bureau of land management Archives - Colorado Politics
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Tom RamstackTom RamstackNovember 30, 20176min105
WASHINGTON — Colorado U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton used the West Elk Mine near Somerset as an example of unnecessary delays from environmental regulatory procedures during a congressional hearing Wednesday. The coal mine won U.S. Forest Service approval to expand its operations in September. Work to build roads and methane vents on the site is scheduled […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 10, 20175min6930

Conservation Colorado is this juggernaut green organization that gives state and national candidates the heebie-jeebies in the West’s political wilds. Last year, 54 of the 60 candidates it endorsed went on to win.

And whenever legislation affecting the environment, large or small, is debated at the Capitol in Denver, Conservation Colorado is there in big ways and small.

But this year Conservation Colorado made its first municipal-level endorsements in Aurora Wards I and II.

Michal Rosenoer, the organization’s Front Range field manager, and her organization also helped campaign for Crystal Murillo and Nicole Johnston, too.

“This election is also an important triumph of progressive values and people-power over oil and gas-backed interests,” Rosenoer said. “Despite industry front group Vital for Colorado investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on these and other local races at the eleventh hour, voters ultimately picked candidates who pledged to stand up for our right to clean air, open spaces, and healthy communities.”

She also said, “Crystal and Nicole will bring a much-needed focus on diversity and inclusivity to the Aurora City Council, and will be champions on issues including oil and gas, transportation, growth, and social and environmental justice.”

The day after the election, however, Rosenoer, the Front Range leader, was tweeting about what was going down on the Western Slope the day before the election.

A protest over methane gas in Durango clearly warmed the spirits of the state’s largest environmental organization, which seems to have a lot of fires on a lot of fronts these days. (Donald Trump is good for business, if you make being your business.)

The Durango Herald’s Jonathan Romero reported that about 100 people gathered in a Durango park to raise a ruckus over Trump’s rollback of bipartisan rules passed last year to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells on public lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

“Without this rule our county could face terrible health impacts,” Kellie Pettyjohn, a local farmer, told the Herald. “We don’t want this one-year delay. We want this rule in place.”

Based on rules first adopted in Colorado, the BLM methane rule would affect more than 100,000 wells that Romero reports can release up to 180,000 tons of methane annual a year. Moreover that’s methane that could be captured and sold to bring in additional money for schools and other public projects.

Conservation Colorado was all over the local activism.

Lisa Pool, Conservation Colorado’s field organizer for Durango, told us more:

“It was remarkable to see how well the protest was attended and how passionate people were about the subject,” she told Colorado Politics. “Here in Durango we suffer from a cloud of methane pollution, so the issue is visceral for people. They were infuriated not only by the proposed delay, but also by how limited the public is allowed to be engaged by the process. Protestors of all ages were fired up and chanting throughout.”

The organization Thursday announced it’s promoting communications director Jessica Goad to deputy director, where she’ll “work more directly on elections, campaigns, building the team, and helping hire a new executive director.” Pete Maysmith stepped down as the organization’s leader last month to take on a national role with the League of Conservation Voters.



Tom RamstackTom RamstackNovember 8, 20176min31
WASHINGTON — A congressional committee that includes two Colorado congressmen approved a bill Wednesday that would give states greater control over rights to extract oil and gas from federal land. Colorado U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton is a supporter of the bill, called the Secure American Energy Act. A controversy over the legislation is whether states […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 3, 20179min1230

The news of the week in Colorado Politics ran to and from Washington, with the visit of congressional Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, while Gov. John Hickenlooper made a pitch to Washington on healthcare.

These are the stories out staff thinks you should keep in mind in the days and weeks ahead:

El Paso County GOP Chair Trevor Dierdorff (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

5. Dierdorff, we hardly knew you

Trevor Dierdorff came in as a “political outsider,” and now he’s headed back outside. He said in an e-mail Thursday he’s stepping down as chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, the GOP’s largest county chapter. Dierdorff said he wants to focus on his family and business.

Read the full story here.

 

In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi is advising fellow Democrats to change their cellphone numbers and not let family members read their text messages after personal and official information of Democratic House members and congressional staff was posted online. Pelosi says in a letter to Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the hacking of the committee's computers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

4. Pelosi tells women to grab their greatness against Trump

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was in Denver last week to speak on an Emerge Colorado panel. She said women should fight back against President Trump by running for office and seizing their power.

Read the full story here.

 

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, answers a question about his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, answers a question about his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

3. Gardner says there’s Colorado gold in cybersecurity

As the World Wide Web becomes an increasingly dangerous place for individuals, businesses, governments and elections, cybersecurity is an increasingly vital industry, says Sen. Cory Gardner. Colorado is well-positioned to cash in.

Read the full story here.

