director of the free-market advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, Pope has close ties to the Koch brothers, the billionaire owners of the Kansas-based Koch Industries oil and chemical conglomerate and leading funders of global warming denial efforts. The Koch Family Foundations have also contributed at least $70,000 to the Locke Foundation.

It was at the Locke Foundation that Chesser began his crusade against the growing scientific consensus about climate change. He served as an editor of Carolina Journal, the group’s monthly newspaper that relentlessly attacks the science of global warming in its climate coverage. While there he also began working with Climate Strategies Watch, an initiative that sought to discredit the Center for Climate Strategies, a nonprofit group that helps states figure out ways to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

Climate Strategies Watch was a joint project of the Locke Foundation and the Heartland Institute, a corporate-backed think tank in Chicago where Chesser also served as a special correspondent. Heartland has received at least $676,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. Between 1997 and 2008, they also received $30,000 from foundations connected to the Kochs and another $50,000 from Pope’s family foundation. One of Heartland’s government-relations advisors also served as Exxon’s senior environmental advisor.

Chesser was soon fully immersed in the climate-denial network. He became an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative think tank heavily funded by the Scaife Foundations, which are controlled by the family that owns Gulf Oil. He blogged for the Cooler Heads Coalition, an industry front group led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute — a fierce opponent of greenhouse gas regulation that has taken over $2 million from ExxonMobil as well as funding from the American Petroleum Institute, Texaco and the Koch, Scaife and Pope foundations. (ATI’s director of litigation, Christopher Horner, is a CEI fellow.)

Now at the American Tradition Institute, Chesser again finds himself speaking for a group largely bankrolled by fossil fuel interests. According to its most recent filing with the IRS, ATI last year received $40,000 from its sister group ATP, which in turn is supported by oil, gas and coal interests. It received another $5,000 from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a Virginia-based think tank that since 1998 has received over $1 million in funding from Exxon Mobil; between 1997 and 2008, Atlas also received $122,300 from the Koch foundations and $735,000 from the Pope foundation.

But ATI’s biggest funder is Montana businessman Doug Lair and his Lair Family Foundation; they contributed $5,000 and $135,000 respectively to the group last year — over 75 percent of its total income.

Lair’s fortune comes from Lair Petroleum, the family business that was sold in 1989 to William Koch, the lesser-known brother of Charles and David Koch. As recently as 2010, Lair Petroleum was listed as Lair’s employer in state campaign finance reports, although now he’s also an investor in commercial and agricultural real estate.

Along with the American Tradition Partnership, Lair and another Montana resident recently filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Montana campaign finance laws, arguing that limits on donation amounts and corporate contributions are impermissible under the First Amendment — a suit similar to others filed by the group. The plaintiffs are represented by James Bopp Jr., a prominent conservative attorney who worked as a legal adviser to the group behind the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that successfully challenged strictures on corporate money in elections.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that corporate political speech is protected by the First Amendment, and you cannot ban political speech just because the speaker is a corporation,” said Bopp.

A chilling trend for academic freedom

David SchnareThe hearing on the American Tradition Institute’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the University of Virginia seeking Michael Mann’s records is set for Tuesday, Nov. 1 before Judge Gaylord Finch in Prince William County Court. The hearing was postponed from September after Finch said he wanted to allow more time for arguments because of the case’s significance.

“If it wasn’t clear before, it should now be clear to everybody,” David Schnare (photo at right), pro bono director of ATI’s Environmental Law Center, said at the time. “This is an extremely important case, and we appreciate Judge Finch’s careful attention to detail as we proceed.”

Critics say the case not only symbolizes the industry attack on climate science but is part of a growing trend of using public information requests to target academics for political reasons.

Earlier this year, the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a records request seeking materials from University of Wisconsin history professor William Cronon after he criticized Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s push for legislation to weaken public-sector unions. Soon after, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy — a free-market think tank based in Michigan — submitted Freedom of Information Act requests seeking materials related to the Wisconsin union battle from labor studies faculty at the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State.

In the Cronon case, the University of Wisconsin’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution arguing that open records laws are abused when they become partisan tools. “What was begun as a classic notion of sunshine being the best disinfectant has turned into a law that’s used as a weapon to target not government officials and offices but individual public employees,” said professor Howard Schweber, one of the political scientists who helped craft the resolution.

In the end, the university released some Cronon emails but withheld others, including exchanges with students protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and what it considered private exchanges among scholars. In the Wayne State case, the think tank’s action led the university to take down some pages of its Labor Studies Center’s website and investigate whether they had violated state campaign finance laws.

