U.S. Senator Bennet Addresses #Colorado Water Congress Amid Critical #ColoradoRiver Negotiations #COriver #aridification #CWCAC2023

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on Senator Bennet’s website:

Bennet Celebrates Coloradans For Leading By Example on Water Conservation; Vows to Be A Voice for Upper Basin in Washington, D.C.

Video of the Speech is Available HERE

Denver — Amid critical Colorado River negotiations, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today addressed the Colorado Water Congress about the urgent work ahead to secure the future of the Colorado River Basin. Bennet called on the audience to define a new vision for the Colorado River, celebrated Colorado’s example on water conservation, and vowed to champion the interests of the Upper Basin in Washington, D.C. He also urged Coloradans to tell their stories to help the American people understand the urgency of addressing the Western water crisis. 

“I strongly encourage the seven states to come to a joint proposal on the cuts that are needed. If the states can’t find a way to work this out, we will be handing this decision to the Department of the Interior. No one wants that. Let’s resolve this right here at home, in the West,” said Bennet. “We have to live within what the river can provide, and that’s what we’ve done – what we have always done — in Colorado.”

In his remarks, Bennet highlighted examples of Colorado ranchers and farmers, local governments, and Tribes who have changed their practices to adapt to the worst drought conditions in 1,200 years. Using stories from across Colorado, Bennet demonstrated how Coloradans are leading, adapting, and innovating to meet these challenges, and urged others to follow their example.

As the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Bennet plans to use this year’s Farm Bill to address the Western water crisis and make new investments in conservation, forests, and watersheds. Last year, Bennet secured $4 billion to address Western drought in the Inflation Reduction Act. In his remarks, Bennet called this funding a “good start” and urged the federal government to do more to address the situation in the Colorado River Basin. 

“2023 may be the most important year for Western water since the Colorado River Compact came together a century ago. The choices we make this year will shape the Basin for the next 100 years,” Bennet noted. “We have the opportunity to lead… and to tell this story, and to define the future of the Colorado River – not based on fear about the future, or bitterness over the past – but on creativity, collaboration, and a commitment to leaving the Basin in better shape than we found it.”

Senator Bennet’s speech as delivered is available below. 

Thank you, good morning everybody. Thanks, Travis. 

I just got back late last night from D.C. Senator Hickenlooper and I went over to the Pentagon, actually, for lunch with the Secretary of Defense to […] tell him that they’re not going to let them steal Space Command from Colorado. That’s the conversation we had yesterday. By the way, if you ever have the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, I would recommend it—you get a very nice dining room there at the Pentagon. 

Travis, again, thank you for the introduction. We were last together four months ago in Steamboat. And I can tell you that it’s been my experience that nobody has ever wanted me to come back within four months of when I’ve given a talk to them before, so I appreciate the invitation even more for that. 

And I just want to start by thanking everybody in this room for your leadership on Western water issues. As Travis said, money can’t solve everything. It helps, but it’s meaningless without the leadership of the people in this room. I’ve lost count the number of times over the years, I’ve turned to the people in this room – not just Christine, but often Christine – for guidance and expertise, and I can’t thank you enough. It’s meant the world to me, particularly as I’ve served on the Agriculture Committee from the day that I got to the Senate. 

And I know that the people in this room, and the people that you come after, have forgotten more about water than I’ll ever know. 

But you don’t have to be a water expert to know that we’re in a five-alarm crisis in the West and the Rocky Mountain West. 

The West hasn’t been this dry in 1,200 years.

That’s when Vikings were marauding throughout Europe from one end to another – and even beyond that.  

And in 2023, these conditions have created profound challenges for Colorado and for the Rocky Mountain West.

Last summer, we saw parts of the Rio Grande Basin dry up for the first time in 40 years.

Nebraska is saying they might build a canal to divert precious water from the South Platte, threatening farmers on the High Plains of Colorado.

And we’ve got a Colorado River in peril, governed by a century-old Compact that no longer reflects reality.

And here is the reality: As everybody in this room knows, the water allocated on paper has never matched the actual water in the River.

The Compact allocates 16.5 million acre-feet of water. I had the chance in the last couple weeks to spend ten days in the Middle East with [Senator] Mark Kelly from Arizona, and we had a lot of conversations about the Compact, and the way in which the estimates have been off from the very beginning – and we know the average flow is closer to 12.5 million.

And while the Upper Basin has acted responsibly, always, and taken less than its 7.5 million share, the Lower Basin has taken far more, year in and year out.

In 2022, the entire Upper Basin used only 3.5 million acre-feet — less than half of our legal allocation. 

We actually cut our use by a million acre-feet over the previous year.

And at the same time, the Lower Basin increased its use by 600,000 acre-feet, putting them well over their allocation, while we were trying to do the right thing. 

And, as you know, they’re doing that by draining Lake Powell and Lake Mead to their lowest levels since we filled those reservoirs 50 years ago.  

That is deeply unfair to our farmers and to our ranchers, to people like Harrison Topp, a peach farmer in the North Fork Valley who’s trying to keep his orchard alive with a lot less water.

Or the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, which has had to dramatically cut back on farming because there is no water. 

I could go on. Every example is a reminder that we can’t accept the status quo. We have to define a new vision for the River.

So as the seven states continue their negotiation, we have to reach a decision, because none of us wants the Department of Interior to impose one instead.

And that means everyone in the Basin has to make hard choices to live with what the River provides, which is what we’ve always done – we have always done — in Colorado. And frankly, what Tribes have done for centuries on this landscape.

I know the Upper Basin is prepared to make tough choices, and we’ll have to see if the Lower Basin can do the same, is willing to do the same. 

Because even if we do everything humanly possible, it still won’t be enough without real changes from the Lower Basin that will make a material difference over the long term.

You know, I’m not overly optimistic about this; we shouldn’t be pollyannaish about this. Reaching an agreement won’t be easy, everybody knows that because we haven’t reached an agreement yet. But everybody here in this room, and the people you represent, have a central role to play. 

In the months ahead, the entire Basin is gonna look to all of you for leadership and for examples of how to do more with less.

The example of Paul Bruchez, who I know is here today, I just saw him outside. 

He’s got ranches in Grand County, where he’s experimenting with new crops that could use up to 30% less water. 

Or Lowell King in Fruita who abandoned conventional farming to try regenerative agriculture. Now, he’s using less water, growing more crops, and setting an example for the entire West. 

We can all learn from them. 

We can point to the tough choices of leaders like Mayor Coffman in Aurora, where they just passed restrictions on new golf courses and developments with lawns that need too much water. 

There are stories like this all across our state, and it’s our job to go and share them with the country.  

The people in this room may understand the Western water crisis, I know you do. But I can assure you, no one else does. 

Most Americans have no understanding about how important this River is. How it works. What it means to 40 million people in this Basin. And what the implications for its survival are – not just for the West, but for the entire United States of America.  

We have to tell them. We have to tell them. 

And it’s not enough to keep talking to each other about it. We need everybody here to reach out and talk to national publications. Talk to members of the Senate and the House. Talk to the Administration. Go on the news at night. 

And our team stands ready to help. We’re prepared to do everything in our power to draw attention to this crisis back in Washington. 

I know my staff, Rosy, was here yesterday talking about the Farm Bill. And I think in the short term, we have an opportunity with the upcoming Farm Bill — not only to educate the public, but to make new investments in conservation, forests, and watersheds, on top of the ones Travis mentioned earlier. 

So if you have ideas, if you’ve got concerns, or you’ve got criticisms about how the Farm Bill works or how it could work better – we want to hear them.

But over the long term, we need the federal government to backstop whatever the states decide with the Bureau of Reclamation. 

I don’t want the federal government to tell us what to do. Nobody in this room does. But if we can come to a consensus, the federal government is going to have to help backstop that consensus. 

The $4 billion that we secured in the Inflation Reduction Act is a good start, but it’s only a down payment. 

And this year is a historic opportunity to build on that progress.

2023 may be the most important year for Western water since the Colorado River Compact came together a century ago.

The choices we make this year could shape the Basin for the next 100 years. 

I guarantee you if we don’t make these choices, it’ll shape the Basin for the next 100 years. 

We have the  opportunity to lead, I think, and to tell this story, and to define the future of the Colorado River – not based on fear about the future, or bitterness over the past – but on creativity, collaboration, and a commitment to leave the Basin in better shape than we found it. 

And I know Water Congress is up to that challenge, and I want you to know that I’m going to be with you in this fight every single step of the way.

Thank you for having me this morning.

Key takeaways from the omnibus spending package: What’s in it for rivers? — @AmericanRivers

The Rappahannock River | Virginia. Photo credit: American Rivers

Click the link to read the article on the American Rivers website (Jaime Sigaran):

On December 20, 2022 appropriators released the highly anticipated fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending package which includes modest environmental and conservation funding increases.

In the remaining days of 2022, we’re happy to share some important wins for rivers – including funding for critical clean water and river restoration programs, as well as new Wild and Scenic River designations. While there’s much to be thankful for, the bill still has a number of shortcomings. In this blog, we break down the funding and policy highlights. 

On December 20, appropriators released the highly anticipated fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending package which includes modest environmental and conservation funding increases. Overall, the bill would fund the government at $1.7 trillion for most of 2023 – $858 billion toward defense and $772.5 billion in domestic spending.  

The omnibus spending bill funds federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Interior (DOI). The EPA received a $576 million increase from current levels to support the agency’s science, environmental, and enforcement work. The bill also includes $14.7 billion for DOI programs, an increase of $574 million above fiscal year 2022. 

These funding increases support river restoration and river health goals across the country.  

Key Takeaways From The Omnibus Spending Package: 

  • General increases to EPA, DOI, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
  • Additional supplemental funding for National Park Service to restore 500 of the 3,000 staff positions that have been lost over the past decade 
  • $40 billion for disaster recovery and drought 
  • $600 million to address water issues in Jackson, Mississippi. 
  • $682 million for EPA’s geographic program including $92 million for Chesapeake Bay Program and $368 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 
  • $1.67 billion for EPA’s Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds 
  • $50 million for EPA’s Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program 
  • $65 million for Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART grants 

KEY RIVER BUDGET PRIORITIES & PERFORMANCE: 

AgencyProgramFY 23 Rec. from 
American Rivers
Omnibus Spending bill 12/20/22About the Program
EPAReducing Lead in Drinking Water$100M$25MReduces the concentration of lead in drinking water.
EPASewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants Program $280M$50M Manages combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, and stormwater flows. 
USBRDam Safety Program $200M $210.2M Ensures Reclamation dams do not present unreasonable risk
USBRKlamath Project $25M $34.8M Provides funding to improve water supplies in the Klamath River Basin. 
USBRLower CO Operations Program $45M $46.8M Implements the Drought Contingency Plan and the Lower Colorado Multi-species Conservation Program. 
USBRYakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project $30M $50.3M Enhances streamflows and fish passage for anadromous fish in the Yakima River Basin. 
CorpsUpper MS River Restoration $55M $55M Ensures the viability and vitality of Upper Mississippi River fish and wildlife. 
CorpsEngineering with Nature $12.5M $20M Aligns natural and engineering processes to deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits 
FEMAFloodplain Mgmt. & Mapping $200M $206M Improves floodplain management, develops flood hazard zone maps, and educates on the risk of floods 
FEMANational Dam Safety Program $92M $9.65M Reduces the risks to human life, property, and the environment from dam related hazards. 

Policy Wins for Wild and Scenic Rivers, Western Water 

In addition to the funding noted above, American Rivers is very pleased to share that key provisions supporting river restoration are advancing. We applaud the hard work championed by Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and many others on the Hill to make this omnibus spending bill a bipartisan effort. Though we are disheartened that we didn’t get to see the bipartisan, bicameral public lands and water package, we can celebrate two new Wild and Scenic River designations: the York River in Maine and Housatonic River in Connecticut. Together these bills would designate more than 70 river miles. Two Wild and Scenic River studies from Florida were also added. 

Upper Mississippi River, IA. Photo credit: American Rivers

Several western water bills made it into the omnibus spending bill which will improve drought resilience, boost water supply, and support wetland conservation. For example, the Colorado River Basin Conservation Act (S. 4579/H.R. 9173) would allow DOI to continue to partner with Upper and Lower Basin states alike, to keep more water in the Colorado River and its reservoirs, by incentivizing voluntary water conservation projects at the user level.  

Shortcomings in the Omnibus Spending Bill 

The omnibus spending bill falls short of meeting bold river health goals that are grounded in advancing scientific efforts, supporting enforcement, and directing growth in river communities that could have benefited from additional funding. While we noticed gains in WaterSMART, Dam Safety Program, Yakima, and Klamath Projects under Bureau of Reclamation, American Rivers noted less than optimal funding levels for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund in California and the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project in the Pacific Northwest. 

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service. (79-AAG-1). By Ansel Adams – This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=118192

The Army Corps of Engineers programs such as Engineering with Nature, Floodplain Management Services, Sustainable Rivers Program, and the Upper Mississippi River Restoration programs did not suffer significant cuts. Nor did NOAA programs specifically Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. However, we acknowledge small reductions in funding to the Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program (RiskMAP). 

