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Legislators put aside gas and oil tax bill

Issue to be addressed after November election
By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

DENVER – Officially, the latest effort to revise Colorado’s gas and oil taxes lasted 16 minutes.

But legislators, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s advisers and energy industry leaders say they will take a hard look at taxes after the November election.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, introduced a bill to study Colorado’s taxes on gas and oil, which are the lowest of the surrounding states. But she killed her own bill Wednesday at its first hearing, a mere 16-minute affair.

Schwartz led the last group to look at severance taxes, in the midst of the Western Slope gas boom in 2007.

“A lot has changed in the last seven years,” Schwartz said.

Much of the industry has stopped drilling for gas on the Western Slope and switched to oil on the Front Range. Environmental rules now are in place that did not exist in 2007.

States levy severance taxes on companies that extract nonrenewable resources, such as gas, oil and coal. Schwartz and other legislators are concerned that Colorado’s long energy boom has left the state with little in return. Compared with nearby energy states such as Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana, taxes on the industry here are low.

“We need to provide some value to the state long term,” Schwartz said in an interview.

Colorado uses its severance taxes to pay for water projects and to help local communities deal with the industry’s impacts, such as road damage from heavy truck traffic.

Schwartz held a meeting a few days ago with people from the industry and the governor’s office, and they all decided to have Hickenlooper create a task force instead of running Schwartz’s bill through the Legislature.

Bob Randall spoke for the Hickenlooper administration at Wednesday’s hearing and pledged that the governor would convene a group to look at severance taxes.

“These are clearly issues that need to be discussed and deserve to be discussed,” said Randall, deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Hickenlooper himself once flirted with the idea of raising severance taxes. A week before he was elected in 2010, he told a Durango Herald reporter that he was interested in asking the gas and oil industry to cooperate in raising their taxes in order to fund college scholarships. However, the industry pushed back against the plan, and Hickenlooper never formally proposed it.

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Club 20 honors state Sens. Gail Schwartz and Ellen Roberts

By Hugh Johnson, The Denver Post

The Western Slope advocacy group Club 20 has honored two Colorado state senators, Democratic Gail Schwartz and Republican Ellen Roberts.

The group also recognized three other Republicans: state Rep. Don Coram of Montrose and former senators Don Ament from Iliff and the late Sen. Dave Wattenberg of WaldenSchwartz, of Snowmass Village, received Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award. Roberts, of Durango, received the Dan Noble award.

“Despite what often winds up in the headlines, many things we deal with in Colorado are simply not partisan,” Schwartz said in a news release. “Communities need clean and plentiful water, safe roads and bridges, and quality schools — no matter which political party we belong to.

“I am incredibly proud to have received this particular award, since it truly reflects my commitment to finding practical solutions for the people of Senate District 5 and Western Colorado, along with Rep. Don Coram.”

The Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award is named for Eric Johnson, a professional sculptor from Redstone, and Nick Theos, a sheep rancher from Meeker, according to the Vail Daily. The two men both served in Club Leadership roles, and despite having different backgrounds and different perspectives, Theos and Johnson were able to work collaboratively in the interest of achieving common goals.

The Dan Noble award is given to a public official for exemplary service to the 22 counties in Western Colorado. Noble served 17 years as a state legislator and was chairman of the board of Club 20.

“I am humbled and honored to receive such a prestigious award,” Roberts said, in a release. “Club 20 is a vital organization for promoting the interests of the Western Slope and their work in both Denver and Washington, D.C., has made a real difference in Western Slope communities.”

Past recipients of the Dan Noble award include, U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, Congressman Scott McInnis, and state Sen. Jim Isgar.

State Offers Help for Idled Coal Miners

Kathy Browning
Published on Wednesday, 12 February 2014

People came to hear what state and local agencies could do to help those without work due to the idling of Elk Creek Mine in Somerset. The community meeting was held at EnergyTech in Paonia on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Sen. Gail Schwartz had organized the meeting and was joined by Rep. Millie Hamner and facilitator Reeves Brown, who is the executive director of the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). Also participating were Ray Lucero of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Elyse Ackerman of DOLA, Darcy Owens-Trask of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Mike Ludlow of Oxbow Corporation, Caryn Gibson of Delta County Public Schools, Sarah Carlquist of Delta County Economic Development and John Jones of Delta-Montrose Technical College.

A sheet was available to those attending, with the contact information for each of the speakers so that those attending could be in contact with them. The meeting ran a half hour longer than planned, but those with questions still unanswered could reach the different speakers later for answers and direction.

Sen. Schwartz thanked everyone for “taking time on a snowy Saturday afternoon to visit with us. I feel today is an important meeting.” Her hope was the meeting would “provide insights into some of the opportunities available at the state level for Delta County, the community and your industry.” Sen. Schwartz stressed the contributions of the generations of coal miners “that have served this community and our nation generating the coal necessary to heat our homes. Today still, over 60 percent of our electric generation [within Colorado] is coal-fired. We know a diverse portfolio of resources is the future of this state long-term.” She said there are different perspectives but people can find ways to work together.

Sen. Schwartz said the methane capture off Elk Creek Mine is a perfect example of that.

Rep. Millie Hamner said she was there with the others “to listen to the constituents and to help solve problems.” She continued, “The idling of the Elk Creek Mine has resulted in many very serious challenges for those of you that live in the North Fork Valley community. Not only has this idling of the mine resulted in the layoff of 300 people, it has impacted school enrollment … tax revenue and local businesses.”

She said the meeting was to inform the public of immediate resources and also to look ahead to long-term solutions and opportunities to broaden the economy.

Ray Lucero of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment oversees three Work Force Centers. He said his department helps people on a daily basis to find work. Many can change their lives for the better. The department has the largest database of job listings in the state through Connecting Colorado. Job listings are available online 24/7. They also help displaced workers train for another career. There is training available at Delta-Montrose Technical College and Colorado Mesa University. They can also assist with unemployment insurance, and help people with their resumes and interviewing skills.

