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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandJanuary 29, 20186min648
Senate Republican leaders Monday put the kibosh on any efforts to increase severance tax dollars to pay for the state water plan, an idea floated by Gov. John Hickenlooper last week at the Colorado Water Congress. The state water plan carries a price tag estimated at $20 billion or more. While water providers are expected […]

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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandJanuary 25, 201810min554
Gov. John Hickenlooper, on another stop on his farewell tour, talked to the water community Thursday that largely backed the development of the Colorado water plan in 2015 and what the future holds for Colorado water. Hickenlooper was initially expected to talk about his water legacy during the Colorado Water Congress luncheon in southeast Denver, […]

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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandJanuary 24, 20183min443

Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper will address his water legacy – the state water plan chief among them – as the Colorado Water Congress moves through the second day of its annual winter meeting.

Hickenlooper will be queried about his views on his legacy in water and the state’s water future by pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli during a noon appearance.

Among the topics Ciruli plans to cover:

  • Is it time to panic? What is the state of water reserves in Colorado?
  • Will the research, river basin collaboration and planning continue?
  • Will permitting of the water projects now underway continue to make progress?
  • Will the next wave of projects — many in rural and small towns — get permitted, funded and built?
  • Will the state initiate and fund a statewide conservation public education program?
  • Will the state continue its planning processes in order to lead a ballot issue funding effort? (The previous proposal, controversial in design and promotion, failed in 2003, but lessons were learned.)

The last question takes on what is always the stickiest part of any big project: just how much will this cost?

Last summer, the Water Congress took on the issue of the estimated $20 billion cost to fund projects tied to the state water plan, released in 2015. While water providers are expected to shoulder most of that cost, the state’s tab is expected to be around $3 billion. That bill could start to become due in 2020, at around $100 million per year and over the next 29 years thereafter.

Dick Brown, an economist who also works with the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, told the Water Congress in August that eight options have surfaced that may provide the path forward to that $3 billion bill.

Those includes hikes in water rates, a beverage container fee, a state sales tax on water-related fixtures, or a boost in water tap fees that connect new homes to utility lines.

Hickenlooper’s address is scheduled to begin at noon at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center.

 

Photo of the White River by Jeffrey Beall, Creative Commons license, Flickr

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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandNovember 13, 20173min450
Next Monday is the application deadline for anyone interested in becoming the next Associate Justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. The seven-member Court is shy one justice at the moment, which took place when President Trump nominated Associate Justice Allison Eid to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She was  nominated to fill the […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 28, 20176min405

Sen. Michael Bennet is urging Coloradans to remember their children and grandchildren when it comes to climate change. But he also reached out to those whose livelihoods have been affected by the nation’s migration to renewable energy and away from coal.

Bennet, a Denver Democrat and centrist in the U.S. Senate, spoke about the challenges of climate change this week with attendees at the annual Colorado Water Congress summer conference in Steamboat Springs.

Striking back at climate-change deniers, Bennet said “the vast majority of Coloradans believe climate change is real…and that humankind is responsible.”

Bennet said he hears it from farmers and ranchers all the time, about the effects of climate change, such as shorter growing seasons, more intense droughts, stronger floods and earlier snowmelt.

“If we don’t get a handle on climate change, water challenges will get harder, he said.

In response to audience questions, Bennet said he did not think Republicans and Democrats would support the budget cuts to climate change research proposed by the Trump administration, calling it “cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

One indication of the administration’s views may be found in an upcoming report, due in 2018, known as the National Climate Assessment. The report has been done every four years since 1990, but a draft of the final report, released earlier this month, has caused some scientists to raise concerns that its conclusions will be “blunted” by the Trump administration. Some point particularly to the Environmental Protection Agency, whose head, Scott Pruitt, said he does not believe that carbon dioxide, produced when fossil fuels are burned, contributes to global warming.

The draft, compiled by scientists in 13 federal agencies, said Americans already feel the effects of climate change and warn that even with best efforts to control greenhouse gases, the planet’s overall temperature has continued to climb.

“I know the American people want to know what the science says and that’s what we have to find a way to protect,” Bennet said of the report.

At the same time, “we have to continue to make the case that having diversity in our energy economy is important, and that addressing climate change is important,” he said.

The nation needs to continue moving toward cleaner sources of energy, but “it’s not realistic to believe that the Trump administration is going to lead on that,” he added.

Bennet said he sees his role in the Senate as protecting Colorado’s economy from proposals coming out of the administration that do not support the state’s financial future.

At the same time, he also wants to make sure those impacted by dwindling coal production have a future. Last week, Bennet introduced a bill to provide Incentives for Investment, job creation and training in communities affected by the loss of coal mine jobs.

Bennet’s bill would designate 90 counties, including six in Colorado, as Coal Community Zones. Under that designation, coal communities would be eligible for incentives for investment, hiring and workforce development.

Under the bill, coal communities are defined as those that have lost 50 coal-mining jobs since 2011, out of total employed workforce of no more than 20,00, or those that have more than 5 percent of their workforce in coal mining. The six counties in Colorado that would be eligible for the incentives are all on the Western Slope: Delta, Gunnison, Las Animas, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties. There are seven coal mines currently operating in the state, but with declining demand for coal, job losses are becoming a regular occurrence. Last year, West Elk #2 in Delta County, the largest-producing coal mine in the state, cut a quarter of its workforce, blaming cheaper prices for oil and gas.

During his presidential run, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to jumpstart the coal mining industry. In March, his secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, began the process by reversing the Obama administration’s moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

The incentives proposed in Bennet’s bill include a $3,000 hiring credit for employers who hire people who live or work in a designated Coal Community. The bill sets aside $300 million in “new markets tax credits” for coal communities, tax incentives for building or revitalizing commercial buildings. The bill’s workforce training section includes grants and incentives to help those in coal communities acquire new job skills and to set up training programs.

“We can’t just leave these coal communities stranded,” Bennet told Colorado Politics.

He said he doesn’t pretend the bill is a silver bullet to solve the problems experienced by communities dependent on coal jobs.

“But it will help cushion the blow and help diversify their economies,” he said.