Another item American Rivers noticed is large money carve outs for “Community Project Funding Items” also known as earmarks. When taken out of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRFs) capitalization grants, it leaves the EPA programs with less than half of what these programs received in Fiscal Year 2021. The long-term viability of the SRFs is in question and American Rivers will work hard to ensure its success in future years so high-priority projects are not delayed or increase the risk to public health and the environment. 

We’re disappointed the sweeping omnibus legislation did not boost more funding to protection, restoration, and enhancement of fish and wildlife, but are hopeful that the focus in drought resilience in the Southwest, water infrastructure in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as modest increases to Corps, DOI, NOAA and EPA programs will continue to place a focus on water quality and quantity.

“We are not going to be afraid to litigate” to protect #Colorado’s water rights: Attorney General Phil Weiser said era of lower basin states over-consuming #ColoradoRiver “is over” — The #Denver Post #COriver #aridification

Lees Ferry streamgage and cableway on the Colorado River, Arizona. The point where the upper and lower Colorado River basins divide the river. (Public domain.)

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Nick Caltrain). Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado’s attorney general is seeking to reinforce his office’s water-focused legal team so it could be prepared for upcoming fights over the Colorado River. Attorney General Phil Weiser, who was just re-elected to a second term, said his office needs to be prepared for litigation or negotiation with other stakeholders to defend Colorado’s water rights. He’s not asking for an overhaul of the office — his ask to the Joint Budget Committee is for two new positions, and water and natural resources make up an overall small percentage of his office’s total budget — but he noted that “the challenges with water are heating up.”

“The era of the lower basin states taking as much water as they wanted — up to 10 million acre-feet when they’re only entitled 7.5 — is over,” Weiser said recently…

Ideas on bolstering the water supply — or at least not drinking too deep from it — vary. Weiser said his focus is on protecting the state’s share. Lawmakers have said water will be a “centerpiece” of this legislative session. House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Democrat from Dillon, has also singled out lower basin states for overusing their allotment. Weiser noted the strain on the reservoirs and the pressure that puts on water users up and down the river. Navigating the legal rapids will require negotiation or litigation, he said.

“We’ve got to be prepared for either way,” Weiser told reporters after his investiture ceremony Thursday. “We are not going to be afraid to litigate and protect our rights, and as we can find collaborative solutions, we’ll work hard to do that.”

[…]

If lawmakers approve the request this spring for more water specialists, it would bring the department’s total staff working on interstate water issues to 11, including eight attorneys, according to budget documents. The internal team has already won legal victories against other states and the federal government, as well as saved the state money on outside experts, according to the proposal.

Bipartisan bill aims to extend protections of endangered fish: Upper #ColoradoRiver and #SanJuanRiver Basins Recovery Act targets preservation of native species — The #Durango Herald #COriver #aridification

Endangered Razorback sucker. Photo credit: Reclamation

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Megan K. Olsen). Here’s an excerpt:

U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Mitt Romney, along with Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, have teamed up to ensure the continuation of conservation programs aimed at protecting native and endangered fish species through the Upper Colorado and San Juan Basins Recovery Act. The recovery act has been included with the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Government Funding Bill that has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is awaiting approval from President Joe Biden…

The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs are set to expire on Sept. 30. The recovery act would extend any programs that currently study, monitor and stock four endangered fish species of the Upper Colorado and San Juan rivers through the end of 2024…

{Senator] Romney also showed interest in the impact of human activity and climate change on the Colorado River and its native species in 2021, when he went on a rafting trip with Sen. Michael Bennett and the Colorado River Commissioner and director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Becky Mitchell.

#Colorado’s Changing Politics — The Buzz

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

Not only has Colorado shifted to the sapphire “Blue” side of the spectrum, but its counties are being rearranged politically.

The chart below which compares the 15 percent margin in the November election between Michael Bennet and Joe O’Dea in Colorado’s largest counties, shows El Paso and Douglas are becoming more like swing Republican counties providing only modest Republican margins. They are now similar to the formerly strong Democratic Pueblo County, which regularly offers only small Democratic margins.

Denver delivers the biggest statewide vote, even in a lower turnout (67% in 2022 vs 76% in 2018) off-year election ahead of liberal Boulder and the new Democratic strongholds of Arapahoe and Jefferson counties. Among larger counties Republicans still win Mesa on the Western Slope and Weld in the North Front Range.

Among the biggest factors shifting Colorado’s voting patterns were the rapid growth of voters during the last decade (about 1 million voters). They largely settled in the Denver metro area with some overflow in Larimer and Weld in the North Front Range and El Paso in the south. They also primarily registered as unaffiliated. In 2012, unaffiliated voters were 37% or 900,000 voters. In 2022, they were 46%, and 1,734,000 voters. Since 2016, they have been primarily voting for Democratic Party candidates.

Political Landscape – #Colorado #Water Congress Panel — The Buzz #CWCAC2023

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

Politics in 2023 will be the topic in a January 25 panel of Colorado political pundits at the annual Colorado Water Congress conference. Republican Dick Wadhams, Democrat Mike Dino, and pollster Floyd Ciruli will visit the hot Colorado topics in 2023 and heading into the 2024 presidential election.

Among the topics are:

  • Congressmen Boebert and Caraveo were in the five closest elections in the country in 2022. Will they have difficult 2024 reelections?
  • Will the large Democratic legislative majority affect the ideological/partisan shape of legislation in 2023? Are there any restraints on Democratic legislative priorities, especially of the far left? Can Republicans have influence?
  • Colorado’s Independent voters (46% of electorate, 40% of 2022 voters) are center stage. How are they changing the state’s politics? Can Democrats lose them, can Republicans reach them?
  • Can the current Colorado political distribution of power address the urban-rural divide (agriculture, endangered species, water, oil & gas)?
  • Does the changing political leadership (mostly Democrats) among Colorado River states affect the possibility for new agreements on saving or sharing water?
  • Will Joe Biden and Donald Trump be the two presidential nominees in 2024? If not, who? Will Governor Polis be a factor in the 2024 national race? Hickenlooper, Bennet?

#Water Resources Development Act signed with NGWA-supported MAR study

Figure 2: Recharge basin with down-gradient recovery well.

Click the link to read the release on the NGWA website:

President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Appropriations Act, which also included the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA), on December 23.

WRDA is a biennial bill that grants authority and funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to carry out water resource development projects and studies.

For the first time since its creation, this year’s Water Resources Development Act contains a provision focused on studying the expansion of managed aquifer recharge (MAR) in current and future USACE projects. MAR is the purposeful resupply of water to aquifers for subsequent recovery or for environmental benefit.

The provision was drafted with the assistance of NGWA and its members and was a key policy focus for the Association throughout the year.

The provision:

  • Authorizes the USACE, in consultation with nonfederal partners, to conduct a national assessment on the implementation of MAR in current and future projects
  • Creates a working group within the USACE to centralize the corps’ knowledge on MAR and assist with feasibility studies
  • Requires a report to Congress on the results and data collected from the study and an evaluation of the benefits of a potential center of expertise for MAR
  • Authorizes up to 10 MAR feasibility studies with a 90:10 federal/nonfederal partner cost share.

The study would focus specifically on regions that have experienced prolonged drought, aquifer depletion, or water scarcity issues. The study would also include tribal lands and territories.

“Our country’s water future will rely heavily on finding new opportunities to expand and implement managed aquifer recharge programs which is why this study is so vital,” said NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC. “I would like to thank the NGWA membership who helped advocate for this provision and those lawmakers who continuously fought for it throughout the process.”

NGWA has been a leader in MAR research. The November-December 2022 issue of its hallmark technical journal, Groundwater®, was a special issue dedicated to MAR. The Association is also hosting a conference titled Managed Aquifer Recharge: Unleashing Resiliency, Protecting Groundwater Quality April 24-25, 2023, in San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about MAR by visiting the resource center NGWA has dedicated to it.

Red Wave Crashes into Trump, Abortion, and Democracy – Becomes Ripple — The Buzz

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

The Red Wave which the history of midterms and many 2022 polls predicted became barely a ripple. What happened?

As the National Political Dashboard for November 8 displays, President Biden’s approval was deep in negative territory (-12%), the generic test was tilted toward Republicans (2.5%), inflation was at 8 percent and the markets down, all elements of a bad referendum election for the president’s party.

But the election shifted from a referendum to a choice between the Democrats and a Republican party that appeared extreme to critical groups of independent voters, millennials and Gen Z especially women.

From the June Dobbs abortion decision through the summer January 6 House hearings on the threat to democracy to former President Donald Trump’s high profile interventions in Republican primaries in favor of several controversial candidates the spotlight focused on the Republican party’s vulnerabilities. Also a sudden burst of legislative accomplishment, especially the Inflation Reduction Act provided Biden and Democrats a platform to run on.

Democrats gained a seat in the Senate, lost the House by only 9 seats, and have two more governors. An exceptionally successful midterm for Joe Biden’s party.

#Colorado Republican Result Worse than Debacle in 2018 — The Buzz @FloydCiruli

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

I asked in a November 2 blog post if Colorado Republicans would best the 45 percent high they won in statewide races in 2018–answer, No. Jared Polis won the governorship in 2018 by 10 points. This year, Polis won by 19 points.

Along with the state sweep, Republicans were beaten in the marquee Federal competitions. Senator Michael Bennet was reelected by 15 points and the new 8th Congressional district rated leaning Republican, was won by the Democrats in a close race with more than 1500 votes. The seemingly safe district of controversial Congressperson Lauren Boebert was held by only 500 votes.

RELATED: Will Colorado Republicans Win More Than 45% of the Vote?

Election Denial Is the New #Climate Denial — and Still a Threat: The midterms may have avoided a red wave, but there’s still blood (and some anti-science conspiracy theorists) in the water — The Revelator #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article on The Revelator website (John R. Platt):

Let’s start with the good news. Several prominent proponents of former President Trump’s Big Lie of election fraud failed in their bids for elected office in the recent midterms, allowing Democrats to keep control of the Senate and flip several key statehouse roles. We won’t need to worry about the likes of Kari Lake, Tudor Dixon, Doug Mastriano or Mark Finchem anytime soon.

But here’s the bad news: We will still need to worry about them — and many others like them — in the long term.

Lake and her ilk may have failed at the ballot box, but zealots like her and Mastriano are unlikely to disappear for long. Fueled by conspiracy theories, right-wing misinformation and propaganda, Christian nationalism, and antigovernment extremism, they have too much invested in their aggressive identities to give up and go home.

And they still have plenty of support.

One of the most disturbing results of the midterm is the sheer number of election deniers who did get elected. By last count, at least 220 people won federal races this year after directly supporting Trump’s Big Lie of election fraud or otherwise expressing skepticism about the proven validity of elections. The candidates who will soon take office included at least eight governors and 10 senators, according to The New York Times and CNN. Hundreds more appear to have taken or kept office in local elections around the country. An additional crop of QAnon believers and other extremists lost their elections by painfully narrow margins, meaning they (and their voters) still have a lot of power in the broader political spectrum.

This is an environmental issue.

Election deniers also embrace a wide range of antidemocratic, anti-science beliefs and conspiracy theories — including casting doubt on the very existence of climate change and its threats, as shown in dozens of public statements compiled by Emily Atkin at Heated. All too often they use their comments to not only spread misinformation about climate change but to attack government institutions, left-leaning politicians, renewable energy, progressive causes, or the media.

Perhaps that’s one reason election-denying candidates received millions of dollars from energy and transportation companies leading up to the midterms, according to analysis by ProPublica and The Hill. It’s corporate support that gives these people a big chunk of their power. Now that the midterms are over and Republicans have taken control of the House, we can expect these newly elected representatives to pay back their corporate benefactors and support pro-business, pro-pollution, anti-voting policies, regulations and legislation.

Speaking of which, election deniers also overwhelmingly support restrictive new voting legislation that would disenfranchise young and poor voters, as well as voters of color — the same groups most likely to be put at risk from climate change and pollution. This threat will continue on both federal and state levels, most notably from four incoming secretaries of state who will now have power over elections in Alabama, Indiana, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Let’s not forget about the people who voted for them, either. The MAGA wing remains strong throughout the country and far too many folks still carry the Trump flag and bemoan the results of the 2020 election while finding new ways to threaten election officials, volunteers and voters — or government institutions in general.

And then, of course, there’s Trump himself, who just threw his red MAGA cap back into the ring and declared his intent to run for president again in 2024. The Insurrectionist in Chief continues to spread election lies and misinformation about both the 2020 and 2022 elections, and we’re still recovering from his four years of antienvironmental policies. If he ever ascends to office again, it will be more of the same and likely worse, fueled by delusion and his scorched-earth modus operandi.

Heck, we don’t even need to wait for 2024 to see what will happen. Even with their twice-impeached leader out of office, his acolytes have continued their assaults against the EPA, reproductive rights, voting rights, energy policy and other safeguards and freedoms.

They’re just warming up.

