Ken Salazar aims to broker compromises on conservation vs. drilling

MOAB – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar swooped through Western hot spots this week trying to forge compromises as a century-old struggle intensifies over protecting pristine public lands versus leaving them open to development.

Pressure to drill for oil and gas is mounting. A surge of proposals to protect millions of acres as wilderness or “national conservation areas” also is gaining momentum.

Read More

Colorado cougars routinely traverse urban areas, study finds

BOULDER – AF69, a 90-pound female cougar, makes a healthy living on human habitat – stalking, eating and hiding deer around houses – usually when people aren’t looking.

Read More

Rocky Mountain Arsenal ready for its post-Superfund life

After 23 years and $2.1 billion, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal is ready to be removed from the nation’s Superfund list of environmental disasters.

Environmental Protection Agency officials are transferring a final 2,500 acres at the 27-square-mile site to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This clears the way for the arsenal’s new incarnation as a national wildlife refuge.

U.S. taxpayers paid for the bulk of the cleanup — done by the Army and Shell Oil under a legal settlement.

For half a century, the arsenal at Denver’s northeast edge loomed as a secretive complex of more than 250 buildings with signs around it warning “Use of Deadly Force Authorized.” There, the Army made chemical weapons and later, Shell made pesticides.

Residential and commercial development gradually encroached on the site. Today, 47 bison roam, raptors circle and badgers burrow on recovering short-grass prairie 10 miles from downtown Denver.

Read More

Colorado Water Conservation Board votes to study Wyoming pipeline plan

Colorado water authorities trying to prevent projected shortages have resolved to look further into a proposed multibillion-dollar pipeline to import water from Wyoming.

Meanwhile, the private developer who proposed the 570-mile pipeline — to move water from the upper Colorado River Basin to expanding Front Range suburbs — has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a license to build the pipeline.

A new poll finds Wyoming residents heavily oppose the pipeline.

Read More

Drilling spills rise in Colorado, but fines rare

PLATTEVILLE — Colorado’s wave of gas and oil drilling is resulting in spills at the rate of seven every five days — releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.

At least some environmental damage from the oil-and-gas boom is inevitable, industry leaders and state regulators say, with a record-high 45,793 wells and companies drilling about eight more a day.

But a Denver Post analysis finds state regulators rarely penalize companies responsible for spills.

This year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has imposed fines for five spills that happened three or more years ago. The total penalties: $531,350.

State rules obligate regulators to take a collaborative approach, negotiating remedies when possible rather than cracking down. In fact, the COGCC recently declared four companies responsible for the largest number of spills to be “Outstanding Operators” and lauded them for environmental excellence.

Oil and gas companies have reported 343 new spills this year, bringing the total since August 2009 to more than 1,000 spills, state data show.

Read More