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Ernest LuningErnest LuningMarch 11, 20185min666

Three Colorado political consulting firms recently took home Reed Awards honoring their work producing campaign material last year. The awards, sponsored by Campaigns & Elections magazine and named for the political journal’s founder, Stanley Foster Reed, were handed out at a conference on Feb. 27 in Charleston, South Carolina. They recognized work in a multitude of categories, including direct mail, campaign branding and TV and digital ads.


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Kara MasonKara MasonJanuary 17, 20183min492

A Pueblo city councilman wants the Steel City to rely completely on alternative energy by 2035, and he’s catching some national attention for it.

Larry Atencio, the representative from Pueblo’s East Side, told Mother Jones what he envisions for the city, which has been in upheaval over energy prices for everal years. Atencio first introduced a resolution to his fellow lawmakers a year ago pledging to propel the city toward complete renewable energy within 17 years.

But Mother Jones asks: Can Pueblo, a place “where there are lots of poor people struggling to pay their utility bills,” do it?

The magazine points out that making a major shift toward renewable energy could mean even higher rates. It’s earlier efforts to rid the city of fossil-fueled electricity that are said to have started the utility rate spiral in the first place:

When Black Hills Energy raised rates, a lot of that money went toward closing dirty power plants and building cleaner ones. The company shut down an outdated gas plant in downtown Pueblo and an old coal plant in Cañon City (the next town to the west). Black Hills was the first utility in Colorado to eliminate coal from its system. It replaced that dirty power with wind turbines, solar panels, and natural gas. As a result, 19 percent of the electrons streaming from Black Hills Energy to Pueblo come from renewables, and the company is on track to reach 30 percent in the next two years. According to (company spokeswoman Julie) Rodriguez, Pueblo’s electric supply is “one of the cleanest in the state.”

Atencio told Mother Jones, as he did local reporters, that the high rates from energy provider Black Hills provided some inspiration for the resolution, which has no legally binding requirements. That’s probably why the resolution has been so popular among residents.

While the Mother Jones piece raises a lot of questions about what may be in store for the Steel City — which is actively putting an emphasis on attracting the solar industry — there haven’t been any actual policy shifts or new ordinances that support the ambitious goal.


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Ronald E. KeysRonald E. KeysDecember 27, 20175min359

During my 40 years serving in the United States Air Force, issues around energy were always present. We needed energy to power our bases, fuel our fleets of aircraft, and we needed all of that energy to be reliable and affordable. As we rely more and more on sophisticated technology to execute our missions, that need is ever more important.


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Paula NoonanPaula NoonanSeptember 8, 20174min596

A recent poll conducted by Chris Keating of Keating Research, a polling and survey firm that consults primarily for Democrats including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, reveals that Colorado’s political environment parallels the nation’s, but preferences on energy issues are distinctly Coloradan.  The results come from 605 active voters, with a margin of error at 4 percent, plus or minus.

As with the country as a whole, Coloradans hold President Donald Trump at 40% favorable to 58% unfavorable, and give Gov. John Hickenlooper a 60% favorable to 32% unfavorable rating.  Numbers are more contrasting at the Very Unfavorable level, with 51% Very Unfavorable for Trump and 19% Very Unfavorable for Hickenlooper.

Since Keating works mostly for the left side of the aisle, it’s important to look at his call list.  He called 48% men and 52% women.  His age range was 18-24 at 10% up to 70+ at 15%.  Voters with children age 18 or younger comprised 27% of the sample and the split by party affiliation was 25% Democrat, 26% Republican, and 45% Independent. Colorado’s active voter registration actually divides almost equally at 32% Dem to 32% GOP to 36% Unaffiliated.

Happily, the survey shows that 64% of Coloradans think the state is headed in the “right direction” with 28% favoring the down side.

The poll’s main purpose was to explore voter commitment to four energy types as sources for development: coal, wind, solar and natural gas.  It sought especially to pinpoint voters’ views on what energy sources should increase or decrease in use.  Coloradans now have a dim view of coal, with 57% of respondents saying its use should decrease and only 18% choosing to increase its use.  Wind (+76%) and especially solar (+84%) showed the most support for increased use, with natural gas at +36%.

The survey suggests that Coloradans from both political parties want public utilities to collaborate on reducing carbon emissions: 89% agree/11% disagree.  Voters want the state to work with utilities to increase the use of clean renewable energy at 95% agree/5% disagree.  Almost 50% of voters support increasing the state’s 30% renewable energy standard to over 50%.  Most Coloradans (83%) want to take control of their energy future without waiting for the federal government to jump in.

