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BP hit with $4.5 billion fine for Gulf oil spill

Company accepts criminal responsibility for 2010 disaster

A NASA satellite captures an image of a swirling oil slick from BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After spending more than $14 billion on the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP will pay another $4.5 billion in penalties under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the biggest fine ever levied by the department.

Federal officials said they will also pursue gross negligence charges under the Clean Water Act, which could result in up to $20 billion in additional fines, ranging up to $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil.

The explosion killed 11 workers on the drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico and sent millions of gallons of crude oil spewing into the water, damaging fisheries, smearing beaches and wetlands and squelching tourism in the region for months. Followup studies have shown that oil remnants may affect Gulf ecosystems for years to come. Continue reading

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Breckenridge: Council eyes medical marijuana tax

New federal government rules probably won’t affect town plans

Would Breckenridge voters approve a sales tax on medical marijuana?

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Breckenridge Town Council will discuss a proposed ordinance that would levy a 5 percent sales tax on retail sales of medical marijuana starting Jan. 1, 2012. The tax could generate more than $40,000 annually for the town, but is subject to approval by voters under the TABOR amendment.

In a short memo council members, town attorney Tim Berry discussed the potential implications of a recent guidance memo from the U.S. Department of Justice, which appears to take aim at large-scale medical marijuana businesses.

Berry said he doesn’t think there’s been a wholesale shift in the federal government’s stance on state-regulated medical marijuana. But the last paragraph of the memo states that, “those who knowingly facilitate” businesses engaged in the cultivation, sale or distribution of medical marijuana may be subject to federal prosecution. Continue reading

States, feds spar over medical marijuana

The clash between states and the federal government over medical marijuana may be intensifying.

U.S. Department of Justice memo appears to target commercial medical marijuana growers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, is sparring with the U.S. Department of Justice over the language of a June 29 memo from the federal agency that seems to target large-scale medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.

The memo is intended to clarify the federal government’s role in enforcing the prohibition on illegal drug use. The widespread legalization of medical cannabis has resulted in some confusion in a classic case of states’ rights versus federal law. Federal  officials are obligated to enforce the controlled substances act, even as more and more states legalize medical use of marijuana.

In a related story, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that drug-related school expulsions have soared in the Poudre School District as medical marijuana use becomes more widespread. Continue reading

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