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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Drilling Rules – Ed Quillen Nails It

I have enjoyed reading Ed Quillen’s columns in the Sunday Denver Post for some time. As such, I should link to his material more often. So here’s my first public shout out: keep up the good work, Ed!

Ed’s piece yesterday dealt with the rules under consideration by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The oil and gas industry, as Ed notes, has bought full page newspaper ads, as well as tv and radio ads. All are intentionally misleading. All are emotionally charged. Ed’s bottom line: if the extractive industry can’t follow simple rules set up to protect Colorado’s property (wildlife and water), the industry should do business elsewhere. One critical fact Ed brings up is that the oil and natural gas drilling industry wants to do on our lands will send those resources to out of state markets where they can be sold for a higher profit. And Coloradans are expected to trip over themselves to make it happen.

Go read his piece. It’s well worth your time.


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Jared Polis Nears Act Blue Goal – Help Out Today!

Jared Polis has 85 supporters on his Act Blue 1of100 page. His goal is 100 contributors by midnight tonight. Head over there and donate whatever you can. Jared will be a solid progressive voice in a Congress that desperately needs it. He’s strong on education, has a policy proposal on the Iraq occupation, and supports a new path for renewable energy development.

*****

Update: Jared’s original goal of 100 has been reached! A new goal of 135 supporters has been issued. Go lend a hand, regardless of size!


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Random Hits 6/29/08

Continued politics over the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission‘s proposed rule changes: foes are striking as extreme a position as possible so the new rules won’t go into effect. More than that, they’re working very hard to make sure the same kind of rules don’t get implemented elsewhere, which seems likely to happen. At some point, more citizens are going to stand up for their localities long-term health, including environmental concerns. If these rules pass now, they stand a good chance of spreading. Additional rules might even be in store in the future. The longer oil and gas interests delay, the longer they can operate under older, less restrictive rules.

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Mark Udall maintains his moderate advantage over Bob Schaffer in another poll, this one from Quinnipiac University. Similar to the Rasmussen poll I discussed earlier this week, the Q-poll has Udall 48 – Schaffer 38, a 10-point spread. Oh, the independent numbers are mighty interesting: Udall 54 – Schaffer 27. Bob’s going to have to work much harder this year due to voters’ well documented shift from Republican to “Independent” and from “Independent” to Democrat.

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Here’s Governor Ritter’s planned activity for Tuesday:

Gov. Ritter will take part in a dedication ceremony for a new solar array at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. The 150-kilowatt system sits on a half-acre of ranchland owned by the high school and is the largest solar electric installation in Western Colorado. It will power the school’s science building, and excess energy will be fed onto the town of Carbondale’s power grid. The voter-approved project is a joint venture that also includes the Aspen Ski Co., Community Office for Resource Efficiency, Town of Carbondale and Xcel Energy.

I’ve read plenty of disparaging comments on newspaper blogs that are trying to push the meme that Gov. Ritter’s New Energy Economy isn’t actually doing anything. This is but one example that demonstrates those comments are based solely on ideology and not on fact.

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The U.S. Drought Monitor has identified the panhandle of Oklahoma as being in “Exceptional Drought”, its most severe category.  Neighboring areas in Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Texas are classified as “Extreme Drought”.  Locals who were around for the Dust Bowl in the 1930s say its drier now than it was then.  The record speaks for itself: with less than an inch and a half of rain so far this year, the area is drier than the Sahara Desert.  Under a new climatic regime, severe droughts are just as likely as severe flooding.  Will conditions convince Oklahomans to rid themselves of the virulently anti-science Sen. Tom Coburn when his term is up?


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Rocky Mountain News Opinion Page Defends Bob Schaffer & Big Oil

The right-wing opinion writers that make up the Rocky Mountain “News” (RMN) editorial board came to the defense of Bob “Big Oil” Schaffer’s support of the fossil fuel industry in today’s piece. Entitled, “Buying into the Big Oil smear”, the editorialists manufacture plenty of crocodile tears for the poor voters who buy into misleading attack ads.

They cite Republican political consultant Katy Atkinson’s oh-so-sincere concern over the League of Conservation Voters “negative” ad linking Bob Schaffer with Big Oil. The next item mentioned in the column is closer to her true concern with Schaffer’s 2008 campaign, I think:

When negative ads are running without anything contradicting them, and when there are no negatives against Udall . . . I wouldn’t have been surprised if Udall’s lead was 15.

