Here’s a report about a federal court review of TABOR from Corey Hutchins writing for the Colorado Independent:
Lawyers on Thursday will argue their case before a federal judge about why they believe Colorado’s voter-initiated Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the state Constitution is, well, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Since passed in the early ’90s, the complex law requires, among other things, that voters must approve of any tax increase. It also mandates governments to rebate money to taxpayers if the government takes in more revenue than expected. A Colorado Springs landlord and anti-tax folk hero named Douglas Bruce championed the amendment first in his home city, and then took it statewide in 1992. Since then it’s been the law of the land in Colorado, and has become a perennial political controversy.
“This is a highly historic case that is deeply important to the state of Colorado, and indeed, the rest of the country,” said Tim Hoover, spokesman for the Colorado Fiscal Institute in a news release about Thursday’s hearing.
“The principle argument of the complaint is that TABOR restructured state government in ways that violate the core principles of representative government guaranteed to every state under the U. S. Constitution,” according to TABORcase.org, which offers background on the lawsuit.
From NOAA. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
2015 is Earth’s warmest year by widest margin on record;
December 2015 temperature record warm
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was the highest on record for any month in the 136-year record.
Global highlights: December 2015
During December, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 2.00°F (1.11°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for December in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2014 by 0.52°F (0.29°C). The December temperature departure from average was also the highest departure among all months in the historical record and the first time a monthly departure has reached +2°F from the 20th century average.
During December, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 3.40°F (1.89°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for December in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2006 by 0.86°F (0.48°C).
During December, the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.49°F (0.83°C) above the 20th century average. This was also the highest for December in the 1880–2015 record, . surpassing the previous record of 2009 by 0.36°F (0.20°C)
The average Arctic sea ice extent for December was 300,000 square miles (6.0 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the fourth smallest December extent since records began in 1979, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center based on data from NOAA and NASA.
Antarctic sea ice during December was 100,000 square miles (0.9 percent) below the 1981–2010 average.
According to data from NOAA analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during December was 190,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average. This was the 19th smallest December Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in the 50-year period of record.
For extended analysis of global temperature and precipitation patterns, please see our full December report.
Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history by far, breaking a record set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.
In the contiguous United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. One result has been a wave of unusual winter floods coursing down the Mississippi River watershed.
Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.
“The whole system is warming up, relentlessly,” said Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
It will take a few more years to know for certain, but the back-to-back records of 2014 and 2015 may have put the world back onto a trajectory of rapid global warming, after a period of relatively slow warming dating to the last powerful El Niño, in 1998…
“Is there any evidence for a pause in the long-term global warming rate?” said Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s climate-science unit, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in Manhattan. “The answer is no. That was true before last year, but it’s much more obvious now.”
From the South Platte Sentinel (Forrest Hershberger):
The Logan County Commissioners Tuesday received a report on an effort to lower the water level in the Pawnee Ridge and Country Club Hills subdivisions…
The legislature approved HB 12-1178 which was authored to address the rising ground water in the three communities.
In November 2015, the Logan County Commissioners agreed to act as the fiscal agent for a grant application for projects to correct the problem.
Tuesday the commissioners met with a geologist from the Colorado [Division of Water Resources].
Andy Horn, a geologist, is working with homeowners in the subdivisions who have been affected by high water. In some places, the water table is within inches of the ground surface. Horn approached the commissioners Tuesday about acting as the fiscal agent for a grant application.
He said there will be two applications, one for Pawnee Ridge and the second for the Country Club Hills subdivision.
“The issues in each subdivision are different,” Horn said.
He said HB 12-1178 allocates grant funding for two fiscal years. The Sterling subdivisions will be competing with Gilcrest and LaSalle communities for a share of the $290,000 budgeted.
The plan for the Pawnee Ridge subdivision includes piping water from dewatering wells and discharging it into the Gentz pond. Two wells will be manifold together and a flow meter installed. Horn expects about 400 gallons per minute to be discharged from the wells.
Another area of Pawnee Ridge, near Dakota Road and Westwood Drive, have only a couple of houses with issues, he said. The proposal includes installation of a subsurface drain along Westwood Drive.
He said there is one area that in December had water about six inches below ground level.