 

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Lance Benzel of Colorado Springs climb over a rock slab Tuesday, April 29, 2014, while mountain biking the Oil Well Flats trail area north of Canon City. (Photo by Christian Murdock/The Gazette)

2. Washington West — could this really happen?

Momentum is building to relocate the federal headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation from D.C. to Denver. That would get them closer to the vast majority of assets they protect, but can Colorado politicos close the deal?

Read the full story here.

 

 In this June 27, 2017, file photo, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, right, joined by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)

1. Governors roll out HickCare

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper teamed up with Ohio Gov. John Kasich to present a bipartisan healthcar

In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi is advising fellow Democrats to change their cellphone numbers and not let family members read their text messages after personal and official information of Democratic House members and congressional staff was posted online. Pelosi says in a letter to Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the hacking of the committee's computers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi is advising fellow Democrats to change their cellphone numbers and not let family members read their text messages after personal and official information of Democratic House members and congressional staff was posted online. Pelosi says in a letter to Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the hacking of the committee’s computers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

e proposal for Congress to consider when it returns from its August recess next week. The proposal preserves the individual mandate to buy health insurance, but it strengthens the partnership between state and federal government on the issue. Will it fly? We’ll find out next week when Hick goes to Washington to present it.

Read the full story here.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 1, 20178min193
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the national organization formed after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, Friday called upon U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, to drop his support for a measure that they claim would allow guns in schools without a permit. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (House Resolution 38) […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 30, 20176min1650

Grassroots support is growing in Colorado for a possible U.S. Department of the Interior plan to move the headquarters of three federal agencies to Denver.

The plan would be an economic efficiency move at a time the administration of President Donald Trump is being accused of ignoring environmentalists and allowing private industry to overdevelop government-owned property.

A relocation of three agencies to Denver was first reported by E&E News, an online site that reports on energy and environmental issues.

Zinke reportedly suggested moving the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation away from Washington, D.C., to Denver. All three of them are overseen by the Interior Department.

A location closer to the sites where they perform most of their operations on federal property would make them more effective, Zinke reportedly said during a July meeting with U.S. Geological Survey executives in Denver.

Zinke is preparing a reorganization and downsizing of the Interior Department tentatively scheduled to begin in 2019.

The relocation suggestion won quick agreement from organizations that operate close to federal lands in Colorado.

Don Shawcroft, president of Colorado Farm Bureau, said he would like to see regulatory relief come from a move of the federal agencies to Colorado.

“We feel this will create needed reforms to federal regulations that have been driven by Beltway bureaucrats who don’t see firsthand the impacts of overburdensome rulemaking,” Shawcroft said.

Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said moving the three Interior Department agencies to Colorado would put them closer to their “stakeholders outside the Beltway, like many of us in Colorado, where our local economies are closely tied to the management decisions they make.”

The Bureau of Land Management is the largest of the three agencies with 11,621 permanent employees. It administers more than 247.3 million acres of public lands, or one-eighth of the nation’s land mass.

Most of the land is located in 12 Western states that include Colorado.

The Bureau of Land Management is supposed to protect the wildlife, natural resources and national monuments on public lands. Private development is allowed through permits.

Ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits to graze livestock on public lands. Other permits and leases allow oil and gas companies to operate about 63,000 wells on government property.

A Trump administration policy that eases restrictions on oil and gas leases drew a recent warning from the Coalition to Protect America’s Parks, a nonprofit organization of retired National Park Service employees.

“As former land managers, we understand the need to balance competing priorities,” the coalition wrote in a letter to the Interior Department secretary. “But we fear the pendulum is swinging too far to the side of development.”

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manages the nation’s water resources and operates hydroelectric power plants in western states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforces laws to protect the nation’s fish, wild animals and their natural habitats while promoting environmental conservation programs.

Colorado organizations that support moving the agencies west were most interested in the economic benefits.

“The Colorado Wool Growers Association is definitely supportive of the effort to move these agencies to Denver,” said Bonnie Brown, executive director of the Delta-based association. “There is oftentimes a disconnect between [Washington] D.C. staff and what is actually happening on the ground. Having staff live and work near the resources they manage is just common sense.”

She acknowledged that the costs of moving federal agencies away from Washington could be large but added, “The short term transition costs should be offset by the long term savings.”

Kent Singer, executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, said he liked the idea of moving the agencies to Colorado but wondered whether Grand Junction might be a better choice than Denver.

”When we spoke with our congressional delegation during a legislative trip to Washington D.C. in April, we had suggested the Western Slope of Colorado would be an ideal place for the [Bureau of Land Management],” Singer said. “One of the benefits of a [Bureau of Land Management] move to the Western Slope would be job opportunities in that part of the state.”

Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including Republicans Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, have previously advocated moving the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 4, 20176min1540
This Thursday, May 5, 2016 file photo Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a rally in Charleston, W.Va. Trump’s apparent lock on the Republican presidential nomination means advocates of large-scale transfers of federal lands to states in the West likely won’t find support in the White House regardless of who wins election this November. Advisers and the candidates’ prior statements indicate neither Trump nor Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders favor the wholesale transfers of federal lands. (AP Photo/Steve Helber,File)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber,File)

The Trump administration is examining land use planning procedures and other environmental reviews, keeping in line with its stated commitment to roll back what some consider burdensome requirements.

