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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 20, 20187min2853

Normally it’s Democrats who want the public to know more about the effects of energy production near people, flora and fauna, but not so much on wind energy.

That irony came to visit when Rep. Paul Lundeen brought a bill this session to create a state-approved online clearinghouse of credible information — about the public’s health in proximity to windfarms.

In Lundeen’s sprawling El Paso County district residents near Calhan are complaining about headaches, stomach aches and circulatory problems since the 145 turbines at the Nextera wind farm began to spin in 2015. Livestock roams the plains landscape and dozens of residents live nearby.

The Republican lawmaker from Monument doesn’t think it’s asking too much for the state to give people information they can rely on, rather than forcing them to roam the internet for answers that could be posted by a partisan, a crackpot or both.

The state could curate credible, peer-reviewed studies and link to legal documents that often aren’t easy to find with a simple Google search, he contends.

“Making things easier for the people — that’s exactly what this legislation would do,” Lundeen pleaded to the Democrats on the committee moments before they killed his bill on a party-line vote.

Colorado’s $6 billion of private investment in wind energy production has provided “a hockey stick” curve on a growth chart, Lundeen said. The political left doesn’t want to discuss it unless oil, gas and coal are in the mix.

It might look like a political mousetrap from the outside. I suggested that to Lundeen, and I read people well. He has no reputation as a schemer but a terrific statehouse reputation as a problem-solver.

The situation just exposed the partisan scar tissue around energy that has hardened mindsets of both sides.

“This was the perfect bill for me,” he said the next day on the bench on the south side of the chamber, after House Speaker Crisanta Duran gaveled members out for the weekend. “Because it’s this policy question about what’s wind energy mean to us. We’ve gone since 2000 from 22 megawatts in this state to, in 2016, more than 2,000 megawatts. That’s 131 times growth, so this is a big issue coming to a front yard near you soon. So what are we going to do about it?”

Rep. Joann Ginal knew how Lundeen felt.

In 2013, she and fellow Democratic Reps. Mike Foote of Lafayette, Jonathan Singer of Longmont and others presented a bill to have the state determine if people who live near oil and gas operations are as healthy as those who don’t. The state study would have examined epidemiology reports from Larimer, Weld, Boulder and Arapahoe counties against one or more control groups elsewhere.

House Bill 1275 was drowned like a rat on the Titanic by a solid Republican bloc who picked off stray moderates from the Democratic majority to kill seven oil-and-gas bills that session.

Ginal tried and failed again the next year. She would support an all-of-the-above look at what energy production is doing to us. The daughter of a New England cop, she’s practice in pharmaceutical and medical fields for more than two decades, specializing in reproductive endocrinology.

“We don’t offer a compilation of research in this state that’s really helpful in that area, as well,” the physician said of renewable energy.

Government has regulated — and academic and advocacy interests have studied — the effects of traditional fuels as far back as 150 years, massive wind farms and growing fast on Colorado’s horizon.

We haven’t heard the last of this. Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates — Jared Polis and Michael Johnston — are pledging to get all of Colorado’s juice from renewable sources by 2040. A handful of cities are pledging to get there sooner.

Tom Darin, the Western states policy director for the American Wind Energy Association, says his trade association maintains a bibliography its eager and willing to share with policymakers and the public. The credible information supports the industry as safe, he said.

“We are entrusted and given some credibility in bringing in and how to do $6 billion in investment in Colorado,” Darin said.

Rep. Terri Carver, another El Paso County Republican, said unbalanced information doesn’t tell the whole story. And how. Partisan salesmanship has poisoned the oil-and-gas discussion, as the left and right continue to extend spewing pipelines of money into Colorado for PR and lobbying.

I trust the Wind Energy Association. The literature about health and safety is stacked up on their side, just like the information provided by the oil-and-gas industry.

I did a Google search about wind energy, because I’m cynical. The first article was from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

“Canadian family physicians can expect to see increasing numbers of rural patients reporting adverse effects from exposure to industrial wind turbines (IWTs),” it stated. “People who live or work in close proximity to IWTs have experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction. Some have also felt anger, grief, or a sense of injustice.”