As long as Republicans run negative ads in return, everything would be fine, it appears. I didn’t hear Katy or any other Republicans whining about the negative ads their party and related 527s ran in 2006 or 2004 or … anytime recently. But that was before they started losing races at every level across the country. Now, negative ads are just plain bad. They’re probably not representative of our old fashioned American values, either. But as far as Republican ads go, in no way should Democrats or associated groups feel sorry that they can’t raise money or interest in their candidates this year. Bob Schaffer made the decision to run. It’s his responsibility to define himself to voters. If he allows others to do it for him, well, that’s just the way it goes.

More on the Rocky’s concerns after the fold.

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Random News Pieces 6/27/08

Sen. Salazar (D-CO) offered a decent turn around on renewable energy regulation. It comes after Sen. Allard (R-CO) and other Republicans unveiled part of their proposal to increase production of domestic energy, including oil shale development. One of Sen. Allard’s talking points is the lack of a regulatory structure is holding back development and somehow hurting our energy portfolio. Sen. Salazar wants to maintain the moratorium on lease development. Citing the need for renewable energy development, Salazar pointed out that renewables also face an uncertain regulatory environment. What’s good for the goose…. A small framing victory. I wish Dems would apply it to more issues.

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All three candidates running for the CO-02 seat (Jared Polis, Will Shafroth, and Joan Fitz-Gerald) said they disagreed with Rep. Udall’s vote on the FISA bill, which is a good thing. I disagree with the premise on which Rep. udall’s statement is based: there is currently no impediment to collecting intelligence on potential activities by “terrorists”. There is a current version of FISA in effect and it has done its job since its inception. Giving the Bush administration more than they wanted isn’t being an opposition party.


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Recent Supreme Court Decisions

With regard to the Exxon Valdez spill – the Court greatly reduced a pre-determined penalty from $2.5 billion to $507.5 million. The spill, remember, happened in 1989. 20 years later, litigation continues. A couple of things here. Last year, Exxon made $2.5 billion in less than 2 days of business. Meanwhile, 32,000 fishermen, Alaska natives, property owners and others (including uncountable wildlife populations) had their lives irrevocably changed the day a drunk captain ran his ship full of crude aground. Further, I don’t think the Court should have heard the case. What’s unconstitutional about awarded damages? Lower courts have the capability and jurisdiction to decide these matters.

I’ll raise a related question: do you think it’s important now how much gas and oil cost? Do you think it’s important how much one corporation profits every year? Thousands of lives were ruined and Exxon took this case all the way to the Supreme Court. How much do you think doing so affected their bottom line? Whatever they pay will be pennies on the dollars they continue to make off our backs every day.

Which brings up another important point: this Court is really solidifying itself as being pro-corporatist. Does it matter now what kind of person gets put into the White House, whether by the Supreme Court or by the electoral college? You’re damn right it does. Had Gore or Kerry won, you can bet the kind of Justices nominated by Bush wouldn’t have been considered. These Justices, and many more on lower courts across the country, get to sit on the bench for their lifetime. They’ll be issuing decisions like these for the next 20-30 years. Welcome to the Corporate State of America.

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To: House Dems Who Voted for Telecom Immunity

The modern Republican: defender of the 2nd amendment, with no thought to its conditionality and destroyer of the remainder of Rights, including the 4th amendment. I guess I can see why they’ve spent so much time and energy on the 2nd now. With searches no longer hinging upon probable cause, maybe we all should have guns to defend our property, physical and electronic. The government, purposefully wrecked by Republicans, obviously has no interest in doing so any longer.

Is the House vote the end of the world? Obviously not. I’m angry the vote happened the way it did. Just as Pelosi and Hoyer learned that they needed to quickly schedule this vote to avoid hearing from constituents, activists will learn from this event as well. There are other things need attention too. FISA is definitely important, but only one facet of a larger war going on. Longer-term goals need to be established, fought for, monitored, and “audited”. I’m going to transform my emotions on this vote into continued action to make a difference. It’s what got me started as an activist and maintaining that drive to improve my country will be fed by this capitulation. As part of this, I’m no longer going to use an AT&T/Cingular cell phone. They charge too much and now I know where all that extra money is going. Instead, I’m going to do business with CREDO mobile. They didn’t lobby Congress to absolve telecoms of admitted lawbreaking. It’s an easy choice.

