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Colorado: Fort Collins moves closer to fracking ban

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SkyTruth created this map with 2008 data, showing the general location of oil and gas drilling activities in Colorado.

Town seeks to protect health and well-being of residents; critics say local bans violate state law

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Creating yet another headache for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pro-fracking administration, Fort Collins this week voted to ban oil and gas exploration — including hydraulic fracturing — within city limits.

The 5-2 city council vote came after a several hours of citizen testimony, with a large majority of residents apparently in favor of a drilling ban. To become final, the ordinance must be passed by another vote in a few weeks.

Arguments over the ban remain the same. Supporters of the ban say the industrial processes associated with fossil fuel development don’t belong anywhere near residential areas, and the chemicals and air pollution associated with drilling pose a significant health risk. Continue reading

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Colorado: Governor requests spending increases for education, wildfire mitigation and fracking studies

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

State ranks near the bottom for per-pupil funding

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As Colorado’s budget picture continues to brighten, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week requested budget amendments that would boost spending on education and allocate funds to study environmental impacts of energy development and for forest health work.

The 2013-2014 budget will be the first in several years that includes more spending on education and without any big cuts. Overall, the state’s general fund is expected grow by about $.5 billion, from 7.6 billion to $8.1 billion.

State budget officials said Hickenlooper’s request fulfills his intent to spend increased revenue on education, public health, safety and infrastructure. Specifically, spending on k-12 education would increase by $12.8 million, boosting per-student funding to $6,607 dollars, up $228 from last year.

Only a handful of states spend less per pupil than Colorado, including Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, North Carolina. See the rankings here. Top-ranked states like New York, Vermont and Connecticut spend about twice as much per student. Continue reading

Colorado: Udall pushes for additional wildfire funding

Recovery in an area burned by the Waldo Canyon Fire, near Colorado Springs, Photo courtesy PSICC.

Recovery in an area burned by the Waldo Canyon Fire, near Colorado Springs, Photo courtesy PSICC.

Emergency funds sought to help preparedness

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With some fire experts expecting another bad fire season next summer, a pair of Democratic senators from the Rocky Mountain region are trying to boost funding for the Forest Service.

An amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance offered by Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) would allocate an additional $653 million for firefighting and fire prevention.

The funds would be used to pre-position ground crews, hot shots, and air support in places where wildfire risk is very high. The funds also would be available for the acquisition of additional large air tankers and the removal of hazardous fuels in the wildland-urban interface, the fire-prone areas between cities and the backcountry. Continue reading

Colorado lawmakers ask feds to back off on marijuana

Congressional delegation readies bill that would exempt Colorado from federal Controlled Substances Act

Will Colorado and the federal government find common ground?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal enforcement actions in Colorado against individuals for possession of marijuana would be a bad idea, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis said Friday.

Along with 15 other Democratic congressmen, Polis sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and DEA chief Michele Leonhart, urging the federal government to take no action against anyone who acts in compliance with the laws of Colorado, Washington and any other states that choose to regulate access to marijuana. Continue reading

Colorado: Can we log our way to forest health?

Still lots of dead trees around the Colorado high country.

Forest health task force session wants to answer that question

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — just a week after Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support more logging, the Summit County Forest Health Task Force will hold a roundtable to discuss barriers to forest health.

The meeting, which includes lunch, is from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Frisco Community Building, 110 Third Avenue South, Frisco (one block south of Main Street). Participants include: Lyle laverty, Cary Green, Matt Sugar, Bruce Ward, Howard Hallman, Brad Piehl and Sandy Briggs. Please RSVP by calling or emailing Howard Hallman at (719) 491-1807 or future1946@yahoo.com.

Udall last week urged Vilsack to support proactive forest management by utilizing the timber industry to reduce fuel loads in wildfire-prone areas and improve community safety throughout the West. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.) signed onto Udall’s letter. Continue reading

Colorado: Post-election poll analyzes Latino vote

President Barack Obama.