Governor Polis’ Administration Announces: UK-Based Indoor Farming Technology Company Chooses Loveland, #Colorado for North American Headquarters

Pressure is increasing on the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) sector–and costs are on the rise, too. For indoor farmers, the drive to be as energy efficient as possible is nothing new. The sector has been shaped by various developments, including an increased awareness of climate change, tighter environmental legislation and government schemes incentivising renewable energy. Keeping energy consumption down helps companies deliver against the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG) and internal environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets. This ‌helps generate real financial value and increases business resilience–especially in the current social climate. Photo credit: Intelligent Growth Solutions

Click the link to read the release on Governor Polis’ website:

Governor Polis and the Global Business Development Division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) formally announced today that Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), a Scotland-based agricultural infrastructure company supplying vertical farms to growers has selected Loveland, Colorado for expansion. 

“This is a great addition to Colorado’s strong, innovative, and climate-smart agriculture sector. Plus this expansion creates over 100 jobs in Loveland, helps our economy thrive, and contributes to a great future for agriculture,” said Gov. Jared Polis.

IGS designs and produces vertical farming equipment that enables indoor growing, eliminates the need for pesticides and fungicides, and reduces water consumption by recycling up to 95%. Because no arable land is required, these systems can also be used to reduce the carbon footprint of food production by locating farms closer to the point of consumption or production. Opening a base of operations in Loveland will allow the company to better support North American consumers, the company’s fastest-growing market.

“The forward-looking approach to economic development within the city of Loveland and the state of Colorado fits perfectly with Intelligent Growth Solutions’ purpose of working with growers to help deliver sustainable food security,” said David Farquhar, CEO of IGS. “The location is within easy reach of a huge market as well as supply chain partners and is a great place for our people — and their families — to live, with 300 days of sunshine and just 30 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park.

“The location of our North American headquarters is a pivotal decision in our evolution as a market leader. We are confident that our new Loveland base will allow our rapidly growing business to continue to expand and thrive on a global platform, as we deliver vertical farming infrastructure to enable real farmers to grow an expanding range of crops reliably, profitably and sustainably because we give them total control of the weather for the first time: designed in Scotland manufactured in Colorado.”

The company also chose Loveland for the strong, skilled labor pool. Overall, IGS expects to create 114 net new jobs at an average annual wage of $98,991, which is 183% of the average annual wage in Larimer County. Positions will include engineers, supply chain managers, customer support, human resource and legal managers, as well as roles in marketing and sales. 

“IGS’ technology, mission and people are a perfect fit for the ag-tech ecosystem that continues to flourish across our region and in Loveland,” said City of Loveland Economic Development Director, Kelly Jones. “Northern Colorado provides tremendous value to a diverse range of industries and we are proud of this truly collaborative, regional effort to bring this innovative company, as well as high paying jobs, to the area.”

“Innovative companies like IGS are building on Colorado’s strong agricultural heritage to create a future-thinking ag tech industry that will feed communities and support a thriving economy across our state. We are pleased to see Loveland become IGS’s North American headquarters and look forward to celebrating future accomplishments,” said Patrick Meyers, OEDIT Executive Director. 

“We couldn’t be happier to welcome Intelligent Growth Solutions to Colorado—their innovative thinking and accomplishments in sustainability make them a great fit for the state,” said Metro Denver EDC president, Raymond H. Gonzales. “Agriculture is both an economic driver and a part of history for Colorado, and as advances in ag-tech continue to evolve, we want our state front and center in innovative and sustainable solutions in this industry. The addition of Intelligent Growth Solutions will help bring this vision to reality.” 

The State of Colorado will provide up to $2,758,845 in performance-based Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits to IGS, referred to as Project Sprout during the OEDIT review process, over an 8-year period. The company currently has 220 employees, one of whom is already in Colorado. In addition to Colorado, the company considered Washington and
Massachusetts.

This week in #water: Did the Midterms Reveal an Emerging “Green Wave”? — H2O Radio #ActOnClimate

Click the link to go to the H2O Radio webiste. Here’s an excerpt:

Last Tuesday’s election was really good for the climate. Voters did not generate a massive red wave that could have swamped efforts to combat global warming. Instead, there could be an emerging green wave supporting climate action.

Among the winners was the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed by Congress in August, which combines decreasing greenhouse gas emissions with economic development and supports electric vehicles and renewables. Not a single Republican voted for it. The Atlantic reports that even though the legislation may not be all that’s needed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it’s still the country’s first comprehensive climate law. Now, with Democrats controlling the Senate, it is unlikely Republicans will be able to obstruct President Biden’s implementation of the IRA.

This election was significant because past efforts by Democrats to fight climate change have been opposed by voters. In 1994, 53 Democrats in the House lost elections after President Clinton tried, but failed, to pass a bill that would have supported renewables and imposed a BTU tax, like a carbon tax. Democrats in the House were again defeated in 2009, after they passed a cap-and-trade bill. But the recently passed IRA does not seem to have cost a single supporter his or her seat and, as E&E News reports, there were very few political ads that even mentioned the legislation.

In addition, voters in New York passed a proposal that will spend $4.2 billion on water infrastructure, climate change mitigation, and environmental projects—all while adding 100,000 jobs. They also kept Gov. Kathy Hochul, instead of her challenger, Republican Lee Zeldin, who had pledged to lift a ban on fracking.

Democratic governors who support combating climate change were elected in ten states, including Wes Moore of Maryland, who put climate change at the center of his campaign. In Massachusetts, the Democratic attorney general, who sued ExxonMobil for misleading about global warming science, was elected governor.

New Mexico is now the country’s second largest oil-producing state, but in congressional races voters replaced a Republican with a Democrat and re-elected two backers of the IRA. In Colorado, a Democrat was elected in the new 8th Congressional District, which includes much of the state’s oil and gas activity.

How the global energy crisis is pressuring countries at #COP27 – while some race to #renewables, others plan more natural gas production — The Conversation #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround #methane

Europe’s natural gas prices have risen dramatically in 2022. Privetik/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Robert Brecha, University of Dayton

Russia’s war on Ukraine has cast a shadow over this year’s United Nations climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where officials from around the world are discussing the costs of climate change and how to cut emissions that remain near record highs.

The war has dramatically disrupted energy markets the world over, leaving many countries vulnerable to price spikes amid supply shortages.

Europe, worried about keeping the heat on through winter, is outbidding poor countries for natural gas, even paying premiums to reroute tanker ships after Russia cut off most of its usual natural gas supply. Some countries are restarting coal-fired power plants. Others are looking for ways to expand fossil fuel production, including new projects in Africa.

These actions are a long way from the countries’ pledges just a year ago to rein in fossil fuels, and they’re likely to further increase greenhouse gas emissions, at least temporarily.

But will the war and the economic turmoil prevent the world from meeting the Paris climate agreement’s long-term goals?

Kerry leans toward Scholz and raises a finger as if to point while seated during the UN climate conference.
U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry speaks with Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, on Nov. 7, 2022, in Egypt. Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

There are reasons to believe that this may not be the case.

The answer depends in part on how wealthy countries respond to a focus of this year’s climate conference: fulfilling their pledges in the Paris Agreement to provide support for low- and middle-income countries to build clean energy systems.

Europe speeds up clean energy plans

A key lesson many countries are taking away from the ongoing energy crisis is that, if anything, the transition to renewable energy must be pushed forward faster.

I work with countries as they update national climate pledges and have been involved in evaluating the compatibility of global emissions reduction scenarios with the Paris Agreement. I see the energy crisis affecting countries’ plans in different ways.

About 80% of the world’s energy is still from fossil sources. Global trade in coal, oil and natural gas has meant that even countries with their own energy supplies have felt some of the pain of exorbitant prices. In the U.S., for example, natural gas and electricity prices are higher than normal because they are increasingly tied to international markets, and the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

The shortage has led to a scramble to find fossil fuel suppliers in the short term. European countries have offered to help African countries produce more natural gas and have courted authoritarian regimes. The Biden administration is urging companies to extract more oil and gas, has tried to pressure Saudi Arabia to produce more oil, and considered lifting sanctions against Venezuela.

However, Europe also has a growing renewable energy supply that has helped cushion some of the impact. A quarter of the European Union’s electricity comes from solar and wind, avoiding billions of euros in fossil fuel costs. Globally, investments in the clean energy transition increased by about 16% in 2022, the International Energy Agency estimates.

Developing countries face complex challenges

If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call to accelerate the clean energy transition in wealthier countries, the situation is much more complex in developing countries.

Low-income countries are being hit hard by the impact of Russia’s war, not only by high energy costs, but also by decreases in grain and cooking oil exports. The more these countries are dependent on foreign oil and gas imports for their energy supply, the more they will be exposed to global market gyrations.

Renewable energy can reduce some of that exposure.

The costs of solar and wind energy have dropped dramatically in the last decade and now represent the cheapest sources of energy in most regions. But advances in expanding access to clean electricity have been set back by the war. Borrowing costs can also be a barrier for low-income countries, and those costs will increase as countries raise interest rates to fight inflation.

As part of the Paris Agreement, wealthy countries were supposed to make good on promises to make US$100 billion per year available for climate finance, but the actual amounts provided have fallen short.

To achieve the Paris Agreement targets, coal, oil and natural gas consumption must decrease dramatically in the next decade or two. International cooperation will be necessary to help poorer countries expand energy access and transition to low-emissions development pathways.

Africa’s fossil fuels and stranded asset risks

A number of developing countries have their own fossil fuel resources, and some in Africa have been calling for increasing production, although not without pushback.

Without a strong alternative within local contexts for sustainable energy resources, and with wealthy countries scrambling for fossil fuels, developing countries will exploit fossil resources – just as the wealthiest countries have done for over a century. For example, Tanzania’s energy minister, January Makamba, told Bloomberg during the U.N. climate conference that his country expects to sign agreements with Shell and other oil majors for a $40 billion liquefied natural gas export project.

While this intersection of interests could boost some developing countries, it can also set up future challenges.

Encouraging the construction of new fossil-fuel infrastructure in Africa – presumably to be earmarked for Europe in the short to medium term – may help ameliorate some near-term supply shortages, but how long will those customers need the fuel? And how much of that income will benefit the people of those countries?

The IEA sees natural gas demand plateauing by 2030 and oil and coal demand falling, even without more ambitious climate policies. Any infrastructure built today for short-term supplies risks becoming a stranded asset, worthless in a low-emissions world.

Layer chart shows natural gas use leveling off in the 2020s while coal and oil demand fall.
The International Energy Agency’s projections show natural gas demand plateauing soon. IEA 2022, CC BY

Encouraging developing countries to take on debt risk to invest in fossil fuel extraction for which the world will have no use would potentially do these countries a great disservice, taking advantage of them for short-term gain.

The world has made progress on emissions in recent years, and the worst warming projections from a decade ago seem to be highly unlikely now. But every tenth of a degree has an impact, and the current “business-as-usual” path still leads the planet toward warming levels with climate change costs that are hard to contemplate, especially for the most vulnerable countries. The outcomes from the climate conference will give an indication of whether the global community is willing to accelerate the transition.

Robert Brecha, Professor of Sustainability, University of Dayton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

#Drought looms over midterm elections in the arid West: Democrats Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto fought for drought funding. They may both lose their seats — Grist

U.S. Senator Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, speaks during a campaign event with former President Barack Obama in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 2, 2022. Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images via Grist

Click the link to read the article on the Grist website (Jake Bittle):

This story is part of the Grist series Parched, an in-depth look at how climate change-fueled drought is reshaping communities, economies, and ecosystems.

Mark Kelly, the incumbent Democratic senator from Arizona, is facing a strong reelection challenge from far-right Republican nominee Blake Masters, in a race that could be key for control of the Senate. Last month, during a televised debate between the two candidates, Masters went on the attack, criticizing Kelly’s positions on several issues. 

Toward the end of the debate, after skewering Kelly on inflation and the border, Masters hit him on a more niche issue: federal water cuts on the Colorado River.

“A few weeks ago the federal government cut Arizona’s water allocation 592,000 acre-feet,” Masters began. “For all you water nerds out there, that’s a lot of water. Guess how much water California had to cut? Zero. Guess what Mark Kelly did about it? Nothing.”

The attack was disingenuous — there was nothing Kelly could have done to stop the cuts, since they were negotiated well before he entered the Senate — but a few weeks later, as the election approached, the incumbent senator made a similar plea. In a letter to the Biden administration, Kelly also urged federal officials to curb water deliveries to southern California’s Salton Sea, saying that the Golden State hadn’t done enough to conserve water, and that any delay would lead “only to tougher choices and litigation” between the states.

Much of the western United States has suffered under drought conditions this year, but the impacts have been most acute in the Southwest, which relies heavily on the Colorado River to supply water for cities and farms. So it is no surprise that drought has emerged as a key issue in the region ahead of this week’s midterm elections. Senators and representatives in close races have talked about drought in debates and campaign ads, with vulnerable incumbents like Kelly touting their efforts to fight the extreme weather conditions as evidence that they’re delivering for their constituents. 