Elyse Ackerman is the regional manager for the Department of Local Affairs out of the Grand Junction office. DOLA works primarily with local governments providing technical assistance for municipalities and counties. They have financial and grant programs available, energy impact grants, community development block grants and other grant programs. “Your communities are really good at tapping into those funding sources, and we are in regular communication with each other in how our grant programs can support what your community is trying to achieve,” Ackerman said.

As the local communities work to continue a thriving local economy, DOLA has programs such as the Main Street Program. It is designed to create “a grassroots-driven energy behind economic development that brings the business owners, the local government and residents to work together to create a vibrant community center in downtown,” Ackerman said. Delta and Cedaredge have been involved in that program.

Darcy Owens-Trask does regional development for the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). She works on only rural programs. “If a business wanted to come here and replace some of the jobs that have been lost,” she said, “we are the department that might be of some assistance.” Their departments attract global businesses to Colorado. The Colorado Innovation Network has resources for exporters. The Tourism Office does a lot of promotion for this area, she said. The Colorado Film Office, Colorado Creative Industries, small business development centers and business funding and incentives are all part of this state organization.

They offer various tools to help businesses grow. They offer strategic fund tax credits to help businesses. The REDI Program (Rural Economic Development Initiative) is available to help this region attract new jobs and to help businesses here to grow. They offer grant funding and technical assistance to diversify and add resiliency to the economy. All of Delta County is included in their programs.

OEDIT will have a meeting on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. at EnergyTech in Paonia for local government, business and community leaders to talk about the REDI Program. The grant can help pay for public infrastructure, business facilities and workforce training.

Mike Ludlow, mine manager for Oxbow Corporation, first explained that the Elk Creek Mine has not closed, but has been idled. “About a year ago, December 2012, we had a geologic event that caused an air blast and interrupted our ventilation. A short time later, we had a spontaneous combustion event underground in the area where the longwall produces coal. We sealed the mine to deprive the spontaneous combustion of oxygen. In August, we removed those seals and went back in to recover the longwall. Within 12 days the spontaneous combustion rekindled, and it was at that point that we made a decision that it was not safe to recover the longwall. So, it was a decision based on safety and safety of the employees that we resealed the mine. We continued development for another four months. At that point it became obvious to us it was going to be a year or more before we could procure another longwall mining system.”

That is what they are doing now. They are looking at new and used longwall systems that would fit their applications. Ludlow said they are “actively pursuing getting back into the business.” Procuring a new longwall could cost between $50-$80 million.

He described the business climate as “very, very difficult.” Electricity in the U.S. is generated using coal by less than 40 percent. “Coal is really going to be a fuel of choice throughout the whole world. It’s going to be in demand,” he said. “Germany is building coal-fired plants. China is closing some of their older plants and retrofitting them with modern scrubber technologies.”

Three major power plants at Hayden and Craig in Colorado and Deseret in Utah are equipped with modern scrubbers and control emissions. “Those power plants have no impact on the environment,” Ludlow said.

Caryn Gibson, school district superintendent, said that the district has been losing students for five years.

Sarah Carlquist, director of Delta County Economic Development, said the loss of 300 jobs has “crippled” the area. That is the equivalent of losing over 19,000 jobs in the Denver metro area. Each loss of a coal mine job equates to seven other jobs being lost in the community.

John Jones, director of Delta-Montrose Technical College, discussed various training programs offered for those who want to add to their skills or learn a new skill.

Reeves Brown concluded by saying no solution comes from outside, it comes from within. The best assets of a community are it’s people. He wanted everyone to know that “We want to support you.”

Tom Anderson, a 19 year veteran of Oxbow, said at 64 he is concerned where his next job will be. He’s afraid there won’t be another opportunity in this state for him and he will have to leave the community. He has three job interviews, all in other states. He has paid to upgrade his skills in search of better job opportunities.

Sen. Schwartz said she would like to work with Mike Ludlow on how the state can streamline permitting on the new Oak Mesa coal mine.

Schwartz Working to Ensure Legislative Participation in Colorado Water Plan


On Thursday, February 13th, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee passed SB14-115 approving the state legislature’s role in developing the Colorado Water Plan, which is a massive, multi-year effort to secure the future of our state’s most critical natural resource.

Senator Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, and Senator Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, worked with the Governor’s office and listened to other stakeholders to amend SB14-115 achieving consensus on: the role the legislature, commitment to protecting Basin Roundtable Plans (BIPs) and the opportunity for statewide public comment on the plan.

Any discussion of our future water needs always spark statewide interest. The Governor’s executive order creating the Colorado Water Plan process did not include a role for the legislature.  As a state, we need to be assured that the long term planning for water incorporates as many voices as possible, including the elected officials representing their constituents. SB14-115 is intentionally bipartisan and has sponsors that represent geographical diversity across the state.

“Every year, the Colorado General Assembly considers numerous water-related bills – placing lawmakers at the center of Colorado’s water policy conversations,” said Sen. Schwartz, D-Snowmass, Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee, and the Water Resources Review Committee. “The goal of this bill is not to have the legislature take over the process of creating the Colorado Water Plan. Instead, it’s intended to broaden the scope of participation and ensure that all voices are heard in this planning process including the legislature. Bottom line, SB14-115 will allow for more input and affirms the countless hours of effort put into the plan by Basin Roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee, stakeholders at the grassroots level, and reaches out to all Coloradans.”

Elements of the Bill:

  • To reaffirm the Basin Roundtable process
  • The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) will present the scope, fundamental approach and basic elements of the plan to the Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC).
  • Allows the WRRC to hold public meetings with the CWCB in each regional basin for two consecutive summer interims.
  • Allows for the public and WRRC comments to be provided to the CWCB for consideration prior to the adoption of the plan.
  • Once the plan is developed, the CWCB will be required to present to the WRRC on a regular basis, or if it is significantly amended.