“We’ve got applications and also prepared right of way requests for Dakota Road,” he said.
The project in Country Club Hills could involve easements on land under the trust of the board of county commissioners, according to Horn.
The project will also include excavating and installation of a sump by Cottonwood Lane under Forest Road. The pipeline would be four to six inches and move about 100 gpm, he said. Horn said the pipe is bigger than needed. The design is to decrease the resistance.
“The water table doesn’t seem to be rising as much as Pawnee Ridge,” Horn said.
Power for the pump will be paid the first couple of years by a grant, according to Horn.
The Commissioners and County Attorney Alan Samber expressed concern with leaving the cost of the pump’s energy to individual landowners. Samber said a special tax district.
Horn said he would like applications completed and submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation District board by the end of February. The board meets in March.
Colorado Springs city and Utilities officials on Tuesday fended off another in a rash of recent challenges to the massive Southern Delivery System water project, scheduled to start operating April 27.
The Pueblo Board of Water Works agreed to table for one month a resolution supporting Pueblo County efforts to require guaranteed stormwater funding if the SDS is to keep its hard-won 1041 permit.
Pueblo County issued that permit only after Colorado Springs Utilities spent years negotiating and crafting complex agreements with county, local, state and multiple federal agencies.
It’s the key to the $829 million SDS, one of the biggest modern-day water projects in the West, geared to deliver up to 50 million gallons of water a day to Pueblo West, Colorado Springs, Fountain and Security.
But Utilities’ massive project and its 1041 permit are not to be confused with the city of Colorado Springs’ beleaguered MS4 permit, SDS Director John Fredell told the Water Works board.
The city’s MS4, or Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit, is vulnerable since longtime neglect of critical stormwater controls led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cite the city in October with multiple violations.
For years, Colorado Springs hasn’t properly enforced drainage regulations, conducted adequate inspections, required developers to provide enough infrastructure or maintained and operated its own stormwater controls adequately, EPA inspections in August concluded. [ed. emphasis mine]
Now city officials are negotiating with the EPA and the Department of Justice to maintain the MS4 permit. They don’t deny the EPA’s claims. Indeed, they had discussed the problems and started scrambling for solutions shortly after John Suthers was sworn in as mayor last June, months before the EPA inspections.
But downstream Pueblo County has been a prime victim of Colorado Springs’ failure to control stormwater surging through Fountain Creek and its tributaries. And the county holds the 1041 permit, which some believe could be used as leverage.
As Colorado Springs development has sprawled farther, more sponge-like land has morphed into impermeable pavement, leaving stormwater roiling across the terrain.
Sediment in Fountain Creek has increased at least 278-fold since the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012, pushing water levels far higher, reported Wright Water Engineers Inc. of Denver, contracted by the county. [ed. emphasis mine]
Sediment grew from 90 to 25,075 tons per year while water yields increased from 2,500 to 4,822 acre-feet, the engineers found. [ed. emphasis mine]
City and Utilities officials have been meeting with those engineers and their own consulting engineering firm, MWH Global, to prioritize projects.
They’ve developed a list of 73, including 58 projects recommended by Wright Water, said city Public Works Director Travis Easton. Work on the first of those commences next week, with detention ponds to be developed along flood-prone Sand Creek near the Colorado Springs Airport.
But skepticism lingers in Pueblo County, despite that effort plus creation of a new Stormwater Division, more than doubling the number of city inspectors and enforcement staff and the vow to dedicate $19 million a year to stormwater solutions.
They’ve heard promises before, Water Works board members noted Tuesday. They want a guaranteed, ironclad source of funding to stanch the stormwater that inundates their communities. And they want it yesterday.
“History’s important,” said Dr. Thomas V. Autobee, a Water Works board member.
Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, had threatened in August to file a federal lawsuit against Colorado Springs for violations of the Clean Water Act.
Tuesday, Winner reminded the water board of how the then-Colorado Springs City Council eradicated its stormwater enterprise fund in 2009 – soon after the 1041 permit was issued – “the definition of hoodwink.”
Voters had just passed Issue 300, requiring payments to city-owned enterprises to be phased out. The subsequent council vote still rankles downstream Fountain Creek denizens.