While issues like inflation and abortion access still top most voters’ priority lists, the Southwest’s water shortage has nevertheless become an important talking point for western politicians as they hit the campaign trail, and could move the needle in ultra-close races like Kelly’s.

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck. Credit: Brad Udall via Twitter

As water levels in the Colorado River continue to fall, the federal government has instituted mandatory water cuts like one Masters alluded to in his debate performance, and users from California to Colorado are scrambling to find new conservation strategies to deal with the coming crunch. In response to the growing crisis, a group of Democratic senators from western states — including Kelly, his Arizona colleague Kyrsten Sinema, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, and Michael Bennet of Colorado — secured $4 billion in drought funding as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, which passed the Senate in August. Most of that $4 billion will pay farmers along the Colorado to leave their fields unplanted next year, which will ease the burden on the river. Other funds will go to long-term water conservation strategies, reuse systems, and other drought relief measures. 

Three of those four Democratic senators are up for re-election this year, and two of them — Kelly and Nevada’s Cortez Masto — are in serious danger of losing their seats. Arizona’s Kelly is polling just a few points ahead of Masters, who has gained support in recent weeks. Cortez Masto, meanwhile, is in a dead heat with her Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. 

Political groups backing Kelly and Cortez Masto have touted their roles in obtaining the $4 billion in drought funding in ads on television and social media, saying it shows how the senators have delivered for their constituents. EDF Action, the political arm of the Environmental Defense Fund, spent $1.5 million on Spanish-language ads hyping Kelly’s drought record.

“It’s easy for politicians to grandstand, it’s harder for elected officials to really be problem solvers,” said David Kieve, the president of EDF Action and a former member of the Biden administration’s White House Council on Environmental Quality. “When they do, their constituents are going to notice and it’s going to be of benefit to them politically.”

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat of Nevada, speaks to volunteers at a campaign office in Las Vegas. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images via Grist

Kelly and Cortez Masto have both talked up their drought credentials on the campaign trail in an attempt to show how they’ve delivered for constituents. Cortez Masto, meanwhile, has pushed the Biden administration to enforce tougher and more forward-looking water restrictions, saying the administration needs to ensure that “all states along the Colorado River take the actions that Nevada already has.” The state is relatively well-equipped to withstand the present shortage on the Colorado River thanks to its longstanding policy of banking unused water in Lake Mead, but drought is still front-of-mind for many voters in the state: Almost two-thirds of Nevadans consider dealing with water shortages to be a top priority, according to a recent EDF poll, ranking it higher than education and crime.  

But while talk of fighting drought is popular on both sides of the aisle, the topic of climate change is not. To that end, Kelly and Cortez Masto are trying to separate the two issues, said Elizabeth Koebele, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno who has studied drought politics.

Cortez Masto, for instance, has spent much more time touting the drought investments in the Inflation Reduction Act than she has spent discussing the bill’s new investments in renewable energy. She has also insisted she doesn’t see climate-fueled water shortages as a campaign issue, and has often discussed it without mentioning global warming. That’s in spite of the fact that rising temperatures have helped to make the current western megadrought the worst in more than a millennium. 

“Climate is not a priority issue for voters often, and so we’ve actually seen some of these candidates up for reelection in the West who have sort of downplayed talking about climate,” said Koebele. “Anytime drought gets attached to long-term trends in climate, it gets more politicized.” 

Drought has popped up in other close congressional races as well. In California’s agriculture-heavy Central Valley, where residents have struggled with dry wells and polluted groundwater for decades, Republican Representative David Valadao has waffled on the relationship between drought and climate change. 

“We’ve always had drier years and wetter years,” he told CNN, acknowledging that “there’s a possibility that [climate change] plays a role” in drought. President Biden won Valadao’s district by about 10 points in 2020, which makes Valadao one of the most vulnerable House Republicans this election season. His most prominent opponent, Democrat Rudy Salas, has not emphasized climate change as an issue in itself, but has touted his efforts in the state legislature to secure water infrastructure and support for ailing farmers.

Also in the Central Valley, a Republican farmer named John Duarte is hoping to flip a Democratic-held seat that encompasses the cities of Modesto and Merced. Duarte became famous for engaging in a long legal battle against the federal government over water regulations, and he’s spent a lot of time on the campaign trail talking about the need to build new dams to shore up California’s water supply, something environmental groups have long opposed.

The stakes around all this talk are high. The outcome of the midterms could sway the future of federal drought policy.

The current Democrat-led Congress has passed three major spending bills that all contained some kind of funding for climate action or climate resilience, with money available for drought response in each one of them. In addition to the $4 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act, the group of senators led by Kelly and Sinema also secured more than $8.3 billion in long-term drought funding in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. That money will go to develop new reservoirs and other water sources across the region. Nevada governor Steve Sisolak, meanwhile, has used money from the federal $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of early 2021, also known as the COVID-19 stimulus bill, to fund water conservation efforts.

A bleached ‘bathtub ring’ on the banks of Lake Mead near Echo Bay, Nevada. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images via Grist

If Democrats lose control of one or both chambers, it could imperil future spending like this. The House of Representatives passed a drought spending bill back in July that contained another $500 million for western water conservation, but the bill stalled out in the Senate for lack of Republican support. If the Republicans retake the House or the Senate, that legislation will likely be dead in the water, especially if Kelly and Cortez Masto aren’t around to advocate for it. Republican leaders have said they hope to use their new majorities to cut government spending and investigate President Biden, which takes even more drought funding bills off the table. 

Meanwhile, neither Masters in Arizona nor Laxalt in Nevada have put forward any detailed proposals for drought response: both candidates have said they believe building new desalination plants could help increase the West’s water supply, but desalination on a large scale is difficult to achieve. Laxalt has criticized Cortez Masto for supporting funding efforts like the Inflation Reduction Act, saying she “should have demanded real change in exchange for her vote on any number of Democrat spending bills.”

Even so, says Koebele, a change in who controls Congress won’t derail the ongoing negotiations over how to solve the Colorado River crisis. Those negotiations are led not by Congress but by representatives from state water departments, many of whom are longtime civil servants, and by major water users, who aren’t politicians at all. The same goes for issues like the Central Valley’s groundwater shortage — Congress can help out, but it’s up to local leaders to find permanent solutions.

“These water managers are closer than senators and representatives to the actual water issues, so there’s going to be continued momentum,” she said. “Policymaking is still going to happen, but it might change the resources that the federal government can bring to the table.”

*Editor’s note: Environmental Defense Fund is an advertiser with Grist. Advertisers play no role in Grist’s editorial decisions.

West Drought Monitor map November 1, 2022.

Unaffiliated Voter Returns Ahead of Partisans — The Buzz @FloydCiruli

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

As of Friday, November 4, four days out from the midterm election, a total of 1,099,847 ballots have been returned and unaffiliated voters are more than 4 points ahead of each of the partisan camps.

Unaffiliated voter registration began surging the last ten years during Colorado decade of rapid growth. It now is more than 700,000 votes ahead of each of the partisan parties. Registration is 46 percent of voters, a jump from 38 percent in 2018. Democrats are 28 percent, Republicans 25 percent.

Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper Deliver $60 Million from Bipartisan #Infrastructure Law for Arkansas Valley Conduit: Funding Will Provide Safe Drinking #Water for S.E. #Colorado #ArkansasRiver

President John F. Kennedy at dedication of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

Click the link to read the release on Senator Bennet’s website:

Today [October 17, 2022], Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper welcomed an announcement from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) of the distribution of $60 million in funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support the completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC), providing Coloradans with a secure and safe supply of water. In July, the senators and U.S. Colorado Representative Ken Buck urged the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and BOR to allocate funds from the infrastructure law for the AVC. The Weeminuche Construction Authority, an enterprise of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, has been awarded the contract for this phase of construction of the AVC.

“Sixty years ago, President Kennedy came to Pueblo and promised to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit to deliver clean drinking water to families in Southeastern Colorado. Since I’ve been in  the Senate, I’ve fought to ensure the federal government keeps its word to Colorado and finishes this vital infrastructure project,” said Bennet. “One of the first bills I passed helped to jumpstart and fund construction on the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and with this announcement, we’ve delivered more than $140 million to help complete construction and deliver on this decades-old promise.”

“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, long-stalled projects like the Ark Valley Conduit are moving forward. Today, we’re bringing this 60 year project over the finish line,” said Hickenlooper. 

Arkansas Valley Conduit map via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka) June 2021.

The AVC is a planned 130-mile water-delivery system from the Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley in Southeast Colorado. This funding will expedite the construction timeline for the Conduit and allow for federal drinking water standards to be met more quickly. The Conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962.

Bennet and Hickenlooper have consistently advocated for increased funding for the AVC. In May, the senators sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee to include funding for the AVC in the FY23 spending bill. In March, Bennet and Hickenlooper helped secure $12 million for the Conduit from the FY22 omnibus bill. Bennet and Hickenlooper will continue working in Washington to ensure communities have the resources needed to complete this vital project for the region.

“We have been working hard to move this project from planning to construction. This announcement follows the first construction contract award, and is a clear indication that the District and Reclamation will continue to partner in this long-time effort to bring clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley. Our Senators were key to obtaining more than $8 billion for the Bureau in the IIJA, and our delegation’s long-standing bipartisan support along with support from the State of Colorado have put the conduit on Reclamation’s front line for construction,” said Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board president Bill Long.

“The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and its construction enterprise are honored to be a partner in delivering safe drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley. Like other projects Weeminuche Construction Authority has been a part of, the Arkansas Valley Conduit has been a long time coming, but will provide enormous benefit. The infrastructure dollars for the Bureau of Reclamation, making this possible, are a credit to Senator Bennet’s efforts to build support for Western water infrastructure,” said Michael Preston, Board President, Weenuch-u’ Development Corporation of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“As a regional leader in water issues in southern Colorado, Pueblo Water is proud to help push the Arkansas Valley Conduit forward. Our strong relationship with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other partners helped make it possible for this project to come to fruition. Through this partnership, communities in Southeastern Colorado will have access to clean water faster than thought possible,” said Seth Clayton, Executive Director of Pueblo Water.

Background: 

Prior to this announcement, Bennet has helped secure over $80 million for the AVC.

In 2009, Congress passed legislation written by Bennet and former U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to authorize a federal cost share and the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Bennet then worked to secure $5 million in federal funding for the project. 

In 2013, Bennet and his colleagues sent a letter to the BOR to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) in order to expedite the project’s completion. In 2014, following Bennet and Udall’s efforts to urge the BOR to quickly approve the Conduit’s EIS, the Record of Decision was signed in February. After President  Obama’s budget included an insufficient level of funding for the project, Bennet led a bipartisan letter urging the administration and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to allow the Conduit’s construction to move ahead as planned. Bennet successfully urged the Department of Interior to designate $2 million in reprogrammed funding from FY14 for the Conduit. Bennet secured language in the FY15 Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act that sent a clear signal to the BOR that the Conduit should be a priority project. 

In 2016, Bennet secured $2 million from the BOR’s reprogrammed funding for FY16, after the project had initially received only $500,000. Bennet then secured $3 million for the AVC as part of the FY17 spending bill. Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit for FY18.

In April 2019, Bennet and former U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wrote to then-Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Feinstein, urging them to provide funding for the Conduit. Bennet, Gardner, former U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), and Buck wrote to the Department of the Interior urging the Department to support the project. Bennet secured approximately $10 million each year for the Conduit in the FY19 and FY20 spending bills. In 2020, Bennet welcomed $28 million from the BOR to begin construction on the AVC to help bring clean drinking water to Colorado communities. He secured $11 million for the AVC in FY21. He joined the ground breaking in October 2020.

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

30 Ways Environmentalists Can Participate in Democracy: Voting on election day is job one, but the planet needs your civic commitment every other day of the year, too — The Revelator

Click the link to read the article on The Revalator website (John R. Platt):

Wolves and frogs can’t vote, a lake or river can’t call their elected representatives, and a polluted ravine can’t blow the whistle on a toxic coal plant.

But you can do all those things — and more.

The trouble is, not enough people who care about climate change, the extinction crisis or environmental justice make themselves known to the people who can make a systemic difference.

“The truth is the environmental movement needs more political power,” says Nathaniel Stinnett, executive director of the Environmental Voter Project. “We can’t rely on politicians doing the right thing. Instead, we need to get more political power so that they lead on our issues because it’s politically smart.”

So how do environmentalists get that power, especially in an age when so many feel powerless? One route starts by engaging in democracy — not just by voting in the midterms or general elections, but by participating in our civic systems year-round, at the federal and local levels, on an ongoing basis.

“Voting isn’t important just because you can elect the right people,” Stinnett says. “It’s also important because in between elections is when policy is made.”

Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, public domain

It’s hard to influence policy, though, if people don’t participate in the political system. And if people don’t feel they have a voice, it can create a feedback loop that makes them even less likely to vote.

“In certain states, the number of unlikely voters who list climate and the environment as their top priority is twice as large as the number of likely voters,” Stinnett says. “You can see that data and get frustrated, or you can see it as an enormous opportunity.”

That opportunity comes from getting more people who care about the environment to vote and otherwise engage — something those who are already active on those fronts can encourage by being public about their environmental concerns and what they’re doing about them.

