Two candidates for this rural Senate seat push different solutions to looming water shortages — @COIndependent

The Crystal River on Sept. 18, 2018. Photo by John Herrick.

From The Colorado Independent (John Herrick):

As rivers run dry and reservoirs run low, west-central Colorado district studies storage and leasing options

At the head of the Crystal Valley, automated sprinklers trundle across fields that hug Highway 133, scattering precious water over green sprouts. But on Brook Levan’s farm, one of those sprinklers sits idle. Due to low flows in the Crystal River, the irrigation system stopped operating. Levan had to purchase organic hay from out of state to feed his dairy cows.

“Some of that’s Montana water,” said Levan, pointing to a shed filled with bales of yellow hay.

Levan, director of Sustainable Settings, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable farming, said he remembers when there was snow year-round on Mount Sopris. This year, the mountain’s dry and gray. In the valley below, the Crystal River flows at a trickle, meandering through a rocky, dry riverbed as warm winds whip across the fields at either side.

For Coloradans in state Senate District 5, an area larger than New Hampshire stretching from the Vail mountains to the western plains, water is a constant worry. It helps grow fruit for markets and hay for livestock. It sustains recreational economies that rely on visitors who ski, raft and fish.

Some call water the state’s lifeblood, and that’s doubly true in water-dependent Crystal Valley. And as the rivers run dry and reservoirs run out, two candidates vying to represent this district in the Colorado Statehouse are proposing different paths forward for how to manage the state’s water supplies — and the public lands that encompass them more generally.

The incumbent wants farmers to be allowed to lease their water rights without fear of penalty, while her opponent believes building reservoirs to store water is the best answer.

Republican Olen Lund, a 59-year-old alfalfa farmer from Paonia, is running to unseat Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan, a 39-year-old rancher from Vail. The winner will likely play a role in the contentious debate over water policy, especially as Colorado braces for increasing demands from other states on Colorado River water.

Rancher and former state Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, a Lund supporter, has long championed Western Slope water rights. “We need a really strong voice” in Denver, she said. “We do not want our water cut back so that Denver and the surrounding area can build another subdivision.”

For Dea Jacobson, a former regional campaign coordinator for the Democratic Party from Cedaredge, the environmental impact of oil and gas drilling is an even larger concern. “The region needs nursing and care,” she said, especially when it comes to proposed drilling in the North Fork Valley. “Putting the oil and gas industry in the same backyard as the water supply needed for organic farming” is dangerous, she said.

Water is paramount in this district. But this race is also about the balance of power under the Gold Dome. Democrats have a seven-seat hold on the House, and, this November, they want to flip three seats blue in the Senate, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority. The GOP views the District 5 seat as a pickup opportunity to bolster its majority, in part because Republicans outnumber Democrats here. In 2014, Donovan won by a relatively narrow 2.3 percent margin.

But midterm elections are considered a referendum on the president’s party — and Donald Trump isn’t that popular in this district; Hillary Clinton bested him in 2016 by 5.5 percentage points.

“It is an important race for us,” said Curry.

Olen Lund outside the Red Rock Diner in Carbondale on Sept. 18, 2018. Photo by John Herrick

Lund, a former Delta County commissioner and president of the Delta County Farm Bureau, is running on the motto that he will be a voice for rural Colorado. “We need a senator that knows our lands aren’t playgrounds for the Denver-Boulder types,” he told Republicans packed in a Denver hotel conference room at the state GOP nominating assembly last April. “This is our home. We will fight for our farms, our families and our values.”

Lund is a founding member of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, which represents water users in the region. He also served on the Interbasin Compact Committee, a state advisory panel that discusses water compacts with states that share the Colorado River. He is cavalier about the drought in Colorado. He rattled off past dry years: 1935, 1977, 2002. “It’s been dry before,” Lund said during an interview at the Red Rock Diner in Carbondale last week.

Still, he said there is a looming collision between a growing population on the Front Range and demand from the thirsty Lower Basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California. The 1922 Colorado River Compact requires the Upper Basin states — Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah — to send at least 7.5 million acre-feet per year to the Lower Basin.

