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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 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

Colorado: Marijuana task force starts meeting Dec. 17

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The federal response to Colorado’s marijuana-legalizing Amendment 64 is still unclear. Bob Berwyn photo.

Stakeholders will develop recommendations for regulating legalized marijuana consumption and cultivation

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A state task force charged with implementing Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalizes personal consumption and cultivation of marijuana — will be working under a tight schedule, meeting weekly to develop recommendations that will be delivered to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the State Legislature no later than the end of February.

That will help set the stage for the next technical step in the process of regulating marijuana in a way similar to alcohol, with state agencies required to develop regulations for that process by July 1, according to Sean McAllister, a Breckenridge-based attorney and spokesman for Colorado NORML.

AP reporter Kristen Wyatt tweeting from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s press conference on marijuana legalization:

McAllister said the task force, representing an array of stakeholders ranging from local governments and health and safety officials to the state department of agriculture and medical marijuana providers, will meet weekly. Read the executive order establishing the task force here.

Read the executive order codifying Amendment 64 here. 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 conservation groups urge feds to continue with careful review of massive new Colorado River diversions

A Colorado River headwaters stream just below the Denver Water diversion point.

Letter to Corps of Engineers and EPA calls for careful scrutiny

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado water and environmental advocates say they’re concerned that fast-tracking the federal environmental review for the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project could lead the responsible agencies to leave out important information and not fully address the impacts of new water diversions from the Colorado River.

“We’re worried that that we’re going to hit fast forward and miss some things,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator with the Colorado Environmental Coalition, explaining why several groups recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, reiterating their concerns about water temperatures and sediment loading in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

The fast-tracking was requested by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper back in June. In a June 5 letter to President Barack Obama, Hickenlooper touted a far-reaching water agreement as “removing” West Slope opposition to the Moffat project, and urged the Corps to release a final Environmental Impact Statement by the end of 2012, followed by a formal decision in early 2013. Continue reading

Gov. Hickenlooper to visit Frisco for forest health session

Two meetings next week to focus on forest and wildfire issues

Summit County residents are invited to a forest health powwow with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Grappling with the aftermath of Colorado’s most destructive wildfire season on record, state, federal and local officials will meet Oct. 12 for a half-day forest health summit at the Colorado History Center in Denver.

And in what could be a condensed preview of the Denver powwow, Gov. Hickenlooper will visit Summit County Oct. 10 to participate in a one-hour forest health and wildfire forum at the Summit County Community and Senior Center (10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.).

“Obviously Gov. Hickenlooper is the headliner … it’s an opportunity for Summit County to share with the Governor concerns, successes and opportunities on forest health,” said county commissioner Dan Gibbs, explaining that the session is partly aimed at sharing information about potential options to protect Colorado communities from a repeat of this past summer’s fires. Continue reading

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