That will help build support for issues that, ironically, people already care about but don’t speak of in political contexts.

“Human beings are social animals,” Stinnett adds. “One of the most impactful things environmentalists can do in the civic sphere and the political sphere is to be loud and proud about being an environmental voter and a political activist. Your friends and colleagues look to you for cues as to what is good behavior, and it’s up to everyone who cares about the environment to model that voting is part of what makes a good environmentalist.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, says the most important thing beyond voting itself is to speak proudly about your environmental commitments. “One of the ways in which we could increase the likelihood that we perceive that climate action itself is normative is for us to speak out more as individuals and find ways to represent our climate commitments as a form of almost personal witness.”

Our personal achievements and goals have another benefit: They work as an antidote to the feeling of helplessness that pervades society and erodes trust in our institutions.

“Your vote is an expression of your commitments to things, and that has an impact,” says Jamieson.

So let’s increase that impact. Here are 30 ways environmentalists can participate in democracy to better themselves, their communities and the planet throughout the year.

1. Vote. That’s job one, in every election, no matter how big or how small, and whether it’s national or local. Too many environmentalists don’t vote, and that means their voices get lost.

“The simple truth is that politicians don’t care about the priorities of non-voters,” says Stinnett. “Politicians don’t poll unlikely voters. They don’t poll the people who stay at home. So simply by voting, you become a first-class citizen. You make sure that your policy preferences and your policy priorities drive decision-making.”

2. Encourage others to vote. Are your friends, family members and neighbors registered? They can check their registration status at Vote.org, where they can also make a pledge to vote. Come to think of it, you can do that, too.

3. Help others vote. Sometimes just getting to the polls can be an overwhelming challenge. You can help by freeing up peoples’ time — for example, by offering free babysitting — or volunteering to drive someone who lacks access to transportation or has health issues that prevent them from driving. Your community may already have initiatives you can volunteer through, or you can find people in need through Carpool Vote. (Need a ride? You can also find one there.) And of course, carpooling is always a greener option than each person driving.

4. Demand a plan and an accounting. Insist that political candidates and elected officials publish their proposed and current climate policies — then take that idea much further and make it broader. “I want everybody to have a climate action plan for themselves and for every community and organization,” says Jamieson. Each climate action plan, she says, should be “real and accountable, with demonstrated benchmarks.”

And this isn’t just about government. Jamieson says we should expect the same from our employers, our kids’ schools, our places of worship, and the companies with which we do business.

5. Keep track. Once people and organizations make their climate plans known, hold them to it. “We know when people make public commitments, you increase the likelihood they act on those commitments,” says Jamieson. “They’re going to be accountable.”

6. Learn how to sort fact from fiction during election season. The News Literacy Project and the League of Women Voters will host three webinars about disinformation over the next few weeks.

7. Be a good boss. Got employees? Give them paid time off to vote. Maybe close your business to the public for half a day so you can all go together. (Got a boss? Ask for time off yourself.)

8. Sign up to be a poll worker. Anyone can volunteer to do this essential job, not just retired folx (and unfortunately the need has never been greater due to ongoing threats against election workers). The website Stacker has compiled details on how to become a poll worker and what to expect from the experience.

9. Support voting-rights organizations. Think voter suppression doesn’t affect you? Think again.

“The people who are most likely to care deeply about climate and other environmental issues are young, lower income and people of color — and they also happen to be the three groups that are always the objective of voter-suppression efforts,” says Stinnett. Volunteering or donating to groups like Fair Fight, the ACLUVoting Rights Lab or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund can help ensure everyone can always freely elect their representatives and shape environmental policy.

10. Support ranked-choice voting. As we discussed in a recent op-ed, this is a great way to weed out extremist candidates and balance bipartisanship.

A notable victory took place this year in Australia, where ranked-choice voting helped push coal-supporting politicians out of power — even with the country’s media dominated by notoriously climate-denying publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. “I really love that it made a difference in Australia,” says Jamieson. “They basically managed to defeat the Murdoch anti-climate agenda with ranked-choice voting.”

11. Support environmental groups. Whether you donate or volunteer, they’ll amplify the collective voices of people advocating for better environmental laws and policies.

Coastal redwood trees in Humboldt, California. (Photo by trevorklatko, CC BY-NC 2.0)

12. Advocate for or against specific regulations, either by yourself or as part of a broader grassroots environmental effort. Rules and opportunities vary by state, so check with the groups and experts in your area.

13. Run for office (or encourage a friend to run). You don’t need to run for president to make a difference. Local offices like city councils, parks commissions, utilities and school boards — a particular target of extremist takeover attempts — can have tremendous impact on a region’s environmental policies.

14. Volunteer for local positions. Nonelected government and community positions need climate expertise. Is there a role for you and your environmental perspective on your local planning commission, library board, arts council, parks and recreation committee, PTA, homeowners’ association, Rotary Club or other institution?

15. Write to elected officials. Your opinions matter year-round, so drop your senator, mayor, governor or other representative a line to discuss what matters to you or how they’re doing. (You can do this on social media or through their official phone and email channels, which tend to have more impact.)

16. Sign petitions. Amplify your voice through collective impact. Whenever possible, focus on petitions organized by groups that actively collect and deliver your signatures.

17. Submit public comments on proposed regulations and projects. You may be surprised how few people do this, and you don’t want anti-environmental advocates to have the only say. You can find open calls for comment on the federal level at Regulations.gov, or do a web search for your state or county for more local opportunities (which you may find listed under multiple agencies).

18. Join lawful protests. The bigger, the better. The media notices, and so do politicians.

Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

19. Read banned and challenged books — and share what you learn from them with friends, colleagues and elected officials. Nothing scares authoritarians and corporatists more than independent thinking and dangerous ideas — well, dangerous to them, anyway.

20. Take a civics class. It’s probably been a few years; we could all use a refresher. You can find some great, free, self-paced online classes on U.S. government and civics from Khan AcademyHarvard Law School, the Bill of Rights Institute and the Center for Civic Education.

21. Support a free press. Read, share, subscribe, give gift subscriptions, buy ads, donate — especially local news publications, which have really suffered in recent years, and in too many cases stopped publishing. This has given rise to dangerous news deserts — regions without an effective Fourth Estate — an important issue for democracy. Studies show that informed civic participation goes down as news deserts emerge. And when civic participation goes down, corporate malfeasance goes up and government accountability declines.

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

22. Send local story tips to the media or share ideas for environmental coverage with the bigger outlets. Journalists depend on an active populace, and you should never underestimate the power of a good whistleblower. (Hint: We like tips.)

23. Have discussions. Not everyone fully understands the threats of climate change or biodiversity loss or comprehends the systemic causes of environmental injustice. Sometimes that means breaking through their sources of disinformation (Skeptical Science can help with that). Other times it requires some back and forth. The First Amendment Museum offers tips on having a civil conversation that will change someone’s mind, while Psyche magazine offers advice on how to have better arguments.

24. Avoid the cult of personality. Talk about issues and the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of specific environmental legislation rather than individual candidates. (And if your preferred candidate doesn’t win, don’t take it personally or get dissuaded.)

25. Show up and speak at town halls, planning board meetings, school board meetings — anywhere the public can help shape policy. The Earth can’t speak for itself, so someone needs to — especially since proponents of development or other destructive projects will certainly show up.

26. Propose ballot initiatives or their local equivalents. The process and nature of these types of initiatives, which allow citizens to vote directly on major issues, vary by state and municipality, so check with your local experts to see what you can do.

27. Self-advertise. Those ubiquitous “I voted” stickers on election day serve multiple purposes: They display our pride and remind others to get to the polls. But why limit that to one day a year? Buttons, bumper stickers, social-media icons and even memes can remind people year-round of the need to vote or otherwise participate — and hold you up as an example of someone who does.

Photo: Phil Roeder (CC BY 2.0)

28. Support libraries, museums, community centers and local organizations that themselves support an engaged, educated community. Encourage them to set up displays on environmental topics, organize speakers, conduct outreach efforts, or whatever best fits their mission.

29. Spread the news about the ways democracy is in peril. Attacks on voting, the right to protest, the media, LGBTQ+ rights and other freedoms are symptoms of the worldwide rise in authoritarian forces. And as authoritarian governments rise, environmental protections fall. (Nazi Germany and modern-day Russia are notable examples.) Keep track of these threats, especially the home-grown kind, and spread the word about the dangers they pose. (There’s no single source devoted to tracking this, so it may require keeping your eyes open. A good starting place, though, is these newsletters from Democracy Docket.)

30. Have (and share) a contingency plan. In our age of ever-increasing climate disasters, far too many people every year find themselves displaced by fire, smoke, flood or other kinds of crisis. Don’t let that interfere with your ability to vote and otherwise participate. Do your research early so you know how to contact your representatives or election officials in case something forces you to flee your community. And share what you learned with your neighbors so others aren’t disenfranchised.

And finally, keep going. You can find many more ideas for encouraging systemic change in our 30-day climate action plan.

Affordable Housing a Winner, Psychedelics a Loser — The Buzz @FloydCiruli

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

Colorado voters will pick their way through 11 ballot issues. With inflation and crime top issues, affordable housing may become the most and psychedelic drugs the least popular propositions.

Cornerstone Residences at St. Francis Center is a 50-unit community offering one and two bedroom apartments with a “project-based” housing subsidy attached to each residence provided through Denver Housing Authority. Photo credit: Archway Communities

The last decade in Colorado increased the urban, youth and independent (unaffiliated) vote. Polls show among these groups affordable housing, a sub-set of inflation, is a primary issue. It could benefit Proposition 123 that creates a fund to “reduce rents, purchase land for affordable housing developments,” address homelessness, etc. Its passage would put the issue on the state-wide political map.

An initiative (Proposition 122) to decriminalize psychedelic drugs, will likely lose as a victim of the Fentanyl crime scare. Its defeat will signal a retreat from Colorado’s drug decriminalization phase begun in 2012 with marijuana.

Denver Press Club Hosts Post Election Panel — The Buzz @FloydCiruli

Click the link to read the announcement on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

Who Controls Congress? Did Republicans Recover In Colorado?

The Denver Press Club will host a post-election panel of Colorado political experts to examine the November 8 election results—surprises and the expected and how it affects 2024.

Political analyst Floyd Ciruli will moderate the panel at 6:30 PM on Thursday, November 10, at the Denver Press Club on 1330 Glenarm Place across from the DAC.

Denver Press Club. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55520053

Inflation, Abortion Top Issues — The Buzz

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

In a recent interview I said the Republican running in Colorado’s redesigned 7th Congressional district needs to “go on the offensive” with crime and inflation if he was to win. A new Fox News poll agrees. It reports inflation (59%), future of democracy (50%), abortion policy (45%) and high crime rates (43%), the top issues with inflation and crime rates helping Republicans, and abortion and democracy helping Democrats.

Related: Combustible Issues, New Faces – Denver Post

New Poll Reality Check for Republicans — The Buzz

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

A new poll from Colorado’s Fox news outlet shows Democrats still dominating the top races for senate and governor.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is 10 points ahead of GOP challenger Joe O’Dea, 46 percent to 36 percent with 14 percent undecided. Less surprising, Governor Jared Polis is 17 points ahead of Republican nominee Heidi Ganahl.

This poll is especially damaging for O’Dea, who was hoping for polls showing a close post-Labor Day race to attract the money and attention he needs to pull off an upset. Bennet is not yet over 50 percent but he’s winning the unaffiliated vote by 15 points.

The challenge is that both Republican candidates are still not well known by the voters and Democrats have a significant financial advantage in the races. The advertising, much of it negative, is just beginning.

Opinion: #Colorado is failing on #climate goals. What did you expect? The transportation sector is the state’s biggest greenhouse gas emissions source. And it’s the area in which the state is most falling short — Colorado Newsline

Smoke from the massive Hayman Fire could be seen and smelled across the state. Photo credit to Nathan Bobbin, Flickr Creative Commons.

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Newsline website (Quentin Young):

A new progress report on Colorado’s greenhouse gas emission reductions shows the state is not on track to meet key goals. And anyone could have seen it coming.

The goals are set by statute, yet state officials haven’t taken climate action with sufficient seriousness to do right by the law, let alone public health and the planet. One hopes the new report inspires urgent action, though state officials have approached the climate emergency with a maddening combination of strong rhetoric and weak action for years.

Colorado residents will pay the price.

State lawmakers three years ago enacted House Bill 19-1261, a landmark achievement that requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution compared to 2005 levels by goals of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. As part of the effort to meet those targets, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission in 2020 established a regime to track and ensure progress on emission reductions. It set targets for a handful of sectors that are to blame for the most emissions, including electricity generation, oil and gas production, transportation, and residential and commercial building energy use.

The state has since made some notable strides toward hitting the targets. State law now requires electric utilities to file clean energy plans and work to reduce emissions. While renewable energy is becoming much cheaper to produce, and market forces rather than state action has much to do with the green transition, Colorado’s last coal plant is expected to close by the beginning of 2031, and utilities in the state are expected to see a roughly 80% reduction in emissions by 2030.