The fact that FISA isn’t the only story we should are about doesn’t mean we should be quiet and simply accept blatant political maneuvering. I think back to my participation in a Politics West roundtable: when Dems do something I consider wrong, I will not hold back my criticism of those actions. As a Dem, I expect more from other Dems than I do of Republicans. I’ve written before about the role of elected officials: they are our employees. Any time an employer gives an employee a task or project and the employee doesn’t perform to the employer’s standard, it is the responsibility of the employer to do something about it. And do something we must. Displeasure left uncommunicated festers and destroys relationships. We have the opportunity to let those officials know how we feel about their performance. Take it.

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Random Pieces 6/25/08

Help Jared Polis get to 100 donors by this Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, he has 40 donors. Donate whatever you want. A progressive voice that understands the importance of the netroots can go to Congress if we all chip in a little! Also, visit his campaign website.

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I thought Iraq was supposed to be the central front of the ultimate war between the civilized Western world and the extremist terrorist jihadists. If so, then why in the world would our media devote 181 weekday minutes to coverage of Iraq in just under six months? That’s way down from 1,157 minutes in all of 2007 by the major networks. Throw out the liberal media junk before you try to excuse this away. The networks are wholly owned by right-leaning mega-corporations. And there is the answer: if the network news had covered the actual events within Iraq during the past year, Republicans would have been bodily carried out from office by now. As long as the media pretends nothing bad happens in Iraq, people in the States can concentrate on other things.

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Gov. Ritter’s Energy Office announced four utility companies that will begin offering rebates for Small Wind Turbine installations. They are:

  • Highline Electric Association
    Contact: Jason Depperschmidt, 970-854-2236, jason@hea.coop
  • Sangre De Cristo Electric Association, Inc
    Contact: Bill Bennett, 719-395-4590, bennett@myelectric.coop
  • Southeast Colorado Power Association
    Contact: Jack Wolfe, 719-384-2551, jackw@secpa.com
  • Town of Estes Park
    Contact: Michael Mangelsen, 970-577-3583, mmangelsen@estes.org

Homeowners and businesses can arrange with these utilities to install a small wind turbine. The partners listed above will issue the rebates, not the state government.

If you want a similar program in your area, contact your local elected officials and ask them to get in touch with your Regional Representative about the Small Wind Incentive Program. The more interest we can demonstrate, the larger programs like this can become. Even small scale systems reduce our dependence on polluting energy sources like coal and natural gas.

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President Bush is whining that Democrats keep blocking his energy plans. He keeps trying to stick Democrats with part of the blame for the current price of oil and gas because they oppose opening up millions of new acres to leases to energy corporations. First: Bush need look no further than his own secret energy policy developed by energy lobbyists as to why oil and gas cost so much (not that he really even cares what most Americans have to pay anyway). Second: Quit your whining, Bush. There’s a reason you keep reaching record lows in polls. Your record on energy is a small part of the reason why only 71% of Americans don’t support you. Perhaps if Bush had concentrated on running the country instead of his legacy, Americans might still back him.

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2010 will be primary season, as Markos details.  There are a large number of Democrats who have voted too many times against Democratic principles.  Some folks are balking at that number, but I think it gives progressive activists choices.  We don’t need to target every single one of them, just some of them.  I would like to see a better Democrat than John Salazar in CO-03.  Yes, he’s better than a Republican some of the time.  I want someone who is better than a Republican more often.


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A Look at Telecom Donations to Democrats

When I think something is shady or unethical about the way in which a Democrat votes, I don’t hesitate to call it as I see it. The House’s approval of retroactive immunity for telecommunication corporations last week is a prime example. I have zero love for corporatist Democrats. My interests (and yours) aren’t taken seriously when companies like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint can spend millions of dollars to ensure they get their way.

MapLight.org examines how two votes this year produced Democrats that voted against immunity before they voted for it. Not surprisingly, a large number of Democrats that switched their votes also received money from the afore-mentioned corporations.

Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint gave PAC contributions averaging:

$8,359 to each Democrat who changed their position to support immunity for Telcos (94 Dems)
$4,987 to each Democrat who remained opposed to immunity for Telcos (116 Dems)

88 percent of the Dems who changed to supporting immunity (83 Dems of the 94) received PAC contributions from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint during the last three years (Jan. 2005-Mar. 2008).

