2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry luncheon recap

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From The Denver Post (Tim Hoover):

“There’s no appetite for anybody in terms of raising taxes,” [Hickenlooper] said. “We have to become more pro-business.” Part of doing that is cutting government red tape, he said. Hundreds of business leaders applauded when he said he wanted to cut permitting times for oil-and-gas operations.

But, Hickenlooper said, it will have to be done carefully, without endangering air and water quality. “We’ll be efficient, but we’re going to hold them (businesses) to the highest standards,” he said.

Pam Kiely, director of Environment Colorado, said environmentalists aren’t automatically opposed to speeding up permits. “What’s important is that we manage the development of our natural resources in a way that keeps our water clean, our air clear, and best protects the health of our local communities,” Kiely said.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Energy policy: Grants Awarded for Colorado Renewable Energy Projects

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Agriculture (Stacy Romero):

Fifteen grants totaling over $600,000 have been awarded through the “Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy” (ACRE) program.

ACRE is administered by the Colorado Agricultural Value Added Development Board which encourages and promotes business projects that add value to agricultural products, as well as agricultural energy-related projects.

“ACRE is a statewide effort to promote energy-related projects beneficial to Colorado’s agriculture industry,” said Tom Lipetzky, Chief Financial Officer at the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “The grants awarded by this project are an important step toward helping our agriculture industry to be a leading participant in the new energy economy.”

Projects must in some way benefit or be tied to agricultural production or the utilization of agricultural land or water. Grants were awarded in three categories: feasibility studies, project participation and research.

Feasibility studies address the viability of establishing an agricultural energy-related project and may address the market for the product, engineering requirements, economic viability, environmental concerns, legal requirements, management, and other necessary study components. A maximum grant amount of $25,000 was awarded to seven feasibility projects:

Arrowpoint Cattle, $13,500, Chaffee County, to assess the feasibility of development of a solar dryer for preparation to pelletize a local brewery/restaurant’s spent grain for cattle feed.
Boulder County, $24,500 to develop a local biodiesel supply chain for Boulder County.
Brink Inc., Boulder County, $7,500 to develop an agricultural Wind Energy Demonstration Guide.
Delta Economic Development, Delta County, $20,000 to assess the feasibility of adding a pellet mill to the Delta Timber Company operations that utilizes beetle-kill timber.
Painted Sky RC&D, Delta County, $25,000 to assess the feasibility of developing a hydro power facility for agricultural applications.
Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises, Morgan County, $25,000 to assess the feasibility of developing an anaerobic digester.
Yuma Conservation District, $20,870 to assess the feasibility of a northeastern Colorado biodiesel facility.

Project participation grants are those where a satisfactory feasibility study has already been completed; funds can be used to assist with the purchase or lease of equipment, construction costs and land costs. A maximum of $100,000 was awarded to three projects:

Microgy Weld County, Weld County, $68,712 to assist in development of a methane-rich biogas production facility.
RMSE Biodiesel, Morgan County, $100,000 to assist in development of a vertically integrated biodiesel production facility.
Biovantage Resources, Jefferson County, $56,178 to assist in developing a library of native Colorado algae species for use in ag wastewater bioremediation and biofuels.

Research grants into agricultural energy related topics and issues could receive up to $50,000 for a single research project. Five research grants were awarded:

CSU-Biochar Reserch, Larimer County, $49,909 to research and asses the energy, economic and environmental benefits of biochar for the Colorado agriculture industry.
GeoSynFuels, Jefferson County, $50,000 to research the development of a biomass press.
iCAST Low Value Biomass, Jefferson County, $50,000 to research generating biopower from low value biomass through torrefaction technology.
iCAST Net Zero Greenhouse, Larimer County, $50,000 to research net-zero greenhouse designs for Colorado.
SE Colo RC&D, Otero County, $49,186 for engine performance testing, fuels evaluation, and enterprise budgeting for diesel biofuel.

“This year’s awards demonstrate not only CDA’s commitment to wind, biogas and biofuel,” continued Lipetzky, “but also to hydro and algal biomass.”

The Colorado Agricultural Value Added Development Board (CAVAD) was created to help facilitate the processing of agricultural products and commodities within the state and to serve as a resource for the state’s agricultural industry. Administered by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, CAVAD was established in 2001 and is led by a board of seven individuals who are appointed by the state legislature and the Governor.