In 2019, the state adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard that requires an increased percentage of cars available for sale in Colorado to be electric-powered. The modest measure, which does not require drivers to actually buy electric cars, is expected to boost from 2.6% three years ago to 6.2% in 2030 the proportion of zero-emission vehicles sold in Colorado.

Officials recently enacted standards that require state and local transportation planners to meet a series of greenhouse gas reduction targets. And during the most recent legislative session, the General Assembly enacted a package of climate-friendly measures, the largest climate investment being a $65 million grant program to help school districts buy electric buses.

But for every climate advance in Colorado there’s often a planet-threatening failure.

As Newsline’s Chase Woodruff reported last year, the administration of Gov. Jared Polis abandoned one of its own top climate-action priorities, an initiative called the Employee Traffic Reduction Program, which would have required big Denver-area businesses to reduce the number of their employees commuting in single-occupant vehicles. The initiative was dropped following “intense opposition from business groups and conservatives, many of whom spread misinformation and conspiracy theories,” Woodruff reported.

Earlier this year the administration frustrated environmentalists again when it delayed adoption of an Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which would impose emissions standards on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

This is all aligns with the governor’s insistence on a “market-driven transition” to renewable energy and a preference for voluntary industry action.

Is it any surprise then that the transportation sector accounts for Colorado’s most grievous instance of greenhouse gas negligence? What makes this especially troubling is that, with all those internal combustion engines buzzing around Colorado roads, transportation is the state’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Additional strategies for reducing emissions from the transportation sector will be needed” to meet state targets, the recent progress report concludes.

Emissions from transportation in Colorado have in fact grown in recent years, contributing greatly to the state’s overall off-track status.

The average temperature in Colorado keeps trending up. Denver this year experienced its third-hottest summer on record. The city’s four hottest summers have occurred in the last 10 years, and 3 of 4 of its hottest summers have occurred in the last three years.

Climate change is contributing to the aridification of the Southwest, it’s depleting water resources and it’s fueling more frequent and ferocious wildfires. It’s killing people, and it’s getting worse.

Polis, a Democrat, sits in the governor’s chair, so he shoulders the most responsibility, but Republicans would no doubt exacerbate the crisis were they in his position. Heidi Ganahl, the Republican nominee for Colorado governor, recently released her proposed transportation policy, which is almost entirely about investing in highways and almost exhaustively dismissive of climate change.

State officials, to safeguard the wellbeing of present and future generations of Coloradans, must take urgent steps to meet the 2025 emissions reduction targets. The progress report shows they’re failing to do so.

Credit: Colorado Climate Center

Douglas County again meets about San Luis Valley water project: Commissioner says more information to come — The Douglas County News Press

The sandhill cranes are back in the San Luis Valley (2020) on their spring migration. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Click the link to read the article on the Douglas County News Press website (Elliot Wenzler). Here’s an excerpt:

Four months after announcing they wouldn’t use federal COVID-19 funds on the proposal from Renewable Water Resources, or RWR, the commissioners heard a legal update on the project from the county’s outside counsel, Steve Leonhardt, Sept. 13. Leonhardt, who recently met with RWR, provided advice and a piece of “work product” for commissioners to review…

In May, Laydon made the decisive vote not to use a portion of the county’s $68 million in American Rescue Plan Act money on the proposal. However, he said he was still interested in continuing to look at the project.  Since then, the county has continued to pay Leonhardt to talk with RWR…

Commissioner George Teal, a longtime supporter of the plan, said during the Sept. 13 meeting that Leonhardt’s advice reflects the current legal and political setting and that things could change in the decades it would take for the project to come to fruition…

Opponents of the plan have come from across the political spectrum, including Rep. Lauren Boebert, Gov. Jared Polis, Sen. Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa and both U.S. senators. 

Supermoon over the San Luis Valley August 11, 2022. Photo credit: Chris Lopez/Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the “Monday Briefing” on the Alamosa Citizen website (Chris Lopez):

Speaking of the November election, Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon is up for re-election in a race against Democratic challenger Kari Solberg. Should he win – and expectations are that he will in a county that trends toward local Republicans – expect Douglas County to make another full-court press on a deal with Renewable Water Resources. A renewed push, despite clear public opposition including from Douglas County residents, relies on Laydon being re-elected to the three-member board of commissioners, since it is a split public body with Commissioner Lora Thomas staunchly opposed to the idea of exporting water from the San Luis Valley and Commissioner George Teal a key ally of RWR. Laydon needs to win re-election for RWR to move forward. Upcoming campaign finance reports will show how big a bet RWR’s Bill Owens, Sean Tonner and other water exportation enthusiasts have placed behind him.

Part II

You’ll recall Douglas County decided not to use its federal COVID relief money to invest in RWR, but rather told its staff and water attorneys it has hired to negotiate and to continue working with RWR on the proposal. The deal was never dead – Douglas County simply took it off its public agenda while staff and attorneys worked on the plan with RWR’s Bill Owens and Sean Tonner. Earlier this month, on Sept. 13, Steve Leonhardt, the lead water attorney hired by Douglas County, met in executive session with the three commissioners to update them on his ongoing talks with Owens and RWR. Once November passes, and should Laydon win, expect Douglas County to again make its case for why its way of life in the suburbs of metro-Denver is more critical to the future of Colorado than the agriculture and environmental assets of the San Luis Valley and the health of the Upper Rio Grande Basin.

#Colorado Senate Race Barometer — The Buzz

Click the link to read the article on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

The Colorado senate race is being closely followed by the national media for indications of a Republican tide that could sweep even an incumbent out of a state that has been supporting Democrats since 2016.

In July, Mark Barabak wrote a column for the L.A. Times, “How bad could November be for Democrats? Watch this Senate race and see.” (7-26-22). I said it about incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett.

“He’s not in danger yet,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster who has spent decades surveying Colorado voters. “But [President] Biden is in terrible shape and if that becomes a major factor, a lot of candidates we assume would be safe could be in trouble.”

The Denver Post updated the senate race in a weekend story by Nick Coltrain (9-10-22). He reported that mixed signals from polls still don’t show a Republican win and that the national party has not put much money behind their candidate, Joe O’ Dea. (Since the story appeared, McConnell gave $500,000)

Read:
How bad could November be for Democrats? Watch this Senate race and see
How close is Colorado’s U.S. Senate race? Campaigns ready for a ‘dogfight’

#Water Shortage Is a Top Public Concern — The Buzz

A gate mechanism on the dam that forms Lost Man Reservoir on a tributary of the upper Roaring Fork River. Diversions from the Colorado River basin could be curtailed if water shortages continue, either on a voluntary or involuntary basis. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

Three new public polls report that water supply and shortage is a top concern for the public. Although many parts of the country are dealing with drought and excessive heat, this summer the problem was especially acute in the western United States.

A recent YouGov poll shows that overall concern about water shortages among Americans is 44 percent, but concern rises to 63 percent among residents living in western states. The panel survey of 7,627 adults was conducted in August 2022.

New surveys in California indicate that concern about water shortage is even more intense among its residents. The latest Berkeley IGS poll reports that 71 percent of voters stated the current water shortage was “extremely serious.”

A Public Policy Institute of California poll conducted in July agreed. In it, more than two-thirds of Californians said that water supply issues were a “big problem” in their part of the state. Californians were also likely to say water supply and drought are currently the top environmental issues facing the state.

The Berkeley IGS survey was conducted online August 2022 with 9,264 registered voters. The Public Policy Institute of California poll was conducted July 8-15, 2022, with 1648 adult residents by Ipsos with its online KnowledgePanel.

Berkeley IGS Poll – Seven in ten Californians describe the state’s water shortage as “extremely serious” https://escholarship.org/uc/item/49g699h5

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and the Environment https://www.ppic.org/publication/ppic-statewide-survey-californians-and-the-environment-july-2022/

Reprinted with permission.

Bennet: ‘Survival of the West’ in peril as drought drains #ColoradoRiver — The #Montrose Daily Press #COriver #aridification

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Montrose Daily Press website (Katharhynn Heidelberg). Here’s an excerpt:

Among the compact’s provisions, the Upper Basin is required to release 75 million acre-feet on a 10-year rolling average, equating to about 7.5 million acre-feet a year.

But years of parched conditions have made that tough and the dispute between the Upper and Lower Basins over who needs to do more to conserve the water has only grown…

“It is a reality that the Lower Basin is using more water than they’re entitled to. That is a reality. We are using less water than we are entitled to (in the Upper Basin),” Bennet said.

“At the end of this, we need a solution that works for the entire Colorado River Basin. I believe that’s a solution that should be negotiated among the states … and then backed up by the federal government.”

Inflation Reduction Act includes $4B for #ColoradoRiver — Steamboat Pilot & Today #COriver #aridification

The Yamcolo Reservoir was conceived by ranchers of the Upper Yampa River Basin and the Toponas Basin in the early 1960’s to alleviate frequent shortages of crucial irrigation water. Photo credit: The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District

Click the link to read the article on the Steamboat Pilot & Today website (Dylan Anderson). Here’s an excerpt:

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, says it will be “months, not years” before billions of dollars meant for water infrastructure, forest health and drought mitigation will start to have an impact in places like the Yampa Valley. In a speech at Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, Aug. 23, Bennet touted money for water in the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed at the end of last year, as well as drought-focused dollars in the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden last week…Democrats have heralded the Inflation Reduction Act as the biggest investment ever to address climate change.

“The No. 1 reason the Colorado River is providing less water every year is climate change,” Bennet said. “Between the voluntary (Yampa River) closures and the threat of mandatory closures, Steamboat’s economy faces a stark new reality. The same is true for Colorado’s $46 billion outdoor recreation sector and our $47 billion agriculture sector.”

[…]

Bennet said he believes many of these cuts need to come from the lower end of the basin, which includes Arizona, California and Nevada…The money in the Inflation Reduction Act is specifically meant to purchase or save water to be left in the river and prop up the nation’s largest reservoirs.

Bennet, O’Dea offer contrasting visions of a #ColoradoRiver in crisis — #Colorado Newsline #COriver #aridification

by Chase Woodruff, Colorado Newsline
August 24, 2022

Along the winding rural highways and forested watersheds of northern Colorado, the paths of Colorado’s two U.S. Senate candidates intertwined on Tuesday at a series of events that put a spotlight on the all-important Colorado River Basin and what fate awaits it in an age of catastrophic climate change.

Standing atop the dam at Windy Gap Reservoir in Grand County, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet joined state and local officials in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Colorado River Connectivity Project, a mile-long diversion aimed at improving the flow and ecological health of the Colorado River as it runs west from the Continental Divide. Nearly 40 million people across the western U.S. get their water from the Colorado River or its tributaries, which make up a basin that drains westward from high in the Rocky Mountains through seven states and into Mexico.

“More than ever, the future of the Colorado River is in doubt,” Bennet told a small crowd assembled under a tent beside the river. “You know what’s happening. Climate change is bearing down on us, and it means less snowpack and more evaporation. Flows are down 20%. Farmers are fallowing their fields. Outfitters are wondering if they’ll have a business in five years.”

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Windy Gap is among the first reservoirs to dam the Colorado River as it flows down from its headwaters on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Since the dam’s construction in the 1980s, conservation groups have raised alarm about the damage it’s done to the river’s ecosystem, blocking the passage of fish while letting through sediment that muddies the river downstream.

The $27 million diversion project, funded with federal dollars from the Natural Resources Conservation Service as well as private donations, will dredge a new channel for the river alongside the reservoir. Advocates like Mely Whiting, an attorney with conservation group Trout Unlimited, say the diversion will restore habitats, improve stream flows and “prepare the headwaters of the Colorado River for a much hotter and drier future.”

Bennet passed the microphone to a string of dignitaries that included Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Brad Wind, general manager of Northern Water, the utility that owns and operates the Windy Gap Reservoir.

Another key player in the project, meanwhile, observed proceedings from the back, joining in the applause while posing for photos: Joe O’Dea, Bennet’s Republican challenger in Colorado’s closely-watched 2022 Senate race. The first-time candidate is the CEO of a Denver-based construction company, Concrete Express Inc., which was tapped by the CWCB last year as the Windy Gap project’s general contractor. Clad in a hardhat and a safety vest, O’Dea arrived shortly before the groundbreaking and departed shortly after.

We have a crisis … If you look at graphic depictions of the Colorado River — it is dramatic. This is serious.

– Dennis Yanchunas, of Northern Water

O’Dea, who has consistently pitched his candidacy as a crusade against what he calls “reckless spending” by the federal government, wrote on Twitter Tuesday that the project — for which CEI has been paid $348,000 to date for design work, according to CWCB records, ahead of a projected $22 million construction phase — was an “incredible public, private partnership that promotes the health and vitality of the Colorado River.”

“It was good to see Sen. Bennet and other leaders from around the state there today,” O’Dea said.

Following the event, a campaign staffer for O’Dea denied an interview request, claiming a Newsline reporter was “biased” but repeatedly refusing to specify any substantive objections to Newsline’s reporting. Throughout the race, O’Dea and his campaign have repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding the candidate’s positions on climate change.