Farmers and ranchers must be efficient with their water, Lund said. One tool, alternative transfer mechanisms, or ATMs, allow farmers to lease their water rights for purposes other than irrigation. Still, he cautioned, there are inherent problems with ATMs and they must be applied on a case-by-case basis.

The “most important tool,” Lund said, is storage. This often requires damming rivers and flooding reservoirs — projects that have historically run into opposition from environmentalists. Lund said the legislature may be able to help “grease the skids.”

As for new taxes to pay for conservation and efficiency projects, he scoffed.

“Increase taxes and increase taxes,” Lund said. “It’s getting more and more difficult for people to exist.”

As he drinks a cup of ice water and eats a hamburger, he recalls growing up helping his neighbors grow vegetables and inheriting his father’s pear orchard before turning it into alfalfa pasture.

“I’m a farmer serving as a politician. It’s not like this is something on my bucket list,” Lund said. “A lot of people asked me to do it.”

Kerry Donovan speaks at a candidate forum in Salida on Sept. 18, 2018. Photo by John Herrick

Across the Continental Divide, the Arkansas River spills into the Chaffee Valley. Intermittent rafting outfits mark the sides of State Highway 24. In Salida, a recreational tourism town which sits on the river, about 50 people gathered inside the A Church recently for a progressive candidate forum.

Sen. Donovan drove down from Vail, where she runs her family ranch raising Highland cattle, chickens, horses and mules. She also grows vegetables. One of the people at the forum asked her what she plans to do about water shortages.

Donovan said some farmers and ranchers fear they have to “use it or lose it,” referencing a Colorado water law clause that says if a farm uses less water than it’s entitled to, the owner’s allocation can be cut. She also said some farmers sell their water rights outright to municipalities, a process known as “buy and dry.” Farmers, she said, need more flexibility. She said she wants to look at new ideas for how farmers and ranchers can lease water rights to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to keep stream flows high for ecological purposes, like fish habitat, and recreational uses.

“How do we give the agricultural community more options with their water rights while not likely losing them? I know the realities on the ground and I know the pressures the West Slope is going to feel,” she said in an interview with The Colorado Independent.

Donovan opposes any new transmountain diversions. And damming more rivers requires more water, which there isn’t much of to begin with, she said. Besides, she said, it may be better to add capacity to existing reservoirs. She added there’s little the state legislature can do around this subject given that most dams require federal permits.

When it comes to passing new taxes to pay for water conservation and efficiency projects, she’s open to ideas.

In addition to water, audience members at the forum brought up the area’s lack of affordable housing. “My favorite barista told me he and his family are leaving because they can’t afford to live here,” said Anne Marie Holen, a resident of Salida.

The lawmaker says she wants to give tax credits to local businesses that invest in housing.

Spotty Internet service was another complaint. Donovan said a new law she co-sponsored will pump tens of millions of dollars into Internet infrastructure in rural Colorado.

People applauded when Donovan said, “It’s not acceptable that a health care bill is more than a mortgage bill,” adding that she wants legislation to increase transparency around drug companies’ supply chains, an effort that was shot down in the Republican-controlled Senate this session.

The Independent asked Lund for his thoughts on affordable housing, broadband and health care policy, but he was unable to respond in time for publication.

Donovan raised more than $163,000 so far this election cycle. Coloradans for Fairness, an independent expenditure committee supporting Democrats in the state Senate, spent more than $30,800 on digital ads supporting her. There are virtually no limits on how much money IECs can accept and spend on candidates.

Lund, by comparison, has raised only $14,000. But he has more generous support from several outside groups buying ads on his behalf, such as the Colorado Economic Leadership Fund, a 501(c)4 that does not have to disclose its donors or how much it’s spending on Lund’s campaign, and Americans for Prosperity, another dark money group backed by the Koch brothers.

Furthermore, the Senate Majority Fund, an IEC that aims to elect Republicans to the state Senate, spent more than $69,000 this year on mailers attacking Donovan on behalf of Lund’s candidacy.

Much of the Senate Majority Fund’s money comes from oil and gas companies. And Lund does not equivocate in his support for the industry.