For more information on the ACRE program, visit www.colorado.gov/ag/energy.

More energy policy coverage here.

Penley Dam Project update

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From the Highland Ranch Herald (Rhonda Moore):

Commissioners cited public safety and potential hazards among the reasons for their unanimous vote against Penley Reservoir. Their decision came after three nights and 11 hours of public hearings, where nearly 90 people spoke out against the proposal.

Penley Water Company is seeking county permission to build a reservoir just north of Colorado 67, adjacent to the Indian Creek Ranch subdivision. The applicant submitted a proposal with two options, one of which is a 22,500 acre-foot water storage reservoir on nearly 430 acres.

Neighboring residents joined forces to attend the planning commission hearings and deliver the message that such a proposal could hurt their property values, destroy natural habitat and create an unnecessary safety hazard.

The proposed dam site is on a site that requires detailed geotechnical and geological investigations to address potential hazard mitigation issues, according to the planning department staff report. The Douglas County planning staff recommended approval of either option, with conditions.

[The Planning Commission] recommended denial of the special-use request. Their recommendation for denial will go to the county commissioners, who have final say on the project…

The reservoir is proposed as a water storage solution for area water authorities. The developer came to the county with two options, a smaller, 14,000 acre-foot reservoir covering 292 acres or the larger reservoir covering about 430 acres. While Ventana’s umbrella corporation, the Penley Water Company, moves forward with a proposal for the reservoir, no plan has been submitted for a proposed subdivision near the site. The Penley Dam is situated to overlook houses in Indian Creek Ranch, another subdivision of 5-acre lots.

More Penley Dam Project coverage here.

2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: Commissioner of Agriculture Salazar meets with General Assembly Ag committees

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

“My goals with the administration, and the governor has made it clear, to ensure that rural Colorado is heard,” Salazar said. Noting that farm income and exports have been up in the last two years, Salazar said “we have a window of opportunity to promote agricultural products. There is nothing more beautiful than rural Colorado,” he said…

Based on USDA data, agriculture generates $28 billion in economic activity and supports 110,000 jobs. That includes 37,000 farms and ranches throughout the state. But about 54 percent of those farms and ranches generate less than $10,000 per year in sales, Lipetzky said; and 15 percent generate more than $100,000 per year in sales. Livestock sales make up the largest share of cash receipts, with 58 percent, or $3.3 billion in sales; crops generate another $2.3 billion annually.

The state is a national leader in barley, cantaloupe, lettuce, potatoes, sweet corn and winter wheat, and is the nation`s top producer of millet, Lipetzky said. It also is a leader in the number of cattle and lambs fed, meat processing technology and animal welfare, and Colorado is the number one state for beer brewing.

Exports topped $1.6 billion last year, going to customers in 99 countries; with beef as the top ag export for the state at $550 million and in 2011 estimated to rise to $600 million. That`s due to increased demand through trade agreements with Korea, and new and expanded access in Japan and China.

A growing market in Colorado is agritourism, Lipetzky reported. Nearly 700 farms in Colorado offer agritourism and related recreational activities, which generated $30 million in sales, and the state`s wine industry brought in another $50 million.

As to the jobs that come from ag, Lipetzky said that in more than half of Colorado`s counties, one in 10 jobs come from ag. In 13 of the state`s counties, it`s one in three. The two top counties for ag-related jobs, with more than 50 percent of the jobs in ag, are Washington and Kiowa counties, in Eastern Colorado.

Last year, the department surveyed industry leaders on challenges and opportunities in ag. The top challenge, cited by 37 percent of respondents, is water, which included concerns about multi-state compacts and diversion for non-ag uses…

As to water issues, Salazar said he will be a strong proponent of keeping water on agricultural land and protecting the state`s water rights, although water issues fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources. He also noted that Gov. John Hickenlooper had tapped former ag commissioner John Stulp to be the state`s water czar. “If people have a better understanding” of what makes rural and urban communities work, “there can be greater understanding of working together” on water, Salazar said. “We can`t destroy one area of the state to build another.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee votes 4-3 to continue weather modification licenses

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

On Thursday, state senators recommended the government continue to offer weather-modification licenses for at least another nine years…

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 4-3 to go forward with a bill that continues the licensing program. Without action by the Legislature this year, the state would stop offering licenses…

Only eight entities do cloud-seeding in Colorado, and three are in Southwest Colorado. The city of Durango and water districts around Bayfield and Pagosa Springs run one program, the Animas-La Plata and Dolores water districts cooperate with Durango Mountain Resort on another, and a third centers on Telluride ski area.

