Author: Pete Kolbenschlag

Glenwood Springs Post Independent » Opinion: Clean Power Plan works for Colorado

This past summer, the Environmental Protection Agency took the greatest single step the U.S. has ever taken to address climate change, finalizing the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, reducing it, by the year 2030, 32 percent below 2005 levels. This will only further encourage the transformation already underway in the power sector and spur development of cleaner, safer sources of energy. That’s good news for western Colorado.

The Clean Power Plan provides states flexibility to create customized plans to reduce carbon pollution and modernize energy portfolios. That will further encourage innovation in the power sector, creating jobs and leading to lower utility bills for consumers in the long run, according to the analysis that accompanied the rule-making. And this revolutionary shift that is occurring now is one upon which Colorado is uniquely poised to capitalize.

As is the case with all transformational change, there’s a status quo that would benefit from keeping things exactly as they are. The Clean Power Plan triggered a rush of lawsuits aimed at the new standards. Unfortunately, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined in this lawsuit even as Gov. John Hickenlooper remained steadfast in his readiness to make the Clean Power Plan work for Colorado.

See full story at the Post Independent.

High Country News » Can small communities tackle global food security?

Climate change has profound impacts on growing seasons and crop yields, but local solutions have promise.

This story was produced in partnership with KVNF Radio in Paonia, Colorado.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this year is on course to be the hottest year in recorded history. And with greenhouse gas emissions increasing, we’re closing in on a global temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius — what many scientists agree is a point of no return in avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Those impacts are felt more acutely in the West.  Because it’s mostly arid, mountainous, and largely rural, the West sits in the crosshairs of the most profound impacts from climate change.  Substantial changes have already affected growing cycles and yields for agriculture, a huge part of the Western economy and culture. Many small communities are rising up to address the challenge of food security. During a panel discussion on climate change impacts to agriculture in Paonia, Colorado, one expert talked about the drastic change he’s personally studied in these mountains.

Pete Kolbenschlag, the organizer of the Paonia panel discussion, knows that food security affects everyone. “If you care about what’s on your plate, and you care about feeding other people and the planet, then we need to care about climate change, because climate change is going to affect our food supply,” he says.

Read full story at High Country News.

North Fork National Forests. So what is a GMUG?

Crossposted at

Conservation & the Public Lands “Essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method”

America’s public lands are a national birthright, an exemplar of global conservation leadership, and a tremendous source of local pride and benefit.  In the North Fork Valley our National Forest lands are a testament to the foresight of leaders from more than a century ago, and the wisdom of our own forebears.

Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method. Theodore Roosevelt

The National Forest lands in the North Fork valley are mostly within the Gunnison National Forest, which is itself part of a larger ‘administrative unit’ of three individual forests often referred to as the ‘GMUG’ or Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, Gunnison National Forests.  Colorado has eleven National Forests, managed as 6 units.  As a single unit the GMUG is the largest. (However, the White River National Forest is the largest single National Forest in the state).

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Grand Jct. Sentinel, Editorial » Coal counties deserve help with transition

Coal counties deserve help with transition

Because coal is big in Western Colorado — as an abundant resource, a cheap way to generate electricity and a provider of good-paying jobs — President Obama’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions from power plants has more opposition here than other parts of the state.

The fact that Colorado has a voter-approved Renewable Portfolio Standard is proof that clean energy is important to Coloradans. In many ways, the coal industry has enjoyed the largesse of government policies favoring cheap electricity because it hasn’t been on the hook for spillover costs.

Not anymore. Any way you slice it, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce the amount of coal America burns to meet energy demands. Coal and its big carbon footprint are at odds with the climate objectives of the Obama administration.

The good news is that Colorado is well positioned to meet the goals of the Clean Power Plan, and even profit from new technologies, as several environmental organizations told The Sentinel’s editorial board last week.

And the plan simply seizes on a direction America is headed anyway. Coal has been in a steady decline, in part because of a natural gas boom, but also because consumers like green energy. The low costs of coal-fired electrical generation don’t reflect other costs, like treating respiratory diseases from pollutants. Things important to the Western Slope, like agriculture, wildlife, orchards, vineyards, snowpack and runoff all stand to be impacted by climate change.

So, there are important reasons to support the plan. But we’re bothered that a shift in government policy can be so devestating to communities that have built their economies around coal mining and coal-fired plants.

The federal government is responsive to natural disasters. Shouldn’t it be just as responsive to economic disasters of its own making? The EPA plan will impact places like Moffat and Delta counties. How about the equivalent of FEMA money going to these places to diversify the economy? And any large-scale renewable projects like solar arrays should go there too.

Read full editorial here.