He supports drilling in his backyard, the North Fork Valley, where the Bureau of Land Management, under the Trump Administration, is proposing to lease land to drillers. Gov. John Hickenlooper opposes the plan, saying it could impact greater sage grouse habitat and affect big game winter range and migration corridors.

Lund, who said he was planning to attend an oil and gas tour in Mesa County this week (a county not included in SD5), brushed off these concerns. He said ranchers provide good habitat for the sage grouse. And as for elk, he said, “They love the drilling sites. It is more of a plus than a minus for the elk.”

Lund said recreation probably has a greater impact on the environment than drilling, citing a recent trip to Eagle where he said there were mountain bike trails were all over the mountainside. “That has got to be an interruption of something,” he said.

Donovan not only sees things differently, she helped make the third Saturday in May “Public Lands Day.” Wilderness, wildlife and water are the reason people live in Colorado, she said.

“They’re the pictures we put up on Instagram. And they fuel the economies of many communities,” Donovan told those attending the candidate forum.

Donovan opposes drilling in the North Fork Valley. She said she sent letters to the BLM opposing the plan.

“Your role as a public servant is to be a voice for the local community. And the local community that will be most impacted by that drilling does not want it,” she said.

That community is Paonia, Lund’s hometown.

For farm residents in rural Senate District 5, there is a concern that lawmakers in distant Denver are not listening.

“We just don’t want them to forget about us,” said Paul Stockwell, executive director of the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce.

But right now, these voters mean everything to the candidates as they tour the state, knocking doors and asking for support. The district’s roughly 35,600 unaffiliated voters, the largest bloc, matter most. Overall, the district’s population has grown since 2010, totaling about 143,000 people as of 2016, according to the U.S. Census.

Donovan said her campaign has contacted over 17,000 people, either by phone or by knocking doors.

Lund said he’s been out campaigning, too.

“It’s a big district,” he said. “We’re on the second set of tires.”

Proposed Central #Colorado Water Conservancy District $47 million ballot aimed at resilient infrastructure

Recharge pond graphic via the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District.

From Central’s website:

Central’s Board places GMS bond measure on November 2018 ballot

The Board of Directors of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District placed a bond question for the Groundwater Management Subdistrict on to the 2018 ballot. Central’s board and management stated this measure is important to start planning the next steps to secure water rights and build storage for the region. The projects in the bond include:

  • Construction of 5,000 acre-feet of additional reservoir storage—which will increase Central’s holdings by 25 percent—in the Fort Lupton and Greeley/Kersey areas.
  • Construction of the Robert W. Walker Recharge Project, a large project at the Weld and Morgan county lines that will divert water from the South Platte River and send those flows to groundwater recharge basins as far as 5 miles from the river. This will increase drought resiliency for water users in the District. Central was awarded $1.5 million in state and federal grants for the estimated $15 million project.
  • Purchase of several senior water rights that are becoming available for the District’s portfolio, including the purchase of water currently being leased by Central, which will ensure this water stays in the community to be used by local farms and businesses.
  • To review the ballot language, click here. Please contact Central’s office if you have any questions.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    Randy Ray said every local water manager remembers years like 2002 and 2012.

    “That’s one thing water managers don’t forget: the dry years. We always forget about the wet ones, except for the catastrophic floods,” said Ray, executive director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. “How did their water supplies react to the dry years?”

    Water officials try to answer when they look toward the future of their systems. That’s why the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District will place a $48.7 million bond question on the ballot this November in an effort to address priorities that, officials said, would help the district plan for droughts such as the ones that ravaged this part of the state in 2002 and 2012. Another drought currently bakes portions of the state this year, as well.

    Central’s boundaries stretch through parts of Weld, Adams and Morgan counties and serve about 550 farmers who operate about 1,000 irrigation wells…

    The recharge project, the biggest of the three, would claim an estimated $15 million of the funding in an effort to divert water from the South Platte River and send flows to groundwater basins about 5 miles away from the river. Officials said that would create storage to increase drought resiliency for the district’s water users.

    For Ray, the recharge project is a solution to problems years in the making.