More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Colorado has the potential for 1,400 mw of micro-hydroelectric generation according to the Governor’s Energy Office

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

“Several hundred of these kind of projects in Colorado are possible, with a combined capacity of about 1,400 megawatts,” said Francisco Flores, a renewable-energy program associate with the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO). That’s enough power to support the demand of about 910,000 homes.

“Small” hydroelectric projects are defined as units that generate less than 5 megawatts of power. A “micro” hydroelectric power plant typically generates less than 100 kilowatts of power, said Kirby Gilbert, a hydropower planner with engineering firm MWH Global Inc., based in Broomfield.

There’s rising interest in putting these small turbines on existing dams, or dropping them into any place that has moving water — such as inside a city’s water pipeline, a farmer’s irrigation ditch or at the outfall from a wastewater treatment plant, Flores said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1068 — State Engineer Approve Ag Water Transfer

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The bill [HB 11-1068: Concerning the State Engineer’s Authority to Approve Temporary Agricultural Water Transfer Agreements] would allow the State Engineer to approve leases for up to 40 years without a trip to water court. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Under HB1068, the state engineer would be granted authority to approve agricultural water transfer agreements lasting up to 40 years. Currently, similar agreements require a Water Court’s approval and can’t exceed a decade.

Specifically, the bill would apply to water originating in the Arkansas Valley below Pueblo Dam. It would allow holders of irrigation water rights to lease up to one-third of their holdings to municipalities. “The future growth and economic well-being of the state depend to some extent on the use of vested irrigation water rights to meet municipal needs,” the bill reads.

State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, is the bill’s sponsor in the House, where it originated. Sens. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, and Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, are the Senate sponsors.

Giron said she supports the bill because it grants farmers greater options to lease their water without permanently relinquishing their rights, while still providing them with an income. “Otherwise, they’re going to sell those rights,” Giron said. “It’s going to be like they’re farming water. I see this as a tool to protect agriculture.” Meanwhile, she said, cities can develop water plans into the future. “I saw it as a win-win situation,” Giron said. “How can (cities) plan without getting a commitment of 40 years?”

Meanwhile, it didn’t take too long for opposition to the bill to surface. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

As president of this board, the legislation is not acceptable to me,” said President Bill Long at the [Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District] meeting Thursday. “This is the most overappropriated basin in the state.” Long asked the board to go on record in opposition of HB1068, a bill that would set up a 40-year program in the Arkansas Valley below Pueblo Dam that essentially could remove one-third of the water from irrigation during the entire period…

The board held off on opposing the bill, but instructed Executive Director Jim Broderick, in his capacity as the district’s state lobbyist, to push for changes in the bill. The board raised questions about why the bill has a 40-year term, but was billed this week as a “pilot program” by sponsor Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, at a meeting of the Colorado Water Congress legislative committee…

The board also does not want the bill to apply only to part of the Arkansas River basin, and does not want the measure used to move water outside the valley. “This gives the state engineer authority to move water from this basin all over the state,” said Vera Ortegon, a Pueblo director on the Southeastern board, who also ran unsuccessfully against Giron last November. “I think Southeastern should voice an objection to kill the bill earlier rather than later.”

Other board members cautioned against outright opposition of the bill, which has grown out of the Interbasin Compact Committee process to find alternatives to permanent sales of agricultural water rights to cities. “I would not like to see the board take a position in opposition to the state process,” said Harold Miskel, an El Paso County director. “If we try to thwart every effort to think outside the box, it will come right back to the buy-and-dry that happened the last 50 or 100 years.”[…]

The [Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District] gave its nod to the legislation as part of the Super Ditch effort at a meeting Wednesday. The district has supported the legal, engineering and administrative work needed to make Super Ditch work. “If this was tossed around last summer and fall, Jay, how come you’re the only one here who knows about it?” Long asked Winner. Winner said the concept of the bill had been thoroughly discussed by the Interbasin Compact Committee. Winner is one of two representatives from the Arkansas Basin Roundtable on the IBCC.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.