Lawmakers aim to shift $50 million phone subsidy toward broadband

By Andy Vuong
The Denver Post



Colorado lawmakers and industry officials are dialed in on plans to overhaul a program that reimburses carriers more than $50 million annually for providing land-line phone service in rural areas.

A revamp of the so-called High Cost Support Mechanism is expected to rank among the top business issues this coming session after efforts over the past three years failed. The federal government and other states have already restructured similarly outdated subsidies, shifting the money toward broadband expansion.

Though competing measures are floating around, the consensus is that Colorado will also aim to repurpose the funds for broadband rather than eliminate the subsidy, which is backed by a 2.6 percent surcharge on land-line and mobile phone bills.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has initiated a review to determine which areas of the state have sufficient competition and should no longer qualify for High Cost support. Industry leaders expect that process to free up several million dollars as early as this year.

Lawmakers such as Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, have held town hall and stakeholder meetings in recent weeks to seek input in shaping proposed legislation. Another town hall is scheduled for Tuesday in Limon.

“It’s a crime that three or four years have passed and we’ve done so little to advance rural infrastructure,” Schwartz said. “By funding land lines and copper-line phones, we’re funding buggy whips with a really important asset of $50 million to $60 million a year.”

The High Cost fund was established in the 1990s, before the proliferation of cellular coverage, to ensure that all Colorado residents have access to affordable phone service.

Previously, proposals to phase out or phase down the fund have been tied to sweeping and complicated updates of the state’s telecom rules and terminology. And broadband expansion hasn’t always been attached to efforts to overhaul the program.

“The bill that I had last year was wrapped into a larger concept, and that concept failed,” Schwartz said. “This year, I’m working on a stand-alone bill that will dedicate the High Cost fund at some level toward infrastructure development, especially in rural Colorado.”

Broadband expansion is a top priority for Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose staff members have participated in discussions related to the repurposing of the High Cost fund.

“The governor supports broadband expansion to rural and unserved communities,” Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown said, adding that “details are still being discussed with legislators and stakeholders.”

The details that could present the most conflict include:

• Whether the broadband funds would cover both unserved and underserved areas of the state, or just unserved areas.

• Whether grant recipients would be required to contribute matching funds.

• Which agency would administer the program.

• How much would remain for land-line service in areas that are still “high cost” to serve.

Telecom giant CenturyLink receives more than 90 percent of High Cost funds annually and has, in the past, resisted efforts to change the program. The carrier, which acquired Denver-based Qwest in 2011, appears relegated to the fact that the program will shift toward broadband.

“We’ve heard that if there are reductions in the voice support, then that should go to a broadband fund, which we support,” said Jim Campbell, a CenturyLink regional vice president. “We support it under the guideline that it goes to unserved areas and not underserved areas.”

He also said a matching-funds component should be included.

“If a company is going to apply for support for broadband funding, they ought to put some of their own investment in,” Campbell said. “Industry has to have some skin in the game.”

Fort Morgan-based Viaero Wireless, which provides cellular service in rural Colorado and draws from the High Cost fund, has drafted a measure that doesn’t include a matching requirement.

Jon Becker, vice president of business at Viaero, said the company likes the idea of matching funds but didn’t want such a requirement to prevent smaller providers from seeking support.

“We wrote it without and wanted to have a discussion of ‘Does it make sense to have it in there?’ ” Becker said. “Maybe it’s a quarter match.”

Viaero’s draft bill would limit the use of the High Cost funds for infrastructure build-out and not operating expenses. Becker said the carrier may draw from the broadband fund, but that wouldn’t be the only benefit.

“If there is high-speed broadband in rural areas, you therefore bring more customers and more need to the table for wireless services,” Becker said. “Whether we get the broadband portion or not, any economic growth in eastern Colorado is good for us.”

As for whether the money would go toward underserved areas, Becker said the money should be available to communities that don’t have access to Internet download speeds of at least 4 megabits per second and upload speeds of 1 Mbps.

Becker estimates that the PUC’s current review of High Cost areas could free up $3 million to $10 million in funds this year.

PUC spokesman Terry Bote pegged the figure at less than $10 million and noted that CenturyLink could still apply to keep the funds for voice service “even in competitive areas if they can make a persuasive case for it.”

Rural-broadband activist Ken Brenner, a trustee for Colorado Mountain College, has drafted a measure that would shift administration of the High Cost funds from the PUC to the Department of Local Affairs.

The measure also proposes to require grant applicants to form a local technology-planning team that includes at least one community organization, such as a county government, school district or hospital.

“It’s a local solution crafted by the people who use it every day,” Brenner said.

Lawmakers are also expected to introduce at least one separate measure to update Colorado’s telecom rules, such as stamping into law that Internet Protocol-enabled services are unregulated. The state’s existing laws don’t currently address services such as Voice over Internet Protocol.

“The state of Colorado hasn’t updated its (telecom) statutes since 1996,” said Angela Williams, D-Denver.

Last year, a bill co-sponsored by Williams to exempt IP-enabled services from regulation unanimously passed out of the House but stalled in the Senate.

Read more: Lawmakers aim to shift $50 million phone subsidy toward broadband – The Denver Post
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Solid Future Forecasted for SD 5 Prisons

A national research firm recently presented the findings of a study examining the Colorado prison system to a legislative panel. The study specifically focused on the ability to meet correctional housing needs in the near future. This study is important for rural communities like Delta and Buena Vista because shifting prison populations have the potential to impact corrections employees and neighboring communities.