    “It’s complicated, but then again, it’s simple,” he said. “If you want to pump groundwater, you’ve got to replace it. We’re just simply putting water in the aquifer to offset pumping and generate additional supplies that we can count on.”

    Recharge projects, which have been in use for decades, exploded in the late 1990s, as strict regulations for well pumping required water users to replace the groundwater they pumped. They work by diverting water to a pond and allowing it to seep into the ground, and eventually, back to the river.

    At the Walker Recharge Project, which is named after a former district president, officials plan to divert the water from the South Platte River when it’s flowing at a high level to ponds along a plateau as far as 5 miles away.

    The district purchased the land for the project in 2015 after it became clear to Central officials that the district can’t rely on leasing reusable water from Thornton, Aurora, Longmont and Westminster sewer discharge plants the way it has in the past.

    Because the population in those cities is growing, Ray said, city officials are more reluctant to give their extra water supplies away. Water managers in those cities remember dry years such as 2002 too.

    Plus, Ray said, the district views the projects as better financial investments.

    “It’s like renting a house,” Ray said. “The landowner is getting the equity, and you’re just basically paying their mortgage.”

    Ray said the other main projects outlined in the ballot question — the reservoir storage and additional senior water rights — also will play a role in helping the district rely less on water leases from cities. The gravel pit reservoir storage, he said, would help the district divert water from the river quickly when water levels are high for additional storage.

    But Ray said the biggest selling point for the bond issue is agriculture.

    “That’s our big campaign, our big message to our constituents, preserving irrigated agriculture in the county,” Ray said.

    By purchasing additional senior water rights, he said, the district could help slow a trend called “buy-and-dry,” in which cities buy water rights from farms.

    “So, when one of those cities purchases those water rights, they retire the land, and it’s got to go back to a dry land setting, which has a lot of negative associations with that,” Ray said. “The economy dries up and the tax bases go away.”

    If Central takes over that water right, Ray argued, farmers would still have access to groundwater to irrigate a portion of the farmland.

    “If you’re 80 years old, 70 years old, that farm and its water rights are your 401(k),” Ray said. “We want to be an alternative to these beautiful senior water rights in Weld County being transferred to Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas counties and reside here under the management of the water conservancy district.”

    Chaffee County voters to decide on sales tax for watershed health in November #vote

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Mountain Mail (Merle Baranczyk):

    If voters approve the proposed 0.25 percent countywide sales tax at the November general election, a portion of funds would be used to treat forest lands.

    The U.S. Forest Service currently treats about 1,200 acres per year. With additional funding, that number would grow to 4,000 acres annually, nearly triple the number of acres that could see mitigation.

    The sales tax would generate about $1 million per year and would be used to:

    • Strengthen forest health;

    • Conserve and support working ranches, farms and rural landscapes; and

    • Manage impacts of growth in outdoor recreation.

    Cindy Williams, co-lead with County Commissioner Greg Felt of Envision Chaffee County, the entity that is the impetus behind the proposal, said the goal would be to treat 2 percent of forested public lands, about 4,000 acres, in the county each year.

    Responsibility for maintaining public lands in the county rests with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managment and state of Colorado. But, Felt said, the agencies do not have the budget or the staff to properly maintain lands under their jurisdiction.

    An example of how funding would be used is the current project on Monarch Pass. In concert with the U.S. Forest Service, a number of entities have joined forces in an effort to remove beetle-killed dead standing trees to improve forest health, reduce the danger of wildfires and protect water supplies.

    Williams said various entities, including the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Monarch Mountain, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Pueblo and Colorado Springs water utilities, are supporting the project.

    Monarch Pass is the headwaters of the South Arkansas River, which is a source of water for the city of Salida and dozens of irrigators.

    Mitigation work, she said, would protect towns, water supplies, water infrastructure, the recreation economy, wildlife and wildlife habitat.

    Felt said Chaffee County has contributed $48,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund to the program.

    The idea behind this element of the sales tax, he said, “is to leverage interests of other water-related organizations” who have an interest in water quality and the resource.

    If the county puts $500,000 from the proposed conservation tax toward forest mitigation work, Felt said the goal would be to generate an additional $5 million from other sources.

