In a 107-page report, Auditor Dianne Ray said legislative efforts to fix the program since abuses were uncovered in 2007 haven’t been enough to ensure millions of dollars in tax credits are actually valid.
The Department of Revenue administers the program, which is intended to compensate individuals who donate their land to protect it from future development, but the agency hasn’t been able to prevent additional abuses, the report noted.
The agency’s tax examiners “do not sufficiently document their reviews of conservation easement tax credit claims and uses,” the report says. “More changes need to be made to strengthen the administration (of the program) to ensure that tax credits being claimed and used by taxpayers are valid.”
Agency officials agreed with 12 recommendations for change, saying the bulk of them would be in place by July 2013.
More conservation easements coverage here and here.
The Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant is subject to stricter nutrient removal standards as of 2022. In order to accomplish that, city staff says design and permitting for the project needs to begin in 2017, with construction set to begin in 2019.
Currently, customers within city limits pay $233.02 per year; those outside pay $212.21. Staff is proposing an increase of 2.5 percent in 2013 and 3 percent increases every year after that through 2017. That works out to about $6 more a month in 2013 for a single-family home in city limits, up to a total of about $262 a year in 2017.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $15 million, and Littleton splits that evenly with Englewood. However, adding on $5.75 million for required reserves, the city needs at least $13 million in the bank by the end of 2017.
“I can’t think of any other way to do it that’s responsible,” said Charlie Blosten, director of public works.
The Greenway Foundation’s 20th Annual CH2M HILL Fall RiverSweep was held on September 29th as part of National Public Land’s Day and thanks to the generous support of many sponsors, including CH2M HILL as our Title Sponsor, this year’s event has set a new standard for community engagement for the South Platte River Greenway!
Here are some highlights from the day:
Over 500 volunteers worked close to 33,000 work hours for Denver Parks and Recreation, totaling a savings for the City and County of Denver of $32,861.95!
Other accomplishments include:
• 7 tons of trash removed from our river banks and surrounding areas
• 74 gallons of paint used at various locations
• 39 cubic yards of debris collected
• 2,302 gallons of debris collected
• 77 yards of mulch spread
• 15 cubic yards of suckers removed
• Hedged 1,000 linear feet of shrubs
• Mowed 850 square feet of turf
• Countless cigarette butts collected
More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.
The settlement includes provisions that town and county officials say address their utmost concerns about the mill’s potential impacts to air and water quality and the health of the region’s denizens. It sets out rules that Energy Fuels — the Canadian company proposing to build and operate the mill — would have to follow regarding trucking its ore, allows the town and county inspection rights of Energy Fuels’ facilities and will clear the way for a water monitoring system that gives the local governments the power to force Energy Fuels into corrective actions if findings dictate so.
“At least for the issues that were the most central to our concerns, which were water and air quality in eastern San Miguel County, we feel that we have addressed those concerns,” said Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger. “We’re prepared to move out of the way and let the process proceed.”
The Telluride Town Council formally approved the signing of the agreement this week; the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners has authorized the signing, and plans to formally ratify it at its meeting on Wednesday.
Both the town and county are maintaining their party status in the upcoming court-ordered hearings over Piñon Ridge in Nucla, though officials say they don’t anticipate participating in a formal role.
Update: From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
a judge has given three conservation groups formal standing for the hearings, which means that environmental advocates will be able to introduce evidence, testify and cross-examine witnesses.
The Piñon Ridge mill is proposed for the Paradox Valley, in southwestern Colorado near the Dolores River. The three groups — Rocky Mountain Wild, Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity — will join the towns of Telluride, Ophir, and San Miguel County in voicing concerns about the proposed mill’s threats to air, water, wildlife and tourism…
The upcoming proceedings will give towns, counties, scientists, conservation groups and the public a chance to challenge the application and make sure that all public health, safety and environmental concerns are addressed.
Based on the promise of jobs, there is some support for the mill among residents of some of the hardscrabble towns in the region, but conservation groups and tourism-dependent communities are dead-set against the mill.
Along with health and environmental concerns, there are fundamental question about the economics of uranium mining, as the mill proposal is seen as a speculative play based on as-yet undeveloped uranium resources.
The battle over the mill is symbolic of the larger struggle in the region, as energy companies look to make every play they can, while conservation advocates strive to protect pristine lands.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
The company planning to build a uranium mill near Naturita settled with Telluride and San Miguel County in a lawsuit aimed at halting construction of the mill.
“This gets us part of the way there,” Curtis Moore, spokesman for Energy Fuels, said of the agreement, which removes two of four plaintiffs in the case brought originally by the Sheep Mountain Alliance. The alliance is not involved in the settlement.
The agreement with Telluride and San Miguel County requires Energy Fuels to take several actions once the mill is built, ones that Moore said are intended to reassure residents of San Miguel County that they won’t be affected by the mill.
Among the issues included in the settlement:
■ Energy Fuels will participate in a monitoring program for the watershed above Telluride;
■ New standards and restrictions will be placed on trucks passing through San Miguel County, including requirements that trucks have the company name and are numbered so that authorities can be contacted if spills occur;
■ Town and county officials will be allowed to inspect the mill and mines that feed it so any spills can be traced;
■ Bonds will be increased from about $12 million to $15 million.
“This will give people the peace of mind that our studies and our plans will indeed not affect the watersheds,” Moore said.
The Telluride Town Council has approved the settlement and the San Miguel County Commission will vote on it next week…
The settlement doesn’t affect an administrative hearing set to begin next week in Nucla, in which an administrative-law judge will consider whether to reinstate the radioactive-materials-handling license issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. A Denver District judge revoked the license this summer and ordered the administrative hearing.
Peabody contemplated in April that the reservoir capturing water from both Trout and Middle creeks would store about 11,720 acre-feet of water with a surface area of about 385 acres, according to a letter sent from a Glenwood Springs water engineer working on the project to Steamboat attorney Tom Sharp, who is involved in a statewide water supply study. In comparison, Stagecoach Reservoir near Oak Creek stores 36,460 acre-feet and has a surface area of 780 acres. Trout Creek flows out of the Flat Tops and into the Yampa River a few miles to the north.
The reservoir would be situated about 15 miles from Steamboat in the vicinity of both the Twentymile and developing Sage Creek coal mines between Routt County roads 179 and 33.
The letter revealed that Peabody had alerted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of its intent to file for a hydropower license. In addition, the letter anticipated that the water stored in the reservoir would be used to support residential development, recreation and fish habitat as well as Peabody’s mining operations in Northwest Colorado.
Jerry Nettleton, of Twentymile Coal Co. and Peabody Energy, is scheduled to address the commissioners about his company’s plans during a hearing at 9:55 a.m. Tuesday in the historic downtown courthouse.