Colorado has followed a national trend of falling prison populations for roughly the past five years. This decrease is due, in part, to statutory reform, fewer arrests and lower crime rates. The shrinking population left prisons with more vacant beds than was expected just a few years ago. Some observers expressed concern that these vacancies could lead to prison closures or layoffs for employees. As of 2012, Colorado employed just over 3,700 correctional staff employees. Since many of our state’s correctional facilities are in rural areas, any layoffs have the potential for a disproportionate negative impact upon small communities.

The state commissioned a national research firm, CNA Analysis & Solutions, to study Colorado’s prison system. The study’s researchers recommended that all of the nearly twenty five facilities continue to operate at current capacity. The research indicates that the recent decrease in inmates will slow down. While projections vary, the consensus opinion is that inmate populations will not only level off but likely increase slightly over the next five years due to Colorado’s increasing population. However, the study’s prediction of a modest inmate rise is not a result of higher crime rates. As our state continues to grow, we should expect our need for correctional housing to follow suit.

This spells good news for Senate District 5 communities like Delta and Buena Vista. The facilities in those communities, Delta Correctional Facility and Buena Vista Correctional Complex, are among others in a category called Tier 2. The research found that these facilities are among the best suited to meet the projected increase in housing needs. One projection even calls for reopening 350 beds in Buena Vista by 2018. Both Delta and Buena Vista facilities jointly employ about 275 people and are excellent candidates for potential expansion. At this time, the system is stable and no immediate changes are planned.

Correctional facilities function as an key economic pillar in our rural communities. Inmates serve an important role in local industries such as agriculture and firefighting, and inmates also benefit from the dedication of the community at the prison facility. I truly understand the deep impact that job security has on each and every employee’s family, friends and local economy. That is why I am encouraged by the study findings that show facilities like Delta and Buena Vista are not in jeopardy of closing; instead, they are likely to serve an even bigger role in the near future. This spells a bright forecast for our rural economies– and families. I will continue to vigilantly monitor any proposed prison changes and vigorously fight to protect the interests of all SD-5 residents.

Schwartz Bestowed Randy Udall Award


DENVER — The Colorado Renewable Energy Society honored Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) with its first Randy Udall Award on Friday, September 6 during their sixth annual conference at the University of Denver School of Law.  The Randy Udall Award was instituted in memory of Randy Udall, and it is given for leadership in energy and climate change policy.

“To be given the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s first Randy Udall Award is entirely humbling as he was a personal hero of mine.  Randy loved Colorado, and advocated to sustain our natural environment and use our resources wisely.  My work at the state legislature for the past seven years has been motivated by similar goals.  We live in a remarkable state that provides for us through its diverse geography and natural resources, which we must strive to keep in balance to ensure our economic future,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz.

Throughout her two terms as a legislator, Sen. Schwartz has worked to protect water, natural resources, and agricultural lands.  Her record shows a history of promoting energy diversification and new renewable resources. In particular, she has sought to develop a wide range of renewable resources in rural Colorado in order to drive local economic development and job growth. Her legislation has included the 30% renewable standard for investor owned utilities, innovative mechanisms for taxation and finance of renewable projects, mapping of utility scale renewable resources, and promotion of alternative fuel vehicles.

Randy Udall championed renewable energy and its critical relationship to addressing climate change. He spent over a decade developing partnerships regionally between the coal mines, ski industry and rural electric utilities to address methane releases from coal mine operations. This year, Sen. Schwartz sponsored SB13-252, which incorporated coal mine methane into our state’s renewable energy portfolio as an eligible resource. Capturing and utilizing methane emissions from coal mines to create energy helps protect the atmosphere from the strong greenhouse gases while creating a new reliable clean energy source.

The Colorado Renewable Energy Society, led by Executive Director Lorrie McAllister, is a statewide nonpartisan nonprofit that works to move Colorado toward increased use of renewable energy and energy efficiency while supporting advancement of new science and technology.

Sen. Gail Schwartz receives the Randy Udall Award from the Colorado Renewable Energy Society

DENVER, August 16, 2013 – Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES) is celebrating its 17th year of supporting a sustainable energy future with a full day conference, auction fundraiser, and annual awards on September 6th at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law. Speakers will include industry experts, technology professionals, and policymakers including the director of the Colorado Energy Office, Jeff Ackermann.  Representative Max Tyler will accept the Larson-Notari award, in recognition of his clean energy contributions to the state, and Senator Gail Schwartz will accept the newly instituted Randy Udall Award for leadership in energy and climate change policy.


–Acceptance Speech–


RANDY UDALL is a personal hero of mine and it is humbling to be receiving an award in his memory this evening.

I believe, Randy’s life goal was to impart a sense of personal responsibility for the environment in each of us. Yet, he was realistic in the sense he understood that his individual impact would have limitations, and he had to inspire an army of folks to accomplish his mission.  One of the more remarkable facets of his nature was to envision multiple paths to an end goal and embrace strange “bedfellows” along the way. This is a lesson for all of us!

One tool for building his army of superheroes was through his prolific writings and speaking.  He was a great teacher and father who instilled in young people his vision for a better world by giving his time so generously.  What a terrific communicator he was, putting complicated concepts into such attainable terms! We all can recall a “Randyism’.  Like:

“You know what fries my bacon? In 2011, Germany installed more solar power in one year than Americans have in 50. If it were just the industrious Germans, I could probably handle it. But the laid-back, Fiat-driving Italians did the same thing. The Italians!”

“Given climate realities, we desperately need a rapid energy transformation, but wishing can’t make it so. As a Vulcan might say, what is desirable is not necessarily probable..” and goes on to say ” Unless saving energy quickly becomes the nation’s focus, we already have the answer: “Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here.”

Randy also wrote about, “My daughter Ren celebrated her 25th birthday last summer. She’s a member of what I call Generation B, where B stands for “bonfire.” Since her birth, more than half of all the fossil fuel consumed in human history has been burned, and more than half the greenhouse gas emissions humans have ever produced has gone skyward. As it steadily accumulates in the atmosphere, this enormous plume, now measuring 30 billion tons each year, is enough to melt glaciers, strand polar bears on sea ice, shrink the Colorado River, and alter the climate on which life depends.”

