Energy policy — oil shale: Colorado congressman Scott Tipton and Utah congressman Scott Matheson are against a review of the Bush era exploration and production rules

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Tipton’s 3rd Congressional District includes the world’s largest deposits of oil shale, a sedimentary rock that, when heated, releases a petroleum substance that can be refined into transportation and other fuels.

Across the state line, U.S. Rep. Scott Matheson, D-Utah, said he disagreed with the announcement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey to revisit the decisions made under the administration of George W. Bush.

Federal officials are looking over progress made in Utah, where a company with a research-and-development leases says it is producing petroleum with far less water than previous efforts.

“Because of advances made by Utah companies, the effect of oil shale development on water supplies may be greatly reduced,” Matheson said in a statement. “I am an advocate for a level playing field when it comes to access to leasing, so that these emerging technologies are able to compete.”

More coverage from the High Plains Midwest/Ag Journal. From the article:

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Kent Peppler praised Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s announcement that Interior will look closely at water issues and agricultural impacts as the discussion of oil shale development moves forward.

“Secretary Salazar described water use as an essential issue in the oil shale debate, and we couldn’t agree more,” Peppler said. “Most of the oil shale lands are on the Colorado River basin, which has been over-allocated from the beginning of the interstate compact. We need to know how much water oil shale developers need, where they expect to get it, and what condition it will be in when they are through with it. Agriculture is the cornerstone of Colorado’s economy and the basis for America’s food security. The secretary understands this, and we urge him to keep it in his thoughts as we move forward slowly on oil shale development.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Department of Interior policy update

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From The Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

“As we all know, the energy challenges our country faces are serious and have gone unaddressed for far too long,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said Tuesday, “and therefore we believe we need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we also must do so in a thoughtful and balanced way.”

Abbey was speaking the same day the BLM filed a settlement in federal district court in Colorado promising to revisit oil shale leasing rules approved in the waning days of the Bush administration in 2008. Those rules opened up 2 million acres of BLM land to commercial oil shale leasing and set a royalty rate of 5 percent. Several environmental groups filed two lawsuits in 2009 challenging those rules.

“The previous 2008 regulations made critical decisions such as royalty rate before the RD&D [research, development and demonstration] program had a chance to deliver information and answers,” U.S. Interior Secretary and former Colorado senator Ken Salazar said. “They put the cart before the horse, and in so doing they heightened the risk of speculation and bad decisions and yet another oil shale bust.”[…]

“From our perspective, oil is perhaps a scarce resource, but water is also pretty scarce here in the arid West, and fish and wildlife habitat and the hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation that habitat provides is a resource that has helped sustain rural communities in the West,” said Kate Zimmerman of the Rocky Mountain Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation.

Bill Midcap of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) worries oil shale production could adversely impact his industry as well. “Every drop of water Mother Nature blesses Colorado with has the potential to run out of our state,” Midcap said. “How society chooses to use that water is a really good question. The dependence on agriculture in this state is huge; we are the second largest industry in the state. We can’t just keep doing more with less.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: New water code approved by the city council

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

In the past, the city expected any business which used significant amounts of water to purchase shares of Colorado-Big Thompson water to use, he said. However, sometimes a business needed just over an even amount of shares, and it was a burden for it to buy a whole new share, the council was told Jan. 4. Under a new internal policy, the city will round that off the water shares to the nearest half-share in order to be business friendly, Wells said.

Also, the city will decide on a case-by-case basis on how to convert inside water meters to outside water meters, but that will not be part of the code itself, he said. For the most part, changes to the water code are things the council has already done in the past by resolution, but were not included in the code itself, said Acting City Manager Jeff Wells.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1150 sponsor agrees to pull bill if new Department of Natural Resources agreement to fund water projects is adopted

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From The Fort Morgan Times:

The agreement came from discussions with DNR and the newly formed Citizen’s Wildlife Advisory Council, a broad-based group of stakeholders that work on wildlife issues. CWAC was formed to open a dialogue to address the adversarial relationship between the sportsmen community and landowners. The group is bi-partisan and has worked to find common ground between various stakeholders.

The CWAC voted to support [Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan)] in his plan to pull the bill if the agreement with DNR is finalized citing that the compromise is of benefit to both sides. The major concern of the group was whether Federal Dingell-Johnson/Pitman-Robertson funds would still be available. Becker and DNR agreed that those dollars would still be utilized by the DOW and these water projects would benefit sportsmen as well as all the citizens of Colorado.

Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife (Todd Hartman):

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is announcing a five-year goal to prioritize investments in water projects that benefit wildlife and wildlife recreation. The Division owns 104 dams and has a program to maintain existing facilities for safety, storage, and release. The Division has identified 17 dams and associated infrastructure in need of repairs and improvements and is seeking storage agreements, exchange-of-use agreements and other water projects with water providers and water users for this purpose.

“We have several critical water development needs, such as repairing the dam at Beaver Reservoir to allow us to store water again,” said Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington. “We also have some great opportunities, such as reaching a storage agreement with Rio Grande Reservoir operators to store Division of Wildlife water critical to our needs in the San Luis Valley.”

In cooperation with Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan), the Division is exploring other opportunities that will first and foremost benefit wildlife and wildlife recreation, but will also help other entities and individuals who depend on water resources in the state. The Division intends to allocate at least $6 million for these types of projects over the next five years.

“I am glad to see the Division of Wildlife seeking additional opportunities for water development that will benefit both wildlife and sportsmen,” Rep. Becker said. “At the same time, the ancillary benefit to agricultural and other interests across the state is a win-win for all involved.”

“In the face of budget issues that are creating challenges throughout state government, it is especially challenging to plan for increasing water demand while protecting natural resources over the long term,” Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King explained. “There is a lot of overlap between healthy wildlife habitat and what sportsmen and agricultural communities need. We welcome the opportunity to combine these goals and find ways to make limited state funding go further.”

More coverage from KRDO.com:

The division provided the following information on its new initiative: The division owns 104 dams and has a program to maintain existing facilities for safety, storage and release. The Division has identified 17 dams and associated infrastructure in need of repairs and improvements and is seeking storage agreements, exchange-of-use agreements and other water projects with water providers and water users for this purpose.

“We have several critical water development needs, such as repairing the dam at Beaver Reservoir to allow us to store water again,” said Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington. “We also have some great opportunities, such as reaching a storage agreement with Rio Grande Reservoir operators to store Division of Wildlife water critical to our needs in the San Luis Valley.”

More HB 11-1150 coverage here. More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1083 (Hydroelectricity & Pumped Hydro) passes in state House of Representatives

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

The Colorado House on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that would authorize the Public Utilities Commission to consider hydroelectric operations a renewable energy source. Sponsored by state Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, HB1083 could open the door for a hydroelectric plant near Penrose. TransCanada’s proposed South Slope project would create up to 300 construction jobs and up to 30 permanent positions…

Also according to testimony, [pumped] hydro projects are an economical energy storage option that fits well with the emergence of wind and solar energy sources. That’s because hydro projects can fill gaps in wind and solar productivity. More than 120 hydro projects exist nationally. The barrier to more is the high up-front cost.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1066 — Due Process Prior To Gov Taking

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Here’s a recap of a recent meeting where state Representative Wes McKinley discussed his bill, HB 11-1066, from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

McKinley, D-Walsh, has introduced HB1066, which seeks to stop the government from taking property without due process. It seeks to buffer citizens’ livelihood from encroachment by government agencies and specifically targets infringement on airspace, water rights and livestock. Real-life problems facing residents of Southern Colorado inspired the bill, McKinley said. Noisy military flyovers, the seizure of livestock and state rule changes in how farmers can irrigate motivated McKinley’s proposal. About 25 people with firsthand experience in those areas — most of them from Southeastern Colorado — attended an informal meeting McKinley held Wednesday to talk about what has been taken from them.

Marvin Greenloh of Lamar said the state is taking his water rights through a shift in its interpretation of seep irrigation, which reuses water that seeps through the soil…

Greenloh said the state’s demand that he stop using seep water could be catastrophic to his and neighbors’ livelihoods. “Basically, it would be the end of our farm because we won’t have the water to carry on,” he said…

In Greenloh’s estimation, more populous parts of the state have forgotten where their food originates and put their own needs ahead of farmers’ with the state’s backing. “What I think it is, they’re trying to keep enough water on the Front Range and don’t care if it’s hurting farmers,” he said.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Salida scores $50,000 from the Governor’s Energy Office to evaluate geothermal potential

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From The Mountain Mail (Cailey McDermott):

A $50,000 geothermal energy grant for the city-owned Poncha Hot Springs was unanimously approved by Salida City Councilmen Tuesday. The grant from the Governor’s Energy office will be used to explore the site for geothermal potential.

More geothermal coverage here and here.