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Colorado: More lip service, but no action on water conservation

Snake River melt-off.

Snake River melt-off.

Gov. Hickenlooper vetoes measure that could have benefited all Colorado water users, including the environment

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado’s old-school water buffaloes are more than willing to pay lip service to conservation, but when they actually have a chance to walk the walk … well, it’s business as usual.

Bowing to pressure from agricultural users, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week vetoed a bill that would have encouraged voluntary conservation measures and given incentives for private investment in conservation. Continue reading

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Colorado: Wildfire task force report suggests crackdown on red zone development

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The cost of property damage caused by wildfires has spiked in recent years.

More disastrous fires ahead with sustained effort to address threat

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Increased development in fire-prone forest lands in Colorado “ensures that the pattern of damaging wildfire will continue,” according to a state task force report released last week.

The report was delivered to Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislative after two consecutive years of deadly and destructive fires along the Front Range.

The report calls for rating the wildfire risks on individual properties, and facilitating mitigation and prevention measures at the local level. Property owners in the red zone should be primarily responsible for adressing wildfire dangers, to the point of paying special fees to help fund mitigation efforts. Continue reading

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper temporarily blocks death penalty for convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap

Executive order cites concerns about Colorado’s capital punishment system

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Convicted murderer Nathan J. Dunlap got a temporary reprieve from the death penalty, as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper exercised his authority to make a final review of the death sentence.

Dunlap, then 19, killed five people at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in Aurora in 1993.

Hickenlooper cited concerns about possible flaws in the administration of Colorado’s death penalty, as well as a national and international trend toward abolishing the death penalty, as reasons for his decision. Continue reading

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper seeks statewide water plan

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Water pours down the Blue River in the high runoff of July 2011. Bob Berwyn photo.

Governor says state must figure out a way to address impending shortages

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado water experts will try to figure out how to manage the state’s most precious resource in an era when all signs points to increasing shortages and the potential for growing conflicts within the state and the region over its allocation.

Under an executive order issued this week by Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will lead the effort to address the growing gap between supply and demand. Especially worrisome is the gap in the South Platte Basin, the state’s most populous and at the same time, the most productive agricultural basin.

Hickenlooper acknowledged that the recurring drought could hasten the impacts of the gap between supply and demand, noting that the past two decades have been Colorado’s warmest on record, dating back to the 1890s. Read the order here. Continue reading

Colorado makes bid for federal drone test site

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes. USGS photo.

Federal biologists use a drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes. USGS photo.

Political leaders pitch Colorado in a letter to the FAA

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado could be in the mix as the Federal Aviation Administration prepares to select six sites around the country to test drone technology, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems, as they are formally known.

Federal and state wildlife biologists are already testing drones to monitor birds in Colorado. NASA is also using drones to study tropospheric climate drivers, as well as hurricanes.

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, Gov. John Hickenlooper and five of Colorado’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently sent a letter to the Federal Aviation FAA, urging the agency to choose Colorado. The bipartisan letter notes Colorado’s “unique mix of qualifications” for one of the test sites, including its thriving aerospace industry presence and the state’s world-class institutions of higher education. Continue reading

Colorado: Strange dénouement to legislative oil and gas saga, as Hickenlooper orders COGCC to overhaul fines

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Colorado may update its enforcement policies for oil and gas drilling operations.

More fracking debates ahead …

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After the Colorado General Assembly stumbled in its efforts to get a better regulatory handle on oil and gas drilling, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will get another bite at the apple.

Gov. John Hickenlooper this week ordered the commission to review its enforcement program, penalty structure and imposition of fines. The review was ordered state lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on a bill that would have revised Colorado’s outdated enforcement system.

Under a COGCC rule-making process, the public would also be able to participate in a revision. Continue reading

Colorado panel finishes marijuana report

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Report outlines recommendations for the implementation of Amendment 64.

State task force recommends excise tax, labeling rules

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A  task force says its final recommendations for implementing Amendment 64, which legalizes adult marijuana use in Colorado, lays the groundwork for a robust state regulatory framework that will ensure adequate oversight, consumer protection and prevention and treatment programs for young people.

Key recommendations include what the task force is calling “vertical integration,” meaning that cultivation, processing and manufacturing, and retail sales must be under common ownership. Continue reading

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

Colorado: Governor forms new wildfire advisory groups

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A Summit County firefighter tackles a roadside blaze in March, 2012 near Keystone, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Red Zone population increases. climate change and continued drought add urgency to the wildfire discussions

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Responding to last summer’s destructive Colorado wildfires, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week authorized creation of new advisory groups to try reduce the impacts of future fires and to try and reduce the chances of big fires in residential areas.

Last year, the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires destroyed hundreds of homes near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, costing millions of dollars in damages and relocation costs, as well as firefighting and post-burn restoration. Continue reading

Colorado: Budget juggling to speed highway projects

New accounting system doesn’t solve state’s long-term transportation woes

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Highway projects in Colorado will get a boost from a new budgeting regime.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado transportation officials say they will juggle their budgets to accelerate completion of transportation projects and create or sustain more than 10,500 jobs over five years.

Currently, CDOT does not advertise a project until all of the money is “in the bank,” which means the department is saving money for projects over multiple years before construction begins. In addition, some projects take several years to construct, so money often sits unspent when it could be used much sooner.

Under the new program, CDOT will fund multi-year projects based on year of expenditure, rather than saving for the full amount of a project before construction begins. This effort will match project expenditures with available revenues and allow CDOT to allocate an additional $300 million per year over five years to transportation projects over the next five years. Continue reading

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