Over the past several years, as you are aware, Randy and I worked together on the “Eligible Resource of Methane” in the RES.  A highly successful and unlikely collaboration between coal mines, the environmental community, a aspen ski area and DMEA and Holy Cross rural electric utilities.  Randy taught us an important lesson, the ability to identify mutual areas of interest by understanding those on the opposite side of an issue in order to achieve a common goal. It is not the norm to embrace climate deniers to attain climate benefits of mitigating the hazardous methane gas from coal mines, but we now know that it can be done, while saving trees, water, wildlife habitat, snowpack, jobs, and industry.

I joined you earlier today for the remarks of Jeff Ackerman, Director of the Colorado Energy Office.  He gave an inspiring perspective on what Colorado has achieved over the past several decades to become one of the nation’s leading states in renewable energy.  We have developed a strong RES for IOUs and REAs, built strong legislative incentives for adoption of new technologies, and are identifying new challenges moving forward.

Jeff cleverly defined a “disease” from which I also suffer, along with many of you in this room, no doubt: “Advocacy”, which is characterized by suffering from passion, unease and vision.  As advocates, I believe that we have a mandate to complete Colorado’s energy picture by moving to a broader framework of carbon and climate. Replacing KWH of electricity with BTUs of energy so we can incorporate all renewables into our incentive structure while preserving our climate as a whole.

We can move beyond the constraints of focusing on “30% of 30%” of the electric generation sector, and make a commitment to the other 70% of energy consumption–the transportation sector uses 30% of our energy. And then move on to the new frontier of the built environment that consumes 42% of our energy resources.  The time is now for real action around climate and efficiency (as Amory would say the “Negawatt”).

In closing, I am so honored by your award this evening, and like so many, our work has just begun.  In some respects I feel it is similar to what we felt when we lost Randy Udall at such a vibrant stage of his life and in my opinion he was not done!  His passion, unease and vision were his calling and he defined advocacy in many respects.  As Paul Anderson stated at a tribute for him help explain Randy’s drive for many of us:

“He had such a strong passion for the environment. His connection to the wilderness was without limit.  His caring for the natural world was a way of caring for his soul. “

Onward soldiers, Randy has planted a sense of responsibility in each of us to care for the natural world around us and embrace a vision that includes everyone at the table for generations to come.

I would also like to acknowledge Randy’s family including Leslie Emerson. We can’t do what we have to do without the support of our families. Thank you CRES for this honor.

Senate Bill-019 Brings Out Discussion About Agricultural Water Conservation

Colorado Water — July/August 2013

By Lindsey Middleton, Editor, Colorado Water Institute & MaryLou Smith, Policy and Collaboration Specialist, Colorado Water Institute

Threat of water shortage in Colorado along with increasing demand has water users and managers from many sectors reconsidering the benefits of water conservation. Ag water conservation has become a hot topic in the state due to a bill, SB 13-019, introduced in the last Colorado legislative session by Senator Gail Schwartz, District 5, with Representative Randy Fischer (District 53) sponsoring the bill in the House.

The bill brought to the forefront an issue that has been controversial for some time, as many believe that little if any water in Colorado is meaningfully available for conservation, hence the saying “one farmer’s waste becomes the next farmer’s water right.” Still, agricultural producers are being asked to look deeper into the opportunity for  conservation, despite the complexity return flows brings to the issue.

“How do we find some additional tools, besides our instream flow programs, to motivate Ag water users to adjust their diversions at specific times? That was the thinking originally,” explains Schwartz of her motivation for introducing SB-019 in January of this year. “In the long term, we asked what would be some tools, such as infrastructure, that would allow Ag users to count on running less water without risking the loss of any historic consumptive use.”

Some had urged Schwartz to wait for more discussion about Ag water conservation among various constituencies before introducing the bill, but she chose to move ahead. “This being the second year of drought we were facing, I thought it would be more important to move forward,” explains Schwartz. After introducing the bill, Schwartz approached the Colorado Water Congress (CWC). CWC is oft en a first step for water legislation, and their formal support of a bill can help ease a bill through the voting process. As a result of discussions with CWC, Schwartz put the bill on a slow track, asking CWC to form a sub-committee and review the issues in more depth.

According to CWC State Affairs Committee member Dick Brown, who represents Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority on the committee, “The bill got narrower in scope [as we went on], which is not uncommon.” Among other changes, the bill was reduced to Water Districts 4, 5, and 6 on the West Slope.

Brown adds that Schwartz agreed to CWC revisions and amended the bill accordingly. The CWC voted to support the amended SB-019 and to work with Senator Schwartz over the summer (when Colorado’s legislature is not in session) to discuss concerns with the excised portions of the bill.

The amended bill was passed by the state legislature in April. Changes included removing a section that would allow a water judge to approve a change of water right for conserved water in certain cases. The bill as passed is already having a positive effect on some. Linn Brooks of Eagle River Water and Sanitation says her region’s tourism-based economy, which relies on river flows, benefits from Senator Schwartz’s bill, even in its truncated form. In fact, Eagle River Water and Sanitation has already begun to reach out to water rights owners in their region to conserve on a broader scale.

“We acknowledge that this tool may be difficult to use in other areas where water administration is more complicated,” says Brooks, “but we believe it can work for us.”Brooks testified for SB-019 before the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee out of a desire to protect cooperating diverters.

“The part of SB-019 that did pass alleviated the concerns of diverters that they would get penalized for cooperating,” says Brooks—concern that conservation hurts historic use averages has been a holdup for such efforts in the past.

The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, located near the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin, draws water from the Eagle River and Gore Creek. They are the second largest municipal water provider on the Western Slope.