The Bureau of Land Management said on Monday it is requesting “ideas and input” on how the agency can make procedures and reviews timelier and less costly. The effort comes after President Trump’s March approval of a House Joint Resolution, which nullified the BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule.

The rule gave more power to citizens in approving larger projects on public lands, which includes more than 8 million acres in Colorado.

The Trump administration has sought to roll back several Obama-era environmental actions, including regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon and methane pollution, as well as federal regulatory authority over small bodies of water.

“The decisions made in land use plans and environmental reviews are fundamental to how public lands and resources are used for the benefit of all Americans,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “The Trump Administration and the Department of the Interior are committed to working with state and local governments, communities, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders as true partners to determine the best ways to accomplish this, now and into the future.”

Federal officials are working with state and local elected officials, including the Western Governors’ Association and the National Association of Counties, to engage and gather input. Comments can be taken at a BLM website.

“We are doing this because Secretary Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that public engagement, especially at the local level, is a critical component of federal land management,” said BLM Director Michael Nedd. “We need and want input from our state and local partners as well as from the general public in this effort.”

A 21-day public input process began on Monday. Following the process, the BLM will prepare a report that will be released later this year.

Resource management plans provide a framework for land use authorization decisions on BLM-managed public lands, including those relating to subsurface federal minerals, according to the BLM.  Most land use authorization decisions are preceded by review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Through the public NEPA process, the BLM analyzes the effects of proposed plans and land use authorization decisions and discloses them to the public.

The Trump administration review of land use planning procedures falls in line with several Republican efforts to hand back control to the states.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, successfully pushed a measure through the House Natural Resources Committee last week to prohibit the departments of Agriculture and the Interior from requiring the transfer of water rights as a condition of any land-use permit. The bill also requires that future directives from the departments be consistent with state water law.

Tipton said he became concerned over federal attempts to manipulate federal permit, lease and land management processes to circumvent state water law and “hijack” privately held water rights. He pointed to a U.S. Forest Service attempt to require a transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a condition for granting permits on National Forest System lands.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Greeley, backed a measure that would designate the Bureau of Reclamation as the lead coordinating agency for water project permitting among state and federal governments on federal lands.

Buck points to the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a multi-county water storage effort that would impact much of northeastern Colorado. Buck said the project and others face delays because of burdens imposed by federal agencies. He hopes designating an agency to handle such requests would streamline the process.

The permitting of the NISP project has already cost Colorado communities over $15 million and has dragged on for over 13 years, Buck said.

“In Colorado, water is tough to come by, which makes water storage a necessity,” Buck said. “We need to streamline the water project permitting process so that future projects like NISP don’t take over a decade to win a permit.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 6, 20175min640
David Bernhardt (doi.gov)

 

When Colorado native and Washington insider David Bernhardt sat for his confirmation hearing last month following his selection by the Trump administration as deputy secretary of the interior, he inevitably drew cheers and jeers. The former from Republicans and energy industry advocates fresh from battling the Obama administration’s eight-year crackdown on fossil fuels; the latter, from Democrats and environmentalists now taking up the fight against the Trump Cabinet’s rollback of that crackdown.

Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Corry Gardner, who fits squarely within the first group, provided Bernhardt’s formal introduction to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee when the hearing convened. It was a gesture of solidarity not only for a kindred political spirit but also a fellow Coloradan.

Today, the committee voted 14-9 in favor of confirmation; Bernhardt’s nomination now faces a vote by the full Senate. Approval is anticipated given that Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber. At least one news report says

Bernhardt, nominated in April to serve as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is a career natural-resources lawyer in the nation’s Capital who also previously served in several posts at the Interior Department during the George W. Bush administration. As an attorney in private practice for the Denver-based, national law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he has represented energy, mining and other industries that regularly cause heartburn for the environmental movement.

As expected, members of the movement attended the committee hearing; perhaps less expected was that they reportedly interrupted committee proceedings repeatedly with their shouts of disapproval.

Gardner’s press office put out a statement following today’s vote:

“I’m thrilled David Bernhardt was approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to become the next Deputy Secretary of the Interior … As a native Coloradan from Rifle, David has a deep understanding of Western land issues, and I’m confident his expertise and experience will serve the Department well. I look forward to continuing to support his nomination as it is taken up on the Senate floor.”

The press release also noted:

Gardner introduced Bernhardt at his confirmation hearing last month, and Bernhardt has expressed support for Gardner’s proposal to move the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters West. Bernhardt’s nomination is supported by several stakeholder groups in Colorado and across the country, including the Colorado River District, Colorado Water Congress, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.