    “The goal,” Felt said, “is not to spend a million dollars a year on conservation, but to leverage that into $5 million” to benefit the county.

    He said if there is local interest, the county will be able to do more by drawing money from other organizations and agencies…

    Williams said the net result of the tax would be to bring additional dollars through grants and participating partners into the county to be used to benefit county resources.

    Williams said representatives of agencies and foundations she has talked to about the county conservation project have said they typically do not see communities coming together like this, including governments, businesses and citizens.

    The Gates Family Foundation, she said, is monitoring the county as a possible development model with new tools for other Western states.

    Felt said Envision has “blown out of the water” representatives of foundations and government agencies who have become aware of the project and now want to play a part in the program as it evolves.</blockquote.

    Gubernatorial hopefuls, other candidates to tackle #drought at @COWaterCongress Summer Convention

    Vail Colorado via Colorado Department of Tourism

    From (Marianne Goodland):

    Note: I will not be at the conference Tweeting away this year. I’m depending on all you other Tweeters to keep me informed.

    The three-day conference, which starts Wednesday at the Hotel Talisa in Vail, is expected to draw more than 300 water policy experts as well as local, county and state officials who handle water issues…

    Drought issues will be a key discussion topic this week, said Doug Kemper, the group’s executive director. Drought has hit the southern half of the state pretty hard, Kemper said.

    “You’re looking at record low flows in some areas,” especially around Gunnison, he said. “We came into this year universally above average in every river basin, but will exit this water year in a different condition.”

    Negotiations with the six other states that draw water from the Colorado River are at a critical point, Kemper said, even as a new governor and attorney general are coming to Colorado.

    The conference will hear from the major candidates for both offices, marking the first time that many in the water community will meet them. They’ll likely be asked how they view the state water plan, whether the next governor will have a special water adviser, as Gov. John Hickenlooper has, and how they view the work of the basin roundtables, which carry much of the workload for the water plan.

    Funding for the plan also is in question. Kemper said it’s still unclear whether funding will come from grants or loans and whether it will be spent on infrastructure, wastewater treatment or environmental protection.

    The congress will meet Wednesday with Republican attorney general candidate George Brauchler, followed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton.

    Thursday, Democratic attorney general candidate Phil Weiser will speak to the congress.

    U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is to address the group Friday.

    Congressional candidates also will visit: Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton will be at the congress Thursday, and Democratic opponent Diane Mitsch Bush will address the congress Friday.

    Thursday, the Legislature’s interim water resources review committee will hold its August session at the congress. The committee is to review funding for the state water plan, the Colorado River compact and drought contingency plans for the Colorado River.

    Thursday’s keynote address, “A New Culture of Certainty at EPA,” will be delivered by Doug Benevento, the EPA Region VIII administrator, and comes on the heels of a federal court order Thursday that the Trump administration reinstate the Obama administration’s “Waters of the USA” rule.

    Amy Beatie for #Colorado House District 4

    I’ve already cast my ballot for Amy Beatie, won’t you join me? The Colorado General Assembly will be well-served with a water attorney who knows how to work within the legal system and find environmental benefits. If you live on the Northside please cast your primary vote for Amy. If you know folks that live up here please let them know how important it is to vote for her.

    Click here to go to the website.

    Endorsement: Amy Beatie for Colorado House District 4

    I’m excited to endorse Amy, she has been a tireless champion for Colorado in her role at the Water Trust. Here’s the press release from Amy’s campaign:

    Amy Beatie, Executive Director of the Colorado Water Trust since 2007, announces her endorsement by statewide and local leaders in the Democratic primary for State Representative in Denver’s House District 4. The endorsements come from Ruth Wright, second woman ever in Colorado to become the House Minority Leader, a role that she held from 1986-1992; Gail Schwartz, former State Senator from Crested Butte; and Jeni JAMES Arndt, current State Representative from Fort Collins.

    Although she had been considering running for public office for some time, Beatie’s campaign began to truly take shape after her graduation from the Emerge triaining program of 2016, a program that trains progressive women to run for office. “Seasoned leadership matters now more than ever. I have dedicated my career to public service and working tirelessly for Colorado’s environment, but for years I had been feeling such a strong push to do more. I want to be part of helping create a cohesive, progressive, and strategic Democratic party in this state. This incredible northside community also wants someone who will improve our education system, our healthcare system, and our environment. Having been in leadership for most of my career, I’ll be ready to hit the ground running on day one.”