Delta County Independent » County weighs in on lease exchange

The Delta Board of County Commissioners has taken an official position on the proposed Thompson Divide gas lease exchange which includes federal gas lease properties in Delta County.

County administrator Robbie LeValley notes the exchange process is likely to be a long one involving levels of government right up to the U.S Congress which will have final say on the exchange and its terms.

finalmap“In the support letter, Delta County reiterated that the proposed legislative exchange provided an opportunity for a larger landscape conversation regarding fluid mineral leasing in the North Fork Valley. Delta County has worked collaboratively with stakeholders in the last two months to reach a point of consensus specific to the mineral management in the North Fork Valley that includes a fluid mineral withdrawal and other legislated stipulations. The point of consensus is for oil and gas only and does not impact coal or the ability to capture and market methane. Development on the exchange leases should be allowed to progress under the lease requirements as administered within federal, state and local regulations. The protections of water resources, air quality, visual resources and related traffic issues must and would be addressed by thorough site-specific reviews and resulting conditions of approvals.

“The letter and proposal are the first steps in a lengthy process and Delta County will be at the table during the drafting, editing, amending and final process. Delta County looks forward to working with all stakeholders during the legislative and regulatory process and will continue to push for the locally developed agreement as part of any legislative package.”

Read the full article in the Delta County Independent  here

CO Farm & Food Alliance » Denver Event Combines Fine Nosh and Spirits to Discuss Farms & Food Security

This past May the Colorado Farm & Food Alliance joined with partners and friends including Slow Food Western Slope, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and the Valley Organic Growers Association to bring a sampling of top quality Colorado-sourced food and drink to Denver, with a message.

inviteIf you care about food you need to care about how oil and gas is getting developed in Colorado.

“It’s very important that oil and gas development happen responsibly,” said Jim Brett of Slow Food Western Slope. “It doesn’t need to happen everywhere, we must be careful about our food sources.”

Business friends and partners included The Kitchen-Denver Restaurant (“Community through Food”) which hosted the event, and Peak Spirits Distillery at Jack Rabbit Hill Farm, Big B’s Juices & Hard Ciders, Alfred Eames Cellars, Stone Cottage Cellars, and Thistle Whistle Farm, who donated their time and top quality skills and product.

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Mosquitoes, Beetles & Global Warming – Climate Change and Colorado’s Great Outdoors

(Crossposted at Colorado Pols)

Colorado, summertime. The living is easy…

Sure we have some of the best winter recreation in the world, and Color Sunday drives and hunting season make fall the busiest part of the season for many Colorado communities. But there is something about a Rocky Mountain summer that is hard to beat.

The wet May and early, heavy monsoons much of the state has been getting since, have brought forth wildflowers that many say are the most outrageous, rainbow array seen in years.  Truly a display of Colorado pride.

All the moisture, and warm weather between, has also led to another fact in this year’s backcountry – there are lots of mosquitoes out there.  And mosquitoes are not just an annoyance, but bring public health warnings.  In Colorado, for the West Nile Virus, which is likely to become an even larger problem under climate change.

Invasive species aren’t just species — they can also be pathogens. Such is the case with the West Nile virus.

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Proposed BLM Rule Could Recoup Billions for U.S. Taxpayers, Help Avert Climate Catastrophe

(Crossposted at Colorado Pols)

Like a number of communities in Colorado, the valley where I live has been engaged in an effort to constrain oil and gas development to keep it out of our water supplies, our favorite recreational areas, our towns, farms and communities.

This effort has been met with mixed success.  We banded together to stop an ill-advised Bureau of Land Management lease sale, deferring it twice.  We compelled the BLM to consider a community-based alternative as it revises its very stale 1980s era land use plan, and local conservation groups have successfully challenged some other projects—sending them back for a time to the drawing board.

But more than 80,000 acres of public lands are leased in the upper reaches of the North Fork, many private lands are already under industry control, and Texas billionaires with privately held gas companies have their sights on acquiring more.

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The “Church,” Climate Change, and the Decline of the Bees

(Crossposted at Colorado Pols)

The Pope is getting all the news today on Climate, having clarified – the faithful are told to believe—that God is not OK with trashing the earth, and that we need to do something about that.

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.”

But as Francis has his eyes on all Creation – the World writ large – the sometimes mysterious working of the world in detail are where most of the stuff gets done.  Like pollination.  This week is, after all, also National Pollinators Week.

Birds, and bees and others among the panoply of species populating our planet are not just buzzing around your sugary drink, or swooping hotdogs off your picnic table.  They too are doing the Lord’s bidding, in small but crucial ways.  Like keeping three-quarters of the world’s plants alive.

Most people know by now that bees are in decline and that this is a major problem – for the obvious reasons, because we also like food.  Some important food crops, like corn, are wind pollinated.  But most rely on pollinators

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