Western towns hard-hit by climate change unite, target coal for funds

Ten Western mountain towns feeling the effects of climate change are launching a campaign that targets the coal industry, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars a year from companies to help communities adapt.

The “Mountain Pact” towns in Colorado and neighboring states contend that, because coal is a major source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases linked to climate change, the industry should pay more to help deal with the impact.

In a letter being sent this week to federal officials, lawmakers and the White House, the towns demand changes in the federal government’s system for collecting royalties from coal companies, half of which flow back to states for local distribution.

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Denver’s Ethiopian community mourns countrymen killed by Islamic State

The beheading and shooting of 30 Ethiopian migrants by Islamic State fighters last week in Libya is tormenting metro Denver’s 30,000-strong Ethiopian-American community.

Some say they couldn’t eat or sleep after watching horrific videos.

On Saturday night, more than 500 gathered at St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church to mourn. They held candles, sang, wept and prayed before photos of the victims.

“It is incomprehensible for our minds to understand how any human being could do such a thing to another. We stand together to mourn our brethren and pray for peace,” community spokesman Neb Asfaw said. “The terrorists will not break our spirit. We stand together with our faith strengthened by the courage our brothers showed.”

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Bad air: Denver, western cities rise up list of nation’s most-polluted

Denver’s air is deteriorating, with increased ozone and soot, pushing the city from 26th to 13th among most-polluted cities in the nation, the American Lung Association said Wednesday in releasing a survey.

The troubling trend in Denver and Fort Collins, which rose to 16th among most-polluted U.S. cities, exemplified a slide in air quality across Western states, according to ALA officials, who based their analysis on federal and state government air data.

Rising temperatures and drought in the West are creating ideal conditions for episodes of high pollution from tiny particulates, the officials said. They’re urging installation of more air-testing stations to track the trend and protect public health.

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Colorado joins oil-producing states’ lawsuit against BLM

Colorado on Friday joined a lawsuit by oil-producing states challenging the federal government’s new rules for fracking on federal public lands.

The lawsuit contends the U.S. Bureau of Land Management cannot impose regulations on hydraulic fracturing, arguing that federal law lets states regulate oil and gas operations. Wyoming and North Dakota launched the litigation.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman issued a statement saying Colorado has robust regulations and that state regulators are doing a good job.

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USGS is drafting new seismic hazard maps for nation as industry-induced earthquakes surge in Colorado and seven other states.

Earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater are 100 times more likely now than in 2008 in regions of Colorado and seven states that are hotbeds for oil and gas drilling, federal geologists said Wednesday.

This has prompted the government to prepare new seismic-risk maps for construction, insurance and public safety.

The question of who bears the costs of possible damage and quake-resistant construction has yet to be decided. But a U.S. Geological Survey team, based in Colorado, also has started a series of meetings with engineers and designers.

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Cory Gardner poised to intervene against feds on greater sage grouse

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner will introduce legislation in Congress on Wednesday that would bar the federal government from listing greater sage grouse as endangered and give western states six more years to revive grouse populations on their own.

“When it comes to the environment in our own backyard, we understand it far better than anybody in Washington D.C. This would give us the ability to manage our most important resources at the local level,” Gardner said in an interview Tuesday.

“We have an obligation to future generations to conserve and recover this species. But we can do it on our terms. Let’s put Coloradans in charge, let’s put Westerners in charge of the West.”

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Feds, states spar in push to create 165 million acre safe zone for grouse

CRAIG — Blooping sounds, chest-puffing and ruffling of feathers in a sunrise-mating dance mark the latest survival struggles of greater sage grouse, iconic birds at the center of a storm that may put unprecedented limits on people across a Texas-sized area of the West.

The question — as a decades-long standoff intensifies ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline — is who will impose those limits: the federal government or Colorado and 10 other states that favor flexibility.

Either way, this will be the largest land-conservation feat ever attempted.

Once, greater sage grouse numbered in the millions, along with 300-plus other species, on the sagebrush steppe that stretches from Colorado to California.

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Crickets, grasshoppers, worms pushed as protein food of future

The movement to persuade Americans to reduce beef in their diet by eating bugs — “micro livestock” — is gaining momentum ahead of a global meat forum, as seen recently in a Denver Public Schools classroom.

Nearly all the 10-year-olds at a presentation by insects-as-food advocate Wendy Lu McGill nibbled her M&M-adorned cookies made of pulverized crickets.

Then the Denver Language School students ate whole roasted crickets. None, however, would try worms.

And one student, Laynie Whittington, refused any of this alimentary experimentation.

“I do not want to be eating bugs,” she said. “I’m half vegan, so I’m saying meat is sort of OK. But bugs? Not.”

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Colorado land impact of oil and gas boom: scars spread and stay

Oil and gas companies have yet to fully restore land around half of the 47,505 inactive wells in Colorado, and 72 percent of those un-restored sites have been in the process for more than five years, The Denver Post has found.

The state requires oil and gas companies to restore all sites completely — to reduce erosion, loosen compacted soil, prevent dust storms and control invasions of noxious weeds.

But Colorado does not set a timetable for getting the job done. Nor do state regulators track how long companies take to complete required work.

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Denver water use dips to 40-year low in 2014

Maybe it is projects such as replacing 10,000 toilets in Denver Public Schools. Maybe it is Denver Water’s ceaseless “Use Only What You Need” campaign. Or maybe residents seeing scarcity are self-motivated. Whatever the reasons, water use in metro Denver has dipped to 40-year lows.

The total amount residents used in December decreased to 3.19 billion gallons, and in January to 3.36 billion gallons — down from previous winter highs topping 4 billion gallons, utility officials said.

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