“Healthy stream flows support fishing, boating, and the aesthetic values that draw visitors and drive our economy,” says Brooks. Outreach to diverters in 2012 resulted in cooperation from irrigation diversions, golf courses, and others agreeing to a 15 percent reduction in diversions initially and up to 25 percent as flows dropped through the 2012 summer season. But while diverters were willing to divert less, they questioned what the long-term effect on their water rights might be. SB-019, says Brooks, supports these cooperative efforts by protecting those who participate from being penalized in terms of historic consumptive use calculations if they ever require a change of use.

Among other aspects, SB-019 contains language that gives appropriators a “safe harbor” when they decrease their consumptive use. It calls for water judges to not consider any decrease in use resulting from a variety of programs, including certain water conservation programs, land fallowing programs, and water banking programs.

Brown, who was part of the CWC sub-committee providing recommendations for the bill, says that there was some debate about aspects of SB-019. “Some folks were really nervous that this was going to be a significant change in water policy since it tackled the issue of use it or lose it,” he says.

One of the objections to the original bill had to do with unintended consequences for other areas of the state, such as the Rio Grande Basin. “From what I have seen,” says Schwartz, “through recent legislation we are channeling different options for different basins.” She says by applying SB-019 to most of the West Slope, the bill was able to seize upon a timely opportunity and serve as a pilot for applications elsewhere. “We have the opportunity with roundtables to really look at specific needs for different basins,” she says.Schwartz says dialogue will continue as part of summer and fall sessions at the capitol. “We have more time,” she says, “but we will nudge people into having the conversation rather than have it evolve on its own.”

One group that is taking up the challenge of looking at Ag water conservation from the producer’s point of view is the Colorado Ag Water Alliance. “We want to see what opportunities might exist for Ag conservation instead of just saying it can’t work,” said CAWA member Robert Sakata. A CAWA committee will be meeting with Senator Schwartz this summer.

“These are difficult conversations, and I think we have to have them,” says Schwartz.


Your Voice & the State Water Plan

On May 14th, Governor Hickenlooper signed an executive order directing the development of the first long-term State Water Plan by and for Coloradans. The “gap” between our water supply and demand is of critical concern today and in the future. This planning process will be the foundation of a larger discussion about water needs and allocation. I recommend that all Coloradans engage in this important effort.

The state water plan will pave the way for water decisions that responsibly and predictably address future challenges. The Governor’s executive order detailed that the plan must promote a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, viable and productive agriculture, and a robust skiing, recreation and tourism industry.  It must also incorporate efficient and effective water infrastructure planning while promoting smart land use and strong environmental protections that include healthy watersheds, rivers and streams, and wildlife.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has been tasked with creating the Colorado Water Plan.  The board must submit a draft of the plan to the Governor’s office by December 10, 2014, and a final plan by December 10, 2015. The CWCB will incorporate the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and nine Basin Roundtables recommendations to address regional long-term water needs.

As chair of the Interim Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC), I will help ensure that the diverse voices of Colorado’s water community are heard during the development of this plan. The ten-member WRRC is comprised of legislators representing districts in each of the state’s major river basins.  The committee has a full agenda as we are charged to review water issues and propose legislation. The WRRC will also remain actively engaged with the CWCB in development of the State Water Plan.

A recent public opinion survey on water issues in Colorado indicated that only 30% of Colorodans believe the state has enough water to meet its current needs. Furthermore, nearly 70% of Coloradans indicated they believe there is insufficient supply for the next 40 years. Colorado’s perennial drought has diminished our reservoir levels, which not only impacts our state, but has immense implications for neighboring states. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may constrain water releases for the first time in modern history from Lake Powell to the minimum required by the 1922 Colorado River Compact for the next two years unless precipitation significantly increases in the Colorado River Basin.

As charged, the water plan has a broad scope and will inevitably need to address difficult and contentious issues. I believe that we should first focus on conservation and efficiency both at the municipal/industrial level and in agriculture.  Water conservation is an area with broad consensus. A recent public opinion study of Coloradans identified conservation as the most important water related issue. Other studies have strikingly demonstrated that 80% of Coloradans favored conservation over new construction projects. In 2013, I sponsored SB13-19 which gives landowners a new tool to conserve water without injuring their water rights. New conservation and efficiency tools are needed in the State Water Plan as they stress wise use of our precious water resource.

Conservation may be just one piece of this larger puzzle, and I want to hear what pieces are important to you. The dialogue around the state water plan is a critical discourse to ensure the protection of western slope water, reduce the “buy and dry” cycle on our agricultural lands and demand responsible urban and industrial use. In order to make your voice heard, contact me at, your regional round table, and IBCC members to help identify water issues and solutions that you feel are critical to this process. Thank you for caring about Colorado’s future!

To follow WRRC interim meetings, find materials, and read potential state water legislation as it becomes availbile please go to

For more information about the State Water Plan, the CWCB, your regional round table, and the IBCC, please go to

Follow the Colorado Water Plan on Twitter and Facebook


Eagle County Charter Academy opens new $12 million building

EDWARDS – Kim Walter was wearing sensible shoes. She needed them.

She’s the Eagle County Charter Academy principal, and there are about 12 million things to do in the wild scramble to open their new building before school starts this week.

They’re going from 18,000 square feet to 43,000 square feet. The only thing not getting bigger is the student body. It’s still 346 kids in grades K-8.

“The kids and their families have been part of the transition,” Walter said.

It’s been a character-building experience. When they broke ground, Walters said it took hard work, sacrifice, persistence, patience and collaboration to get them that far. Then there’s gratitude.

“These students are excited and thankful for their home,” Walter said.

Construction began in October.


Time and timing

This could be one of the last schools built through a dedicated state grant to help build and renovate schools in rural areas, said state Sen. Gail Schwartz, who toured the school late last week.