Overwhelming Latino support was a key piece of President Obama’s Colorado win

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Changing demographics in swing states have already been widely discussed in the national media as a key factor in President Barack Obama’s win, but post-election polling that drills down a bit more adds some details.

The candidates’ positions on immigration and other issues important to the Latino community were crucial helping Obama win in Colorado, according to data from impreMedia and Latino Decisions. The polling results suggests the Latino vote determined the outcome of the election in the state — and that Latinos were under-represented in pre-election polling, leading to skewed projections on the closeness of the race.

In Colorado, Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by an overwhelming 87 percent to 10 percent margin, the largest split of all eleven states in the poll, for a net contribution of 9.5 percentage points to Obama (based on Latino Decisions’ estimate that Latinos accounted for 12.5 percent of the total Colorado electorate). Continue reading

Can state and feds find common ground on legal marijuana?

Is Colorado headed for a cannabis clash with the feds? Bob Berwyn photo.

Passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado sets up potential showdown

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —Even in the face of federal uncertainty, local officials say Colorado’s effective — if somewhat cumbersome — regulation of medical marijuana can serve as a guide for controlling the cultivation and retailing of marijuana for personal use, legalized by state voters in last week’s election.

Amendment 64 legalizes the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as soon as the election results are certified by Gov. John Hickenlooper, at the latest by Dec. 6. Possession and cultivation of up to six plants will also be legal. Continue reading

Colorado: Local officials eye new marijuana reality

Amendment 64 raising a lot of questions for local governments

Will Summit County get legal pot shops?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal reaction to the legalization of marijuana for personal use may be driven as much by political considerations as by legal factors, said attorney Sean McAllister, a long-time advocate on the cannabis front.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 by a large marging. The measure legalizes adult possession and cultivation of marijuana and directs the state to establish a system to regulate the commercial sale of marijuana for personal use. The ballot measure got 50,000 more votes than President Barack Obama in his reelection bid, and McAllister reckons that the adminstration may not be keen on alienating progressive voters by cracking down on the state. Continue reading

Colorado: Economic recovery brightens budget picture

Hickenlooper continues push to streamline state government

Increased revenues will bolster funding for education and social services.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — State lawmakers got a first look at Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed FY 2013-14 budget last week, including increased funding for K-12 education, as well as restoration of funding to other critical programs that saw cuts in recent year.

The FY 2013-14 proposed budget is $21.9 billion, of which $8.1 billion is from the General Fund. Relative to the FY 2012-13 appropriation, these amounts represent increases of $1.1 billion (5.4 percent) in total funds and 5 percent ($387 million) in the General Fund.

“Colorado’s economy is outperforming other states,” Hickenlooper said. “This gives us the ability to restore some cuts and modestly increase funding in critical areas of the state’s budget. But we still have a long way to go to fully recover from this recession.” Continue reading

Summit County Dems rally to mark start of early voting

Summit County Democrats look to boost turnout, early voting.

Big Summit turnout needed to win state races

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With absentee ballots going out Monday, Summit County Democrats are starting their final run-up to the election Sunday afternoon rally at party headquarters in Silverthorne (Summit Place shopping center, next to the Smiling Moose Deli).

State Rep. Millie Hamner and Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio are both confirmed for the event, and several other local candidates may also speak at the rally.

“We’re hoping to use this as a kick-off for our get out the vote efforts,” said Matt Inzeo, communications director for the Colorado Democratic Party.

Summit County has long been a left-leaning stronghold, but state redistricting has made the county more important for candidates like Emily Tracy, facing conservative Republican Randy Baumgardner in a district that includes rural ranching communities.

In 2008, Obama won 67 percent of the vote in Summit County, even though more than a third of registered voters identify themselves as Independents. A big turnout could help those Democratic candidates farther down the ticket, said local activist Sandy Briggs.

“There’s no question Summit will go for Obama. It’s just a question if he can match that 67 percent he got last time,” Briggs said, adding that there’s a lot at stake for Summit County residents.

A Romney administration would favor more commercial development on the county’s cherished public lands, and could reverse the progress made on increasing production of renewable energy — another issue that’s important to high country residents.

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