Colorado starts 2016 with healthy snowpack

Will the storm door stay open?

snowpack mapStaff Report

El Niño has been generous to Colorado this winter, favoring all of the state with near- to above-normal precipitation since the beginning of winter. As of Jan.1, nearly all the state’s river basins were above average, with only the North Platte and the Yampa drainages lagging slightly below normal.

Some past El Nino events have been known to leave the northern half of the state high and dry.

“Statewide snowpack is 118 percent of normal, considerably better than last year’s start” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading

Morning photo: 2015 summer faves

Water & wildflowers …

A few summer shots from the Summit Voice archives as we take a quick look back at 2015. Bountiful spring snowfall led to a fabulous wildflower season, not to mention generous runoff to boost water supplies and a great season for whitewater enthusiasts.

Colorado fracking battle to heat up in 2016

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Colorado voters may have a chance to ban fracking in the 2016 election. @bberwyn photo.

Fracking ban eyed

Staff Report

The battle over fracking will heat up in Colorado next year, as community and activist groups target the 2016 ballot with a series of initiatives aimed at protecting homes, neighborhoods, schools, and water supplies from the dangers associated with fracking operations.

Altogether, there are 11 proposed ballot initiatives, ranging from measures that would require greater setbacks from residential areas through to an outright fracking ban. Each of the proposed constitutional amendments would require signatures from 98,492 registered Colorado voters to get on November’s ballot.

A public hearing on the ballot measure language is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 5 in Room 109 at the State Capitol. Continue reading

Forest Service sets public meetings for North Fork coal mining plans

Plan could unleash 36.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases

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A federal judge ordered the U.S. Forest Service to disclose greenhouse gas emissions from a proposed coal mining project in Colorado.

Staff Report

The public will have a chance to weigh in on a U.S. Forest Service proposal to expand coal-mining on public lands in south-central Colorado at two public hearings, Dec. 7 in Paonia and Dec. 9 in Denver.

At issue is a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Colorado Roadless Rule released November 20. The study addresses a recent court ruling that blocked the coal mining expansion in the North Fork Valley, near Paonia, pending more analysis and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions associated extracting and burning the coal. Continue reading

U.S. Forest Service moves toward permitting more coal mining in Colorado’s North Fork Valley

Roadless rule exemption at issue in federal permitting process

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A U.S. Forest Service proposal to permit more coal mining in Colorado would unleash huge amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution.

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service wants to update a public lands rule that would re-open the door for new coal mining on about 20,000 acres in south-central Colorado’s North Fork Valley, near Paonia. The agency this week posted a federal register notice seeking comment on a proposal to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule.

The proposal comes about a year after a federal court set aside the exemption after finding that the Forest Service failed to disclose greenhouse gas emissions associated with potential mine operations and the combustion of coal from the area. Find the federal register notice and information on commenting here. Continue reading

Forest Service stalls on Wolf Creek land trade order

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A federal court has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to release more documents related to a controversial land trade and development proposal at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Controversial swap would enable massive development project at Wolf Creek Pass

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service continues to delay the release of records related to a controversial land trade in southwestern Colorado.

Last week, a federal court granted the agency’s request for a 30-day extension to turn over letters, memos and other documents from a long-running review of the Wolf Creek land trade — a swap that would enable a massive resort development in the middle of an important wildlife area.

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel ruled that the Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act and ordered the agency to release the documents on the controversial land trade by Oct. 30. Conservation groups critical of the trade say the paper trail may show that the decision-making process was tainted by political influence. Continue reading

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper challenges State Attorney General over federal environmental rule lawsuits

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says only he has the power to decide whether to sue the federal government over environmental regulations. @bberwyn photo.

Petition to Colorado Supreme Court seeks clarity 

By Bob Berwyn

In a petition to the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says the state’s attorney general has wasted taxpayer dollars and undermined the authority of the executive branch by joining a series of lawsuits against the federal government.

Specifically, Hickenlooper said Attorney General Cynthia Coffman didn’t have the authority to enmesh Colorado in lawsuits against federal fracking rules, federal clean water rules and the EPA’s Clean Power plan. Continue reading

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