The $1 billion bucket of BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) money has finally run dry, but it doesn’t have to stay dry, Schwartz said.

The bucket will be refilled if Colorado voters have the very good sense to approve the marijuana taxes on the November ballot, Schwartz said.

Schwartz pushed the BEST grant bill through the state Legislature and said she has seen it work some miracles in her state Senate district, which includes Eagle County.

In one San Luis Valley community the K-12 school was a metal potato shed with a cesspool out back. It wasn’t the worst.

Another school was spending $1,000 per student per year just for heat.

BEST grants have helped pay for 20 new schools in rural parts of this region of Colorado and kept several construction companies afloat during the worst economic downturn in a lifetime.

In 2009 the Eagle County school board approved $2 million for the new charter school building. The Charter Academy raised $937,679.

State taxpayers picked up the rest of the tab with a $9,302,653 grant from the Colorado Department of Education’s BEST program.

That makes the building’s total price tag $12,240,332.


Temporary permanence

The school had been in what may be the world’s most permanent temporary buildings. It’s been in modulars since it moved to its current site after launching in a church basement in 1994.

For your money you got a state-of-the-art school.

The building is set hard up against Interstate 70, but triple thickness noise reduction glass really does keep the noise outside.

The new building features 20 classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria, music stage, art room, reading rooms, library, computer labs and science labs.

High efficiency lighting, mechanical systems, ventilation systems and plumbing systems are designed cut energy costs 34 percent compared to traditional systems.

The old modular setup had 20 outside entrances — tough for security. The new building has one, and it stays locked. There’s a camera, and they’ll buzz you in.

The Hawks can now have their own sports teams; they used to play with Berry Creek Middle School. The gym might be the new building’s most impressive exercise in optimism. The basketball goals in the middle school gym have breakaway rims, the kind that don’t shatter backboards when you slam dunk too hard.

The seventh- and eighth-graders are in the same hall as the first- and second-graders. Walters said it’s designed as a mentor program, the older kids helping the younger ones.

The lockers don’t have locks on them, which Walter says reflects the school’s emphasis on integrity and honesty.

And because it’s still a school populated by kids, the energy-saving light switches turn themselves off.

Pete Incitti, of Larson Incitti Architects, designed the school, and JHL Constructors built the school. JHL’s Elmer Waldschmidt and Chad Rayl helped ride herd on the project.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail

Gypsum Biomass Plant First of its Kind in the State


Colorado’s first woody biomass power plant is nearly complete. Senator Mark Udall and State Senator Gail Schwartz toured the facility in Gypsum on Friday, where wood cuttings from beetle kill trees will be turned into electricity. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen explains.

Heavy machinery is moving dirt around at a construction site not far from Interstate 70. The area used to be grazed by cows. Now, it’s being transformed into an industrial site, complete with two smokestacks and metal ramps surrounding a tall, main building.

Starting in December, wood cuttings mostly from the White River National Forest will be trucked here, so they can be turned into electricity. Developer Dean Rostrom is with Eagle Valley Clean Energy, the group building the plant.

“The trucks that come in here will look like a Wal Mart truck, the fuel that will come in will largely be chipped, so they’ll chip it in the woods for the most part. It’ll go over there onto the truck dumper and the entire truck dumper and the entire truck dumper will come up and all the fuel will be dumped out of the truck,” he says.

The idea is to use wood to generate electricity for homes and businesses in the Eagle Valley and beyond. To do that, the wood chips will be burned to heat water, which will turn to steam. The steam will turn a turbine that’s connected to a generator that will put power on the grid.

Del Worley is the CEO of Holy Cross Energy, the utility that got the project going. Several years ago, Holy Cross put out a bid for renewable energy projects in order to meet their goal of becoming 20 percent renewable by 2015.

“This will put us there, when this comes online, we will have met that goal.”

Worley isn’t the project’s only proponent. U.S. Senator Mark Udall visited the site in early August. He says he envisions the project being the first of many in the state.

“We can easily envision five and the sky’s the limit, this is cutting edge, it’s poineering and we’re here to tip our hats to the owners who have invested in it,” Udall says.

The $56 million plant will put 41 people to work in a region reliant on dollars generated from tourism, real estate and construction.

It also helps clean up the forests, according to State Senator Gail Schwartz. She pushed legislation that creates business for the plant. The bulk of the fuel used here will come from red and dead forests killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle. She says the plant gives loggers a reason to clear those areas.

“There’s not enough money at the federal, there’s not enough money at the state level to go in and manage these forests, but this is the beginning of a market based solution. They’re bringing value to that slash and brush that was clearly waste,” she says.

There are some residents in the Gypsum area who don’t like such an industrial facility in their community. But, overall, Eagle County Manager Keith Montag says people support it.

“I think in general it’s being embraced by the community, I think the community understands the benefits of something like this. Of course, there’s always a few folks who always have questions and concerns.”

The power plant will generate 11 and a half megawatts of electricity per year and burn roughly 250 tons of woody biomass each day once it starts running in December.



State Sen. Gail Schwartz hopes to build support for an agricultural efficiency bill

From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):

At the center of the discussion, held by a group called the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative, was an agricultural efficiency measure proposed by State Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village. Schwartz has been criss-crossing Colorado this summer building support for the legislative bill, which would allow irrigators who adopt more efficient irrigation practices to leave unused water in the stream for environmental purposes. Critically, the bill would give those who conserve the legal authority to protect their saved water from other users to the edge of their property line. That would skirt Colorado’s “use it or lose it” water doctrine, which makes unused water immediately available to the holders of more junior water rights.