Click on the link above to see the list of these 94 Dems.

Of note to Coloradans:

John Salazar (CO-03): $6,000

Ed Perlmutter (CO-07): $1,000

Mark Udall (CO-02): $0

Here’s the way I read this: John Salazar is a Corporatist Democrat. He’s willing to vote based on pressure applied from big-money interests (note: you and I don’t make that list). I don’t think Ed Perlmutter is a Corporatist Democrat, but I’m not sure how else to describe him. Why would he vote to grant retroactive immunity to corporations that knowingly broke federal wiretapping laws? Especially with Qwest’s presence in the state: they didn’t hand control over to the Bushies. Why should the other telecoms get off scott free?

Mark Udall is running hard for the center of the political spectrum and it’s disgusting, quite frankly. Republican politicians will stab his “bipartisanship” in the back the first chance they get (see Sen. Ken Salazar’s ridiculous contortions for proof). I don’t think Republican voters want immunity that much more than Democrats do, which is to say not at all. I would be very interested in seeing any kind of quantitative rationale for switching his vote. Does his campaign think it will secure Undeclared or Republican votes this November? He might need them if he continues to stick it to his base.

Here’s what it means to Democrats at the national level: folks like Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi need to be replaced with better Democrats. This capitulation based on campaign donations is sickening.


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Colorado Political News 6/24/08

First up: the Colorado Senate race. Republican Bob Schaffer has been busy trying to explain his past associations and actions away since announcing. From a growing mound of evidence demonstrating his connections to the ethically corrupt Jack Abramoff and his support for sweatshops and forced abortions to not being able to recognize the difference between Pikes Peak and Mt. McKinley (which is in Alaska, Bob), things have been busy. Now another piece of Bob’s past is coming back to haunt him.

A Republican activist from Aurora who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with a larger fraud prosecution was sentenced Monday to a year’s probation and a $3,450 fine. Scott Shires, 55, faced up to a year in prison after pleading guilty to filing false tax returns in connection with a case against his one-time employer, Octane International Limited, which purported to be making an alternative-fuel additive. Shires is well connected in GOP circles in Colorado and recruited Bob Schaffer to be a board member of Octane International in 2004.

Part of the problem here: Bob Schaffer first said he hadn’t been compensated for his services as a board member. Turns out, he did. But Bob left his income from Octane off of a 2007 campaign disclosure form. Rank-and-file Republicans might want to take a closer look at their party’s leadership: the propensity to volunteer and donate doesn’t seem to happen too much up at the top. Given Republican officials constant charges aimed at Democrats, it seems they know best what elitism really is.

[Update] Another poll shows Mark Udall with the same 9-point lead over Bob Schaffer that a Rasmussen poll showed earlier.  This poll has Udall up 46%-37%.  Considering the only ads that have gone out have been generic, introductory-style, I don’t see things getting better for Schaffer any time soon.

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Second: Colorado’s 4th Congressional District (CO-04). Democrat Betsy Markey is targeting Marilyn Musgrave’s seat. Previously, the DCCC had announced it is including Markey in their Red to Blue program. In 2006, “Red to Blue” raised an average of over $400,000 per candidate. Expect that number to grow this year with the increased focus and energy on the poor state of our nation. Now, word comes that environmental groups are also planning on targeting CO-04, possibly to the tune of $500,000 by themselves. The group spent $1.5 million to oust the ethically challenged Republican Richard Pombo of California in 2006 (does anyone see a pattern here?).

Marilyn Musgrave has been a very loyal pro-oil and gas voter while in Congress (for tax breaks for large corporations & against increased gas mileage for vehicles). After her very narrow win in 2006, she has made a concerted effort to change her image. Which sort of makes her actions even more out of step with Coloradans. We don’t tend to like hypocrites.

Add in what Betsy Markey herself will raise, a competitive Senate seat and a competitive Presidential contest and a whole lot of money will likely be spent in Colorado this year.

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Third: Citizens are asking the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to not issue one-size-fits-all rules that they are considering for oil and gas drilling. Conditions aren’t the same around the state, they argue, and so any rules they develop should reflect that. I don’t know all the ins and outs of their individual cases or how the proposed rules would impact them, but on the surface I tend to agree with their statement. We’ll see how the rules are eventually implemented. What I don’t think is that if the rules are implemented, oil and gas industries will collapse in Colorado.

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