In June, O’Dea told an interviewer that he believes “there’s still a debate” to be had about the causes of global warming — a claim at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus that fossil fuel emissions and other anthropogenic factors account for virtually all of the planet’s observed temperature increase since 1850.

A map of the planned Colorado River Connectivity Project, which will restore one mile of the river along the south bank of the Windy Gap Reservoir near Granby. (Northern Water)

‘A very dark and foreboding time’

Dennis Yanchunas has worked in water management for over 30 years. He currently serves as president of Northern Water’s municipal subdistrict, which provides water to six Front Range municipalities via the Windy Gap Reservoir and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a “transmountain” diversion of water from the west side of the Continental Divide to the east.

Speaking at Tuesday’s groundbreaking event, he called the new plans for Windy Gap “a beacon of light in what is otherwise right now a very dark and foreboding time along the entire Colorado River.”

“We have a crisis,” Yanchunas said in an interview. “If you look at graphic depictions of the Colorado River — it is dramatic. This is serious.”

As the West’s water woes continue to worsen, federal officials last week ordered a series of emergency measures to further cut 2023 water allotments from Lake Mead along the Nevada-Arizona border, after the seven Colorado River Basin states missed a deadline for a voluntary agreement.

The “megadrought” that has gripped the Colorado River Basin since 2000 is the most severe dry spell the region has experienced in at least 1,200 years. Nearly half of the severity of the drought can be attributed to the rising temperatures caused by climate change, researchers say.

“There are two possible new normals,” wrote scientists with the Colorado River Research Group in 2018. “First is a continuation (and likely acceleration) of the current drying trend and the accompanying increase in variability … A second, and better, new normal would be to establish regional hydrologic conditions at a steady new level — a step change — that results from the stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at some new equilibrium.”

“It is time for water managers to both adapt for the profound changes the future holds and to advocate within the political sphere for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” the researchers added.

A ‘bathtub ring’ of mineral deposits left by higher water levels is visible at the drought-stricken Lake Mead on June 24, 2022, in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Bennet and O’Dea followed the groundbreaking at Windy Gap with separate appearances at the annual convention of the nonprofit Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs.

In an appearance that lasted 20 minutes, O’Dea touched only briefly on the climate crisis, and did not clarify what he believes the causes to be.

“What has raised the stakes and added to the complexity of solving our water challenges is the climate change,” O’Dea told the crowd. “There is no doubt that the climate is getting warmer and drier. Layer on to that rapidly growing populations in Colorado, and what you get is one hell of a policy dilemma.”

An hour later, Bennet spoke at length about the impacts of climate change and Democrats’ passage of a $370 billion package of clean-energy spending aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“I was here several years ago to ring the alarm on how climate change threatened the future of western water, and since then, matters have only gotten more challenging,” Bennet said. “The people in our state, on the Front Range and the West Slope, are deeply worried about what’s happening to the quality of their lives.”

“One of the best moments that I have had in this job,” he added, “is when I called my oldest daughter, Caroline, and told her that we had finally done something on climate — that we’ve finally done something to make it a little bit better for her generation, right when they really had started to give up hope.”

The clean-energy provisions in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act could help reduce total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 40% by 2030, according to independent estimates. Such reductions are likely to help stave off the worst-case scenarios for global temperature increases, but still fall short of the scale and pace of action that scientists say would do the most to limit the most catastrophic impacts of warming.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet takes questions from the audience at the Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs on Aug. 23, 2022. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

‘Collaboration and innovation’

Echoing the position held by many of Colorado’s municipal and agricultural water interests, both Bennet and O’Dea called on “lower basin” states like California, which use a higher proportion of the basin’s water, to cut back first, and praised Colorado water users for their successful conservation efforts. But they offered starkly different visions of the role the federal government has to play in managing the West’s drought crisis.

O’Dea emphasized the role of “collaboration and innovation” in solving water supply problems, rejecting the “heavy hand” of the federal government. He has railed against the Inflation Reduction Act, telling Axios that he “didn’t see anything in there that I like.”

The bill, signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month, includes not only substantial tax credits and subsidies for clean energy but also $4 billion in funding for Western drought resiliency projects, a result of last-minute negotiations to secure Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s support.

“We were able to get the language that we needed,” Bennet told the Water Congress. “In drafting that language, we spent hours on the phone with Colorado water leaders to make sure it worked for our state.”

As water managers both in Colorado and downriver continue their high-stakes negotiations — not only over short-term cuts but major revisions to the 100-year-old Colorado River Compact ahead of a 2026 deadline — Bennet said the fight to safeguard the West’s water future is only just beginning.

“We have to keep going,” he said. “We have to build on the historic progress that we’ve made — by making sure this funding gets to the right projects and lifts up the hard work of our state and local leaders, by fighting to defend Colorado’s seat at the table in the American West, and by continuing to push for more investment. Because we know this is only a down payment on what’s required.”

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#Water confab: #Colorado politicos call for more water storage, smart growth — @WaterEdCO

olorado Water Congress hears from Gov. John Hickenlooper at its summer convention in Steamboat Springs. Aug. 24, 2022. Credit: Fresh Water News

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

Colorado needs more reservoir storage and ways to manage urban growth in order protect its water supplies, prominent politicians said Tuesday at a major gathering of water officials in Steamboat Springs.

“Water is central to our livelihoods and its increasing scarcity is a challenge of the first order for everyone who calls the American West home,” said Joe O’Dea, a Republican challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet for one of Colorado’s U.S. Senate seats.

O’Dea spoke, along with Bennet, Gov. Jared Polis, and republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl at the Colorado Water Congress’s summer convention. The Colorado Water Congress is a statewide association that represents water districts, utilities, environmental groups and tribal communities.

“You can’t solve our problem without talking about storage. We know this region is getting drier and large-scale weather events are coming at unpredictable times,” O’Dea said. “That makes it all that more important to store water resources whenever they do appear.

“But we need a more rational process to approving them. Chatfield took the better part of 23 years to permit a single common sense project. Environmental review and public comment are central to good decision making, but they shouldn’t take decades,” O’Dea said.

O’Dea was referring to the successful effort to convert some of the space in the federally owned Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Denver for storage rather than simply flood control, which was its mission when it was built in the 1960s.

Gov. Jared Polis, too, pointed at climate change as a key driver that will shape how Colorado and other states manage their water supplies in the coming decades.

“Over the past two decades we have faced forces that threaten our access to water. The chronic, extreme drought, the changing nature of precipitation across the West. These pressures threaten water security, not just of our farms, cities and rivers, but the entire region,” Polis said.

“As a headwaters state, our resources flow to 18 states and Mexico. The entire region relies on Colorado to be a good steward. We’re proud of that responsibility and we take that responsibility very seriously,” he said.

To fulfill that responsibility within and outside the state’s borders, Polis called for more major investments in water sustainability, citing as an example the $60 million that Colorado lawmakers approved this year to fallow land in the Rio Grande and Republican River basins to improve aquifer health and ensure the state can meet its obligations to deliver water to New Mexico and Texas, which also rely on the Rio Grande, and Kansas, which relies on the Republican River.

“As we look to the future of our state, we need to understand the connectedness of water to the many challenges we face,” Polis said. “We are facing consistent growth in Colorado. But we can’t afford the water profile of exurban sprawl. We need to grow in a sustainable way,” he said, citing the need to develop more housing that reduces Coloradans’ per capita water use.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl also called for more water storage and promised to limit federal intervention in Colorado’s water affairs, including negotiations over how to reduce water use among the seven states that rely on the Colorado River. These include the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada.

“The Upper Basin states have done just fine working through water issues. But expanding water storage is a must … and we must go in a different direction [regarding federal permitting requirements],” Ganahl said, adding that she would push the federal government to streamline water project approval processes.

She also criticized the Colorado Water Plan, a multi-million dollar collaborative effort by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to ensure the states’ major river basins are able to plan for and secure the water they need. Ganahl said it was too expensive and bureaucratic and that the current work to update the plan, first approved in 2015, “misses the mark. As governor I would simply work to develop more water.”

Bennet urged the conference attendees to look ahead and continue the hard work that has already been done.

“The conditions are as dire as we’ve seen, and we have a very difficult negotiation in front of us,” he said. “The people in this room have stepped up and made sacrifices,” he said. “But we know temporary Band-Aids are not going to cut it. All parties have to live with what the Colorado River can provide. This is an opportunity to make decisions that will strengthen the West for the next 100 years and fulfill our responsibility to the next generation.”

Political pollster Floyd Ciruli said that so many candidates spoke at the water conference was an indicator of the national attention that Western water shortages are generating, and he gave the politicos credit for providing on-point suggestions for what could be done.

“All four of these candidates were ready for today,” Ciruli said. “All of them talked about water.”

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

Freedom in the west, but not for women — Writers on the range

Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the range website (Rebecca Johnson):

I moved to Wyoming a few years ago for its outdoor recreation, but I also liked the state’s history of championing equal rights for women. As early as 1869, it codified women’s voting rights, 50 years before the 19th Amendment did the same thing. Western women in the 19th century quickly proved their mettle, helping to build communities in rugged and isolated landscapes.

But now, sadly, Wyoming has agreed to subjugate women. In March, Wyoming’s governor signed a “trigger bill” that would ban abortions in the state five days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, which it did June 24.

Around the West, other states including Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma also passed bills restricting women’s reproductive health soon after the Supreme Court acted. Texas had a tough law that banned virtually all abortions since 2021, although their new law, set to take effect in the next month, introduces even harsher measures — a near-total ban, even after incest and rape.

Fortunately, some Western states recognize the needs of women, and are already being sought out by women seeking abortions who are blocked at home. Colorado passed an act in March giving anyone pregnant the “fundamental right to continue the pregnancy… or to have an abortion.”

Three coastal states, California, Washington and Oregon, said they would be havens for women seeking abortions. In addition, Oregon allotted $15 million to help cover abortion costs even for non-residents.

Corporations are also becoming allies. Apple, Citi, and Yelp adjusted their corporate policies in Texas to include travel for abortions as part of health insurance packages. Lyft and Uber have promised to pay legal fees if their drivers are charged with the crime of “assisting” abortion patients.

Ironically, when Covid-19 was rampant, I often heard Westerners express a common sentiment about getting vaccinated, or not: “It’s my body and my choice.” I almost laughed, as that’s the cry of women who want the choice of becoming a mother, or not.

Before the Supreme Court decision was announced, I began talking to people about their views on access to abortion, and as you would expect, reactions were mixed, though no one I spoke to for this opinion agreed to be quoted by name due to privacy concerns. At a block party, a 22-year-old Jackson man, who self-identified as Hispanic, said he thought of abortion as “one of the worst sins.” Then he surprised me by adding, “But a woman should be able to make that decision.”

At a pizza joint, a fourth-generation Jackson resident I’ve gotten to know, said, “I don’t think the government should have a say about your individual body… The government should be building roads. We don’t believe in big government.”

An Indigenous man in his late 20s said, “Humans should be able to make choices for their own human bodies. Otherwise, we’re going back to slavery.”

Still, I get the sense that many well-intentioned men, trying to be supportive of the women around them, are opting to step back and let women fight this battle. This reticence has started to feel like men are saying, “Not my body, not my problem.” Perhaps our state legislators recognize this reluctance to get involved, thus freeing them to vote against women’s rights.

Sometimes an abortion is unwanted but necessary for a woman’s health. Sometimes an abortion is wanted but will now be illegal. I think whatever a woman decides must be her decision, not a ruling from the out-of-touch Supreme Court or from a male-dominated state legislature.

Five years ago, a friend was forced to travel to a Wyoming clinic to get an abortion after a doctor in Idaho told her that abortion was “wrong.” She was angry, and later when she told her father, he said he was proud of her for “sticking up for herself.”

“It was the best money I’ve ever spent,” my friend told me later. “I wouldn’t be half the person I hope to be without making that decision.”

Men retain control over their bodies, but in too many parts of this country, women no longer can. Deciding whether to bear a child is perhaps the biggest decision in any woman’s life. Controlling and criminalizing a woman’s choice is a tragic mistake.

Rebecca (Bex) Johnson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, http://writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. She works and writes in Jackson, Wyoming.

Governor Polis Visits with Farmers and Ranchers on the Eastern Plains, Discusses Ways Administration is Supporting Ag Community and #Water #Conservation Efforts

(Governor Polis in Sedgwick County meeting with local leaders) . Photo credit: Governor Polis’ office

Click the link to read the release on Governor Polis’ website:

Today [July 6, 2022], Governor Jared Polis traveled across the Eastern Plains to hear directly from farmers, ranchers, and local leaders working to boost Colorado’s agriculture economy and to protect Colorado’s water.

This morning, Governor Polis, administration officials and community members visited Julesburg Gauge on the South Platte River to discuss water issues.

“It was great to be in Sedgwick, Phillips, Yuma, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lincoln, and Elbert counties hearing directly from producers and discussing how our administration is working together even more to protect Colorado’s water, grow Colorado’s thriving agriculture industry, and support our hardworking farmers and ranchers,” said Governor Polis.