The American Tradition Institute is also using open records law to target another prominent and award-winning climate scientist: James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In January, ATI filed a federal FOIA request with NASA seeking information on how Hansen “has complied with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations, and NASA Rules of Behavior.” An outspoken advocate for limiting greenhouse gas pollution, Hansen has long been a target of global-warming skeptics for his research and activism. ATI has sued NASA for withholding documents over concerns about Hansen’s privacy rights.

Peter FontaineIn the upcoming hearing on the U.Va. case, Mann’s attorney, Peter Fontaine (photo at left), told Facing South that he will argue his client should be permitted to intervene in the ATI lawsuit because of his personal interest in protecting his private email correspondence with other scientists — what Fontaine calls the “raw materials of scholarship” that lead to finished science.

“If this information is disclosed and allowed to be cherry-picked, distorted and mischaracterized, it will result in a terrible chilling of the rights of scientists to exchange their ideas,” said Fontaine, co-chair of Cozen O’Connor’s energy and climate change programs and an EPA air pollution enforcer in the early 1990s. “It would be a blatant violation of my client’s copyrights to his private emails, as well as his First Amendment rights and the right to academic freedom.”

Fontaine faces a formidable adversary in ATI’s Schnare, who holds advanced science degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked as an attorney with the Department of Justice and Virginia Attorney General before serving in the same EPA air-pollution enforcement job as Fontaine from 1999 until his retirement four months weeks ago. Schnare dismissed the idea that the lawsuit is targeting Mann or his scholarly position on climate science, and said he plans to argue that the professor should not be allowed to intervene.

“This case is about FOIA, not Mike Mann,” Schnare said. “If he had wanted to protect himself from embarrassing emails, he should not have pressed ‘send’ to begin with.”

(PHOTOS: Michael Mann by Greg Grieco via Wikipedia, Paul Chesser via John Locke Foundation website, David Schnare from ATI website, Peter Fontaine from Cozen O’Connor’s website.)

Gessler blowing money like there’s no tomorrow

Scott Gessler, Republican candidate for Colorado Secretary of State

Scott Gessler, Republican candidate for Colorado Secretary of State - spending money like it's going out of style

From ColoradoPols.com:

Gessler Just Keeps Pissing in the Wind
by: Colorado Pols
Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 10:31:58 AM MDT

We’ve been fascinated with the campaign of Republican Secretary of State candidate Scott Gessler over the last year, but not in a good way. For most of the last 18 months, Gessler has been spending his campaign cash as fast as he can raise it; in 2009, he brought in almost $87,000 but spent an incredible 86 percent of that money.

Gessler managed to contain himself (somewhat) in the first quarter of this year, raising $53,000 but spending only $38,000, which for Gessler just about qualifies him as Scrooge McDuck. But then there was the reporting period that ended on May 26, a one-month time frame during which Gessler brought in $16,363 but spent $18,045, most of which went to consultants and rent (hint: if you are paying consultants more money than you are raising, you might want to consider changing consultants).

When you add it all up, since he first began his campaign in Q1 2009, Gessler has raised a solid $156,057…yet has spent $130,725, for a cash-on-hand amount today of a little over $25,000. For you math whizzes out there, that means Gessler has spent .84 cents out of every dollar raised, and we’ve only just made it to June.

Folks, we’ve never seen a candidate, for either Party, with a consistent burn rate this high.

Gessler has actually out-raised incumbent Democrat Bernie Buescher, but while the latter has brought in abut $137,000, he still has $74,125 cash on hand. That’s just poor campaign management when you have outraised your opponent over the course of 18 months but only have a third as much money in the bank. And that’s what makes Gessler’s campaign one of the worst statewide organizations we’ve seen in the last 10 years.

I’d like to point out that Longmont’s new conservative majority also raised and spent gobs and gobs of money to put total incompentents on council – and they won. Gessler has the eager support of Longmont’s right-wing oligarchy who, flushed from their recent success are dabbling in larger issues.

Voters are advised to look carefully at who’s backing Mr. Gessler – follow the money and you’ll find wealthy developers eager to build their soon-to-be-foreclosed projects.

Read more about Scott Gessler:

Scott Gessler: By the company he keeps

What’s behind this curtain?

Scott Gessler’s Fundraising Black Hole

Reception in Longmont held by the financial oligarchy

Who benefited from outside influence?