    Sen. Schwartz endorsed Beatie saying that, “Amy has dedicated her career to the preservation of Colorado’s natural resources and public service to the people of Colorado. She has distinguished herself as the leader of one of Colorado’s most effective conservation organizations for over a decade. As a former State Senator, I know that Amy’s proven ability to work with diverse interests and communities, along with a deep background on statewide issues, will make her an excellent representative.”

    Beatie successfully guided the Colorado Water Trust over the last decade to return over 7 billion gallons of water to over 375 miles of rivers and streams in the State of Colorado and Jeni Arndt, State Representative from Fort Collins, was impressed with Beatie’s knowledge of the state’s water issues. “Effectively managing our state’s water is critical to our shared future. Amy has been a leader on water conservation in Colorado for a decade and having her knowledge and experience in the legislature would be an invaluable contribution to our state’s efforts to plan for one of the most valuable resources in our state.”

    Ruth Wright, second woman ever to become the House Minority Leader, a role that she held from 1986-1992, and former board member at the Colorado Water Trust spoke glowingly of Beatie’s ability to lead. “Amy has taken the Trust from an organization on the brink of closing and turned it into one of the most successful environmental organizations in the state. Amy infused the Trust with her vision and passion and I can see that same vision and passion in her run for the state house.”

    Please vote for the environment in the #Colorado primary election #ActOnClimate

    Left: Fossil fuel emissions 1850 to 2010 and since 2000. Right: Amount of fossil fuel emissions to keep warming under 2 C, vs. potential emissions from proven reserves. Fossil fuel companies know that they cannot compete with renewable energy v. cost. The competitive cost advantage will be advanced if the fossil fuel companies are compelled to pay a cost for their pollution.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):


    Cary Kennedy: Will “guarantee” all Colorado homes and businesses can choose 100 percent renewable energy and double the state renewable energy standard, which currently requires cooperative utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewables.

    Jared Polis: Pledges to protect public lands from “Donald Trump and polluters.” Will create path to 100 percent renewable energy as way to protect the environment and create “good-paying green jobs that can’t be outsourced.” Says 100 percent renewable energy is achievable “by 2040 or sooner” (Colorado Independent).

    Donna Lynne: Advocates for a “‘no slogans’ balanced approach to energy production” that includes local control on where and how energy production happens, property rights, and people who work in extraction industries. Says “health and safety of all Coloradans is our top priority when we are dealing with energy and the environment.”

    Mike Johnston: Launched his campaign with the 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 pledge. Wants to increase setbacks for oil and gas wells, cap orphan wells and “avoid drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.”


    Walker Stapleton: Calls for a “stable business environment to ensure a low-cost energy supply that will attract and retain businesses in Colorado.” Says he won’t pursue “agenda-driven, burdensome, job-killing regulations.” Wants better state-federal communication on how federal lands are managed. Says he is running because he fears a Democratic governor would “end the energy industry” in Colorado (Colorado Independent).

    Greg Lopez: Argues that the state coal industry “has been unfairly treated by bureaucrats” from out of state and reminds people that coal-fired plants are likely what’s charging their electric cars. Does not think 100 percent renewable energy is feasibly by 2040 and says diversification “remains the most prudent approach” to energy. (Colorado Independent)

    Doug Robinson: Says the oil and gas industry “plays a vital role” in the state and can balance environmental protections “by supporting common sense regulations.” Supports all-of-the-above energy strategy and says “it is not the role of government to pick winners and losers,” in reference to a push for 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 (Colorado Independent).

    Victor Mitchell: Says climate change “is likely real” and that the federal government should launch “moonshot” initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Says government also should not choose “winners and losers,” either with subsidies or “excessive” taxes and regulations. Notes fossil fuels are currently most reliable and least expensive energy, but it could be different tomorrow. Calls preserving the environment, air quality and water supply “paramount to our future and quality of life.”