The polling numbers indicate that Xcel’s recent decisions to add more renewable energy to its portfolio makes sense.  Closing coal plants is apparently generally acceptable to Coloradans.

Clearly, renewable solar and wind power are popular. Natural gas is holding its own despite opposition to drilling from some cities along the northern Front Range.

These results have implications for the 2018 governor and legislator races on both Democratic and Republican sides.  Democratic candidates can feel comfortable promoting more renewables.  The effect of fracking vs. anti-fracking positions on voter preference is less clear.

Republicans face a different picture in the primaries and general election.  Anti-climate change Republicans may be in sync with a majority in their party during the primary season.  But that position is deeply out of sync with a majority of voters who will cast ballots in the general election.

One other interesting set of data.  While 45% of the polled population identified as independent voters, only 25% viewed themselves as moderates.  These individuals were outnumbered by liberals at 34% and conservatives at 38%. It appears there’s a muddy middle spectrum of voters, a minority, who support reduced-carbon energy policy.  They will make a difference in how the general election turns out.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 18, 20175min306

Citing unnamed sources, the Independence Institute’s Amy Oliver Cooke asserts in a blog post that Gov. John Hickenlooper has an ulterior motive in talking up a possible special session: He wants to promote wind power on a massive scale. And he wants to throw the keys to behemoth public utility Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest power provider.

According to her blog post, that was supposed to have been accomplished during the regular 2017 session that concluded last week. The vehicle, Cooke writes, was going to be an amendment inserted into a bill introduced late in the game, Senate Bill 301, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction.

On its face, that bill involved a sweeping reconfiguration of the much-debated Colorado Energy Office and also included a provision that would have permitted investor-owned utilities to own natural gas reserves. The bill got mired in late-session politics and was scuttled in the end amid tit-for-tat pushing and shoving between Scott’s Republican-run Senate and the Democratic-controlled House.

So, the special session would pick up where the originally intended effort left off, Cooke writes. SB 301’s natural gas provision was the tip of the iceberg, she seems to think:

Sources tell me that Governor John Hickenlooper really wants the state legislature to anoint in statute Xcel’s big plans for industrial wind, and he is trying to get the oil and gas industry to support it as well, likely because natural gas is the preferred back-up generation for industrial wind.

The amendment that got left dangling — Cooke reprises it in full in her blog post — “was written specifically for or by Xcel Energy and its pending Electric Resource Plan (ERP), which was predicated on a Hillary Clinton victory and the continuation of the controversial and costly Clean Power Plan.”

She continues:

“… this language blesses Xcel to build and majority own industrial wind and natural gas back up, build and own all of the infrastructure, and pass all the costs along to ratepayers. It would complete the process of converting Xcel from pig to hog status.

Cooke, who is the libertarian-leaning institute’s executive V.P. and heads its Energy Policy Center, is a frequent critic of Minneapolis-based Xcel and other investor-owned public utilities given their status as regulated monopolies. Independence and other critics of the system don’t like how it uses Public Utilities Commission-granted rate hikes in part to subsidize the transition to what the critics contend are costlier alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.

We reached out to Hickenlooper Press Secretary Jacque Montgomery for a comment on Cooke’s assertions. She followed up with this response — neither a confirmation nor an explicit denial:

The Governor has shared what his top issues are when considering a special session:  infrastructure and health care.   At his end-of-session news conference, he called out these as well as the funding for the energy office.

Here’s the link again to Cooke’s blog post.


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John TomasicJohn TomasicDecember 14, 201614min345

State Senate Republican and Democratic leaders have signaled they will dedicate additional resources and attention next year to energy and environmental issues, but in the turbulent wake of the surprise election of Donald Trump as president, the news has observers wondering whether the party caucuses are simply shoring up positions or seeing new opportunity to move beyond long-established partisan territories. Speculation launched at the end of November, when Senate Republicans announced they had formed a new Select Committee on Energy and Environment. “I know people are kind of scratching their heads,” said committee Chairman Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction. “I can say that the committee will be less about passing legislation and more about gathering information and getting it right. We tend to send energy bills to committees to do instead of fully discussing them. So this committee is going to be about gathering information that is correct, the best information, and reporting it back to the people. We want to help educate lawmakers and, more important, to help educate the public.