Still, that fund never provided more than $15.8 million, Fredell noted. By contrast, the city and Utilities now are determined to spend more than $19 million a year on stormwater for at least 10 years.
They’re working on an intergovernmental agreement that would provide the guarantees Pueblo County seeks.
“Enforceablity is always an issue,” Mark Pifher, SDS permitting and compliance manager, told the Water Works board. “But we’re in discussion with the EPA and Department of Justice. The handwriting is on the wall. There will be either a consent decree or a federal order, and nothing is more enforceable.”
“If we can work this draft into something sustainable,” Autobee said, “that’s what I’d like to see.”
Board Chairman Nicholas Gradisar said he’s encouraged by the city and Utilities’ concerted efforts and swift action. “What I’m not encouraged by is the inability to come to agreement with Pueblo County.”
Gradisar said the funding must be guaranteed in perpetuity, not only 10 years, with an enforcement mechanism that doesn’t require a federal lawsuit.
Suthers, City Council President Merv Bennett and Utilities officials will meet with the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners at 1:30 p.m. Monday to continue discussions on the fate of the 1041 permit.
That meeting is in commission chambers at the old downtown Pueblo County Courthouse, 215 W. 10th St.
That night, the Pueblo City Council is to decide on a resolution similar to that tabled by the Water Works Board. It would support the county’s efforts to obtain sustained stormwater funding from Colorado Springs.
The council meets at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 1 City Hall Place, in Council Chambers on the third floor.
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
The Pueblo Board of Water Works decided to wait a month before dipping its toes into the fray between Colorado Springs and Pueblo County over the Southern Delivery System.
The board tabled a resolution demanding a permanent funding mechanism for stormwater control on Fountain Creek in connection with Pueblo County’s 1041 permit with SDS, after testimony muddied the waters.
After SDS Project Director John Fredell tried to convince the water board that the two issues are not related, Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District cried foul.
“When you talk about stormwater, it’s not about the law or politics,” Winner said, turning to Colorado Springs ocials and inviting them to look at the damage along Fountain Creek in Pueblo. “The people are the ones getting injured. You need to do something about stormwater. You people are causing the issue.”
Winner said the Lower Ark district has tried for more than a decade to get Colorado Springs to agree to permanent funding.
Colorado Springs City Council President Merv Bennett, under questioning by water board President Nick Gradisar, admitted that Colorado Springs has not been in compliance with its stormwater permit. He, along with Colorado Springs Councilman Andy Pico and Public Works Director Travis Easton, explained in detail how the city would spend $19 million annually to address stormwater control.
About $12 million would go toward capital costs and $7 million to maintenance.
“It’s not only for downstream users, but for the benefit of Colorado Springs,” Bennett said. “We’re not waiting.
We’re moving forward.”
Colorado Springs is trying to negotiate a 10-year agreement with Pueblo County to ensure the funds stay in place.
Part of the water board’s resolution was to support Pueblo County in the bargaining.
Gradisar questioned whether that would go far to cover $500 million in identified stormwater projects, and blamed politics for the failure of past efforts to fund flood control.
“Left to its own devices, Colorado Springs Utilities would have taken care of these problems,” Gradisar said.
“But your voters . . . they probably wouldn’t have passed SDS.”
Water board member Tom Autobee brought up the issue of the $50 million Colorado Springs Utilities promised to pay to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District when SDS goes on line.
Fredell explained that the SDS pipeline, pumps and treatment plant still are in testing, so Utilities does not believe the payment is due until 2017 under the 1041 agreement. Fountain Creek district Executive Director Larry Small, a former Colorado Springs councilman, said it should have been paid last week.
Fredell argued that stormwater control is not a condition of the 1041 permit, since the permit deals with new growth related to SDS.
Since SDS is not serving customers, it does not apply, he said.
“But the damage is being caused now, what happens with SDS,” Gradisar replied?
That drew a reaction from Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member Mark Carmel, who questioned whether SDS was just a speculative venture for Colorado Springs. He called for reopening the entire 1041 permit to incorporate new concerns.
Water board member Mike Cafasso said the draft resolution presented at Tuesday’s meeting could be improved and moved to table it. Other board members agreed to take it up again at the board’s February meeting.