Now I don’t know who to believe.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 13, 20185min583
State Rep. Brittany Pettersen was pleased after Gov. John Hickenlooper finished his State of the State address Thursday. He, Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran agreed with her: Something must be done about Colorado’s opioid abuse epidemic. Each of the leaders made finding answers a priority. “We really have all of our […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 11, 20184min750

This week Longmont became the seventh Colorado city to pledge to work toward getting all its energy from sustainable, renewable sources.

This week the City Council approved a resolution to get off fossil fuels by 2030, part of Colorado Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, partnering locally with Sustainable Resilient Longmont.

John Fryar of the Longmont Times Call was the first to report the news.

“The longer that we depend on old and dirty energy, the more we put our neighbors at risk for asthma and our neighborhoods at risk for climate caused wildfires and floods,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Loveland. “One hundred percent renewable energy by 2030 is achievable and affordable. It’s time we make it inevitable.

As part of their campaigns for governor, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder and former sate Sen. Mike Johnston of Denver have pledged to move the state to all-renewable by 2040. Critics say that’s too expensive and unrealistic, while disrepecting and endangering the state’s oil-and-gas industry the same way coal from the Western Slope was hamstrung by environmental pushes to replace coal-fired power plants in the state.

The Sierra Club said the resolution builds off on Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley’s Dec. 5 proclamation focusing on moving the city to renewable sources of energy. Bagley called the council resolution approved Tuesday night a step forward in the right direction.

Longmont, of course, is in the heart of fracking country, where some public sentiments run deep and not on oil and natural gas. It’s not a surprise, then, that four of Colorado seven cities on the list are in Boulder County. Longmont joins Boulder, Nederland and Lafayette. The others are Pueblo, Breckenridge and Aspen.

Longmont became the 55th city nationally to set the goal.

Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner, in a statement released by the Sierra County, said it was proof of momentum for clean energy as “both economically feasible on a local level and widely supported by Coloradans.”

Jim Alexee, director of the Colorado Sierra Club, thanked Begley and the Longmont City Council.

Alexee said in a statement, “As one of the most fracked regions in the nation, it’s exciting to see Longmont made the decision to invest in our health and climate.”

Ready for 100 campaign leader Karen Dike called it a watershed moment.

“Now, more than ever, action at the local level is crucial to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy future,” added Longmont Board chair Abby Driscoll called it a watershed moment.

The Times Call reported that local resident Terri Goon was concerned about whether the move would drive up electric utility prices for Longmont Power and Communications’ customers, and what that might mean to those living on fixed incomes.

“I’d like to keep Longmont affordable,” Goon said.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 11, 20183min1141

Sure, there were all the opening-day rituals under the Dome on Wednesday — speeches, promises of bipartisanship and warm greetings among almost all of the 100 members, who insisted they were happy to see one another again. But then there’s the real business of the General Assembly: making laws (well, and killing legislation; plenty of that, too).

And the House Democratic majority got down to business the same day, releasing its caucus’s first five bills — enunciating some of their top priorities for the 2018 session. An announcement from the Dems’ press shop boiled it down to, “work-life balance, rural education, the opioid epidemic and college education credits.”

Or, as House Speaker Crisanta Duran put it:

“A major goal this session is to create more opportunities for Coloradans to turn their hard work into economic security. …These bills are part of a much larger agenda to preserve and enhance our Colorado way of life.”

Here’s the legislation — a lot of it with bipartisan sponsorship — as read across the House clerk’s desk:

  • HB18-1001/Reps. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Matt Gray, D-Broomfield – Creates an insurance programs that allows more Coloradans to take paid time off to care for a sick parent or loved one without having to quit their jobs, or risk being fired.
  • HB18-1002/Reps. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale – Enables students in the final year of a teacher preparation program to receive stipends for teaching in rural school districts with teacher shortages. The first of several bills to address the rural teacher shortage.
  • HB18-1003/Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood – Authorizes grants for education, screening, intervention and prevention services to address the opioid epidemic, which is now the leading cause of accidental death among Coloradans 55 years of age and under. Part of a package of opioids bills from a bipartisan interim committee being brought by Reps. Pettersen, Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.
  • HB18-1004/Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver – Extends a tax credit for donations to child care facilities to help increase the availability of quality child care providers in Colorado.
  • HB18-1005/Reps. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan – Expands notification to students and their parents about concurrent enrollment opportunities, so high school students can get a jump on their college educations.