Gov. Polis was then joined by the Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg, and toured Vision Angus, a local family owned ranch and farm in Phillips county that has been passed down for four generations. Vision Angus is a second year recipient of the Agricultural Workforce Development Program which aims to keep developing the next generation farmers and ensure our agriculture industries continued growth.

Governor Polis then headed to the South Republican State Wildlife Area and was joined by board members and other officials to discuss groundwater conservation in Yuma county. The Republican River Basin is supported by SB22-028, which was signed by Gov. Polis creates groundwater compact compliance and sustainability fund water conservation efforts in order to protect our water supply and retain irrigation systems in the river basins across Colorado. The Polis-Primavera administration is fighting to ease the effects of climate change induced drought seen across the state.

Governor Polis then visited the Eads Fire Department in Elbert county and met with first responders to discuss the Polis Administration’s continued support for first responders, including legislation that Governor Polis signed into law this year to provide additional resources and support for volunteer firefighters.

Governor Polis then traveled to Kit Carson county to visit the Old Town Museum. The museum is a historic site that has been restored to display the history of the Colorado Plains and local agriculture.

Governor Polis later traveled to Cheyenne county to sit down with local leaders and county commissioners from Cheyenne and Kiowa counties to discuss soil health and drought resilience efforts. Cheyenne Conservation District will receive support from SB22-195, a bipartisan law signed by Governor Polis which allocates additional annual funding for conservation districts across the state.

Governor Polis then visited two recipients of the Colorado Proud grant, Grant Grains and the Cleantec Mushroom Facility in Lincoln and Elbert counties, and where he discussed the administration’s support for producers and discussed tax relief for farmers including a bipartisan bill the Governor signed into law in the form of SB21-293.

(Gov. Polis in Phillips County touring Vision Angus family farm). Photo credit: Governor Polis’ office

#Climate misinformation still reigns in @GOP Senate primary amid #Colorado #drought, fires — Colorado Newsline #ActOnClimate

Temperature changes around the world 1901 thru 2021. Credit: Hawkins

Residents in Big Thompson Canyon east of Estes Park became the latest Coloradans to flee their homes in fear of a nearby wildfire on Monday, just hours after the NCAR Fire forced evacuations and closures 30 miles to the south in Boulder.

It’s been three months since the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes and left two people dead, and nearly two years since Colorado’s three largest wildfires on record burned in the summer and fall of 2020, razing mountainsides, choking the skies with haze and eventually causing mudslides that killed four people in Larimer County and left Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon shut down for weeks.

The increasingly tangible impacts of the climate-driven “megadrought” that has affected much of Colorado since 2000 — stressed water supplies, more intense wildfires, losses in the agricultural and tourism sectors — have served as a rallying cry for Democrats who highlight the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the 2022 campaign season has brought little sign of a change in Colorado Republicans’ long-running pattern of denying or downplaying human-caused climate change.

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In the crowded GOP primary for U.S. Senate, misinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories still dominate candidates’ rhetoric on climate and energy issues.

State Rep. Ron Hanks of Cañon City, the race’s only sitting lawmaker, said earlier this month that climate change is a Chinese hoax designed to “emasculate” the American economy.

Eli Bremer, a first-time candidate and former Olympic pentathlete, has spread debunked claims that wind power emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

And Gino Campana, a former Fort Collins city councilman who once supported the city’s emissions-cutting programs and co-founded a clean-energy startup, has joined other Republicans in blasting Democrats for holding back domestic energy production — an assertion belied by the oil and gas industry’s own statements.

Ahead of the state GOP assembly next month, climate change has rarely come up in debates and other campaign events featuring Republican Senate candidates. Several leading contenders ignored repeated requests from Newsline to comment on climate issues, and none have detailed a plan to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that an overwhelming scientific consensus says is necessary to avoid increasingly catastrophic effects. Other GOP candidates who filed to run for the Senate seat include Joe O’Dea, Deborah Flora and Peter Yu. Observers generally name Hanks, Bremer and Campana among the frontrunners.

“Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability,” wrote 270 scientists in the latest report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month. “The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.”

‘It’s called weather’

A Colorado College poll released last month found that 82% of Centennial State voters agreed that climate change is a serious problem, up from 60% in 2011. Nearly 7 in 10 Coloradans say they’re supportive of climate action, including efforts to transition to 100% clean energy within “the next ten to fifteen years,” the school’s annual State of the Rockies poll found.

Republican voters, however, are much more evenly split on the issue, with about half declaring climate change “not a problem,” according to poll results across an eight-state Western region. And despite periodic predictions of a Republican shift on climate issues from pollsters and pundits, little about party leaders’ views has changed over the last decade.

During his six-year U.S. Senate term, former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner acknowledged that “the climate is changing” but consistently cast doubt on the extent to which warming is human-caused. The same position is held by many Republicans in the state Legislature, including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker, who said of “so-called climate change” during a floor debate last year: “I do not believe that it is man-made.”

In fact, virtually all of the 1.07 degrees Celsius average global temperature increase observed since 1850 has been the result of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations “unequivocally caused by human activities,” IPCC scientists wrote last year. Non-human drivers like solar and volcanic activity and natural variability have had no quantifiable long-term effect.

Hanks, a first-term lawmaker who was present at the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and a leading proponent of conspiracy theories relating to the 2020 election, staked out the primary’s most extreme position on climate change at a candidate forum earlier this month.

Asked how he would respond to concerns about climate change in a general election matchup with incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Hanks replied that Republicans need to “start marketing the truth.”

“I don’t want to sit here and pretend climate change is a real issue. It’s called weather,” Hanks said to laughter and applause, according to video posted by his campaign.

Echoing baseless claims made by former President Donald Trump, Hanks called climate change a “serious effort from China to emasculate us” by impeding domestic manufacturing and economic growth.

Bremer, a onetime chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, is among the only candidates in the primary to have publicly addressed the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Our approach should be led by data, science, and common sense rather than tilting to the political winds of the day,” reads a section devoted to environmental policy on his website.

But Bremer’s recent claims about emissions from renewable energy sources like wind turbines are contradicted by a vast body of existing research.

“On the yardstick of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental policies fail … If you look at windmills, there’s a lot of greenhouse gas emission cost that we gloss over,” Bremer said in a March 23 Fox News interview, claiming that the emissions resulting from the manufacture and construction of wind farms offsets their lower operating emissions. “Virtually every expert that I’ve talked to believes that the overall return is negative.”

In fact, a 2021 analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden concluded that even when “total life cycle” emissions are calculated wind energy projects produce only a tiny fraction of the emissions of fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation. Evaluating the results of hundreds of previous studies, researchers concluded that the 13 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour produced by wind generation — nearly all the result of one-time construction emissions — are 77 times smaller than the emissions from a typical coal plant and 37 times smaller than emissions from a natural gas plant.

From smart-grid investor to ‘unleash Colorado energy’

Campana, a wealthy real estate developer who served a term on the Fort Collins City Council between 2013 and 2017, has attracted establishment support for his Senate candidacy, including endorsements from former Trump administration figures like Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Kellyanne Conway, who joined Campana’s campaign as an advisor last month.

During his city council term, Campana frequently aligned himself with Fort Collins’ ambitious emissions-cutting efforts. In 2014, he voted to approve an update to the city’s climate action plan, which aimed to reduce emissions 80% by 2030, and endorsed another resolution calling for the city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In 2016, he also expressed support for the “objectives” of a legal brief filed by city officials in support of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, though he didn’t vote in favor of it. The Trump administration later gutted the policy.

Years earlier, Campana had been one of four founders of Windsor-based Ice Energy, a manufacturer of thermal energy storage systems. Experts say so-called “smart grid” technologies are a key part of the transition to a fully renewable electric grid, helping improve efficiency and offset the intermittency of wind and solar resources.

In 2010, Ice Energy received millions in government funding in the form of tax credits authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the same stimulus bill under which California-based solar panel manufacturer Solyndra received a $535 million federal loan guarantee that became notorious among conservatives after the firm went bankrupt a year later. Campana reported income from Ice Energy in a financial disclosure as late as 2013; the company later moved out of Colorado and declared bankruptcy in 2019.

In a financial disclosure filed earlier this year, Campana estimated his net worth at between $44 million and $141 million, and detailed an extensive list of corporate stock holdings that include tens of thousands of dollars invested in both fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum and clean-energy firms like Tesla and Vestas Wind.

As he looks to win support from the GOP base ahead of next month’s state assembly — and fight off attacks from opponents who say his city council record makes him a “tax-and-spend-liberal” — Campana has positioned himself as a champion of the oil and gas industry, calling on policymakers to “unleash Colorado energy.”

“Biden and Bennet are stifling America’s energy production, costing us jobs and higher gas prices,” he wrote in a tweet earlier this month. That’s a widely repeated GOP attack line that’s contradicted by the thousands of approved drilling permits held by oil and gas producers in Colorado and beyond, and the repeated assurances companies have made to investors to limit production growth.

On his website, Campana touts his “background in environmental engineering” and endorses an “all of the above energy strategy” that he says can lead to reduced emissions.

Scientists, however, warn that plans for continued fossil fuel production by governments around the world are “dangerously out of sync” with the targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which called for limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.

“The research is clear: Global coal, oil, and gas production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the 2021 U.N. Production Gap report, said upon the report’s release last year. “However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn.”

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Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

#ClimateChange tops talk during Senator Michael Bennet’s telephone town hall September 3, 2021 — The #FortMorgan Times

The graph shows average annual global temperatures since 1880 (source data) compared to the long-term average (1901-2000). The zero line represents the long-term average temperature for the whole planet; blue and red bars show the difference above or below average for each year. (These data were among the sources of data used in the State of the Climate in 2020’s temperature analysis, but here are compared to the 20th-century average. In the report, they are compared to the 1981-2010 average.)

From The Fort Morgan Times (Katie Roth):

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet held a telephone town hall event on Friday, Sept. 3 to answer questions and address concerns for Coloradoans. Though Bennet spends a lot of time in Washington D.C., he has been back in Colorado for the past few weeks. He has held 30 events in 13 different counties across the state and came away observing three things in need of attention: climate change, both man-made and natural infrastructure, and affordable healthcare, housing and education.

“I think the United States has not been investing in our people or our infrastructure for a very, very long time, and it shows. But things are beginning to change. Last month, the Senate passed a historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on a bipartisan vote,” said Bennet…

Bennet is focusing on both paid family leave and climate change, as well. He advocates for paid parent leave so Coloradoans can stay home with a sick child or an elderly family member without losing his or her job.

As for climate change, Bennet recognizes the problems at hand: “We’ve got to act urgently on climate. If we don’t, I really worry that we’re not going to recognize our own state in a few years, and I think all of us refuse to hand our kids and grandkids a state where you can’t see the mountains or you can’t go outside half the summer and families live in fear of wildfire… droughts… There’s a lot of work to do ahead, and I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time that the agenda in Washington (D.C.) reflects our priorities in Colorado. And that’s, in large part, thanks to the feedback I receive in conversations like this that I can carry back to Washington (D.C.).”

[…]

A caller from Westminster in Adams County, Ellen, expressed her disappointment in Bennet’s lack of actions taken to combat climate change: “I appreciate you saying you feel urgency over the climate crisis, but you need to act in line with that urgency. Your vote to prohibit banning fossil fuel development on public lands and your vote to support a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Texas (were) so unacceptable. To prevent more severe climate crises than we already face, we have to end extracting and burning fossil fuels.”

While Bennet made it clear he did not regret those votes, he did explain his reasoning for them: “I believe very strongly that if we are ever going to actually get off of fossil fuels, we have to have a plan to transition off of fossil fuels. I don’t believe that we could just get off them tomorrow and be done with it without driving energy prices through the roof… what we need is a thoughtful approach over the next 10, 20, 30 years to get this economy to a net zero carbon economy. If we don’t have a plan to get to net zero by 2050, then we’re not ever going to do it.”

[…]

A woman named Irma submitted an online question asking Bennet how he is protecting Colorado’s watershed and water supply.

From his research over the past year or so, Bennet discovered that it would cost $60 billion to protect the west’s watershed. While that seems like a steep price, Colorado has spent $60 billion in the past four to five years fighting fires. Bennet wrote a bill called the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act which pushes to use funds for forest mitigation and watershed restoration. Bennet sits on the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, and he hopes his bill will be passed as part of the reconciliation package…

Marti from Lafayette in Boulder County, originally from Ohio, moved to Colorado to be closer to her family and enjoys the Colorado weather. She called with a question about poor air quality and frequent ozone alerts. More specifically, she shared her research on Suncor Energy in Denver and how it has not met federal admission standards for toxic gasses. She questioned how the company could be held accountable. Bennet was not as familiar with Suncor and made a note to look into whether or not that problem could be solved on a state or federal level or instead handled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Bennet also shared his wish to reinstate a law from when Hickenlooper was in office with a goal to capture fugitive methane from pipelines and drilling rigs, a law which President Trump removed.