February 2006

Holding oil and gas operators' feet to the fire

By Art Goodtimes

BACK FROM DENVER … Success! The State Health Department refused to hand stormwater regulations over to the Oil & Gas Association’s chummy, industry-dominated regulatory body, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission … County Environmental Health Director David Schneck and I testified before the Water Quality Control Commission at the State Health Department building in Denver last month, urging them to continue regulatory oversight for oil & gas well stormwater mitigation plans and implementation during the construction process. And the Commission did just what we asked. Unanimously. The Colorado Department of Health & Politics hasn’t been the toughest regulatory agency in the Governor’s cabinet, but the coalition … As a result, the County will contract with the State Health Department to provide stormwater inspection services in our County, which means local County officials will be able to monitor gas well construction for appropriate best management practices – which will guarantee that it gets done right … Lots of interesting collaborators on this issue. Gunnison, La Plata and Montrose counties joined San Miguel in testifying, as did the City of Grand Junction, Jim Isgar, a letter from the Dem leadership of both houses of the Legislature, the Colorado Water Conservation District — it was a huge Western Slope coalition. Enviro groups hired expert witnesses and provided substantive scientific presentations on erosion and eco-damage at roads and well pads … Coming on the heels of the West’s defeat of the Gibbons/Pombo landgiveaway attempt and the national defeat of opening up the ANWR to oil development up in Alaska, progressives are on a roll — even in this ecounfriendly federal administration.

GOV. OWENS … And, in that same vein, with the state legislature back in session, it’s time to review the past seven years under this state’s administration. Thanks to Michael Huttner of Progress Now for compiling these facts

… First, no matter how critical one might be about overall performance, one has to give great credit to Bill Owens for tremendous leadership in helping pass Referendum C. That was a crucial moment in Colorado history, and Owens took a lot of flak in his own party for his courageous stand … But as citizens, we have to balance that one good deed with a number of other missteps … The non-partisan Governing magazine graded Colorado with an overall C+ for 2005, largely based on the executive branch’s mediocre performance … Colorado unemployment rate recently increased up to 5 percent in the latest report and has increased from 3.2 percent when Owens took office in the spring of 1999 … Colorado ranks 2nd in the number of jobs lost between March 2001 - Jan. 2004. The only state that did worse was Massachusetts, and the latest recovery still trails neighboring states … Colorado still has fewer jobs and a higher unemployment rate than before the beginning of the recession in 2001 … In 2000, Colorado ranked 1st out of the 50 states in economic momentum, in 2003, Colorado dropped to 40th, the greatest decline of any single state (the latest study shows slight increase but still well below the national average) ... Colorado's economic growth is behind most of the Rocky Mountain Region and the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis … Colorado ranks 49th in personal income growth … Colorado is 46th worst for federal grant money received per capita in 2004, the highest percent decrease of any state … Over 43,000 filed bankruptcy in Colorado in 2005, shattering the 2004 record … Colorado has the highest foreclosure rate in the country with one foreclosure for every 681 households … The number of children in poverty rose from 10 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2004, the latest report on this issue … Education Week rates Colorado a C+ for its efforts to improve its schools according to its 10th annual report released last week … Colorado ranks 49th in the percent of total state wealth that we devote to public schools … Colorado ranks 44th worst in the number of public schools that offer a federally subsidized breakfast for students from low-income families

… Colorado ranks 40th in per-pupil spending nationwide — that's about 10 percent below the national average … Colorado ranks 47th worst in highereducation appropriations per capita in the nation … Colorado ranks 48th in dropout rates nationwide (two from the bottom) and rose from 3 percent in 1999 to 3.8 percent in 2004 … Colorado ranks 31st among the 50 states in terms of high school graduation rates, according to a 2003 report by the Manhattan Institute … Colorado ranks 48th worst in the nation for the percentage of low-income children without health care … Colorado will have 750,000 people who will go the entire year without health insurance and 500,000 with interrupted coverage

… According to the National Immunization Survey, Colorado ranks last in the nation, with 63 percent of its 2-year-olds fully immunized … Low birth-weight babies have increased from 8.6 percent in 1998 to 8.9 percent in the latest report, while the U.S. average was 7.8 percent … Colorado ranks third in the nation in untapped energyefficiency potential, according to the Alliance to Save Energy … In fiscal year 2005, Colorado ranked 48th worst in the nation in terms of per-capita state investment in the arts.

METHANE … New scientific evidence is showing that not just dead and rotting plants give off methane. Normal healthy plants do too … This finding has turned climate science on its head. So it’s not just humans who’ve raised the temperature of the planet, but all green living things. As much as 10 to 30 percent of all methane production is attributable to forests and croplands … It’s a startling revelation, proving once again that humans only know some of the processes at work around us. And we would do well to move slowly, without hubris, in appreciating the delicate balance of forces that allows life to flourish on this blue-green planet.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.


The Sixties Didn’t Die

Not when we ourselves held a wake
on Haight Street for the hippie. Not

when they shot the Kent State students. Not
even when RayGun black-crewed the real

drugs into the cities. Smack. Meth. Cocaine.
M ade some Contra money off our psychedelic

backs. No the Sixties reassembles once
a year for Rainbow Gatherings. Mushroom

Festivals. Burning Man. Dreamtime & more.
Circulating underground incognito

Or sometimes in flagrant public
paleohippie delicto like me.