The lower Crystal is one of several “pinch points” in the Roaring Fork watershed where late-season flows have dropped low enough in recent years to threaten the health of fish and other species. In 2012, flows near the Crystal River fish hatchery south of Carbondale bottomed out at a trickling 1 cfs. Those low flows are largely the result of agricultural diversions in the Crystal River Valley. Despite the fact that the Colorado River Conservation Board, a state agency, holds a “minimum streamflow” right of 100 cfs on the lower Crystal River to help preserve stream health, the river seldom flows that high in the late summer and fall…

The irrigation measure that Schwartz is pushing is not new — it was dropped from a piece of water conservation legislation that she passed in 2012, due to strong opposition from cities and farmers on the Front Range. Those interests, represented by a group called the Colorado Water Congress, worried that Schwartz’s bill could be used to lock up water that would otherwise be available for diversion from the Western Slope to the eastern part of the state. They also showed a general resistance to any change in Colorado water management, according to Roger Wilson, a former Colorado representative from House District 61 who chaired Thursday’s water meeting…

The average water in Colorado is used five or six times on its way to the state line, according to Nichols, so any change to state water law is bound to be contentious. Still, Schwartz is hoping that the atmosphere during this year’s legislative session will be different. “I think we’ve changed the tone of the conversation [since last year],” she said. “The ag community is more engaged now than they were … we all know our economies rely on the flows in our rivers…

Schwartz is meeting with Front Range agricultural and municipal interests in Denver on Sept. 26-27, in an attempt to win their support for her irrigation efficiency bill.

From beetle-killed trees 
to come renewable energy

By Dennis Webb
Friday, August 9, 2013

GYPSUM—As early as this December in a plant along the Interstate 70 corridor, wood that might have threatened Coloradans by burning in wildfires instead will be converted to electricity to power their homes.

Construction of the $56 million Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass electricity plant, Colorado’s first, is nearing completion. Under a 20-year contract, the 11.5-megawatt plant will supply 10 megawatts to Holy Cross Energy to help that utility meets its goal of generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Much of its wood supply will result from a 10-year, $8.66 million forest stewardship contract that Hotchkiss-based West Range Reclamation was awarded to remove insect-infested and diseased trees from the surrounding White River National Forest. The plant can make use of small-diameter trees, branches and other non-lumber-quality wood.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who has helped champion such stewardship contracts as a means of responding to the problems of beetle kill and wildfire danger in Colorado’s forests, joined fellow elected officials and others in touring the nearly completed plant.


“Colorado’s leading the way in so many when it comes to energy,” Udall said. “People are innovating, thinking out of the box.”

But when it comes to generating power from biomass, state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said Colorado ranks just 37th nationwide. Yet Udall said it’s currently the top generator of biomass of any state. He hopes to see more plants like the Gypsum one being built in Colorado.

“We can envision easily another five, and the sky’s the limit,” he said.

To help allow such things to happen, however, Udall wants to see Congress move quickly to renew the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to enter into stewardship contracts that make use of private-public partnerships to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk. That authority expires Sept. 30.

More widespread use of biomass power in the state may also face a hurdle from clean-air advocates, some of whom look askance at the energy source. Energy Justice Network’s Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign has created a website opposing the plant. Natalia Swalnick, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association in Colorado, said her organization also doesn’t support biomass as an electricity source, particularly because of concern over particulate emissions. If biomass is used, modern emissions controls should be employed, she said. “I understand that they have to clear the debris out of the forest, of course, but there’s limited data available on how these feedstocks affect emissions from biomass power,” she said.


Dean Rostrom, a principal in Colorado-based Evergreen Clean Energy Corp., the plant’s developer, said all the latest technology for emissions controls will be used, and those emissions will be almost indiscernible.

“We will scrub over 99.5 percent of the emissions,” Rostrom said.

Said Udall, “This will be a very clean-burning plant.”

The plant is considered carbon-neutral, as the wood otherwise would put out carbon as it decays in forests or burns in wildfires. Udall notes that the plant also reduces the reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, while Schwartz said there are now about 175,000 forest slash piles in Colorado.

“We burn them and that sends all sorts of stuff into the atmosphere,” she said.

For Schwartz, Udall and other project supporters, the other attraction of the plant is job creation. Some 100 people have been involved in construction, and an estimated 40 or so jobs will be created to run the plant and do the local forestry work that will help supply it with the 250 tons of wood it can burn a day. “It’s going to be a nice project for the town,” Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver said. “… It’s going to employ a lot of people and clean up the forest floor.”

Eagle County also welcomes the project, County Manager Keith Montag said. Besides the benefits others cite, it will provide an outlet for construction and other wood waste now going to the county’s landfill.


The project is particularly exciting for Holy Cross Energy. Rostrom’s company submitted one of about 50 bids to the utility as it sought ways to broaden its renewable energy portfolio.

“Their project came in, the pricing was good, the concept was good, and so we signed a power-purchase agreement with them,” said Diana Golis, the utility’s senior manager of power supply and contracts.

The turbine-generated electricity will be created by heating water and tapping the steam. Unlike some renewable energy sources, the biomass plant will provide a fairly constant stream of energy, except when being taken down for maintenance.

Golis said 10 megawatts is roughly enough to supply 10,000 homes. Holy Cross has about 55,000 customers ranging from Aspen to Vail to Parachute.

The project is yet one more novel way Holy Cross has been diversifying its power supply. It also contracted to purchase power generated from waste methane associated with the Elk Creek Mine in Somerset.

The Gypsum plant is benefiting from a $40 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. Kendric Wait, another principal with Evergreen Clean Energy, said that will help keep the Gypsum power more affordable for Holy Cross customers.


This is Evergreen’s first biomass plant, but those involved with the company have been involved with numerous other such projects. Biomass power is far more common in places such as the West and East coasts.

“We think it makes a lot of sense to build a few more of these in Colorado,” Rostrom said.

He said the challenge is to size them large enough that they benefit from economies of scale, but not too big for the supply of wood area forests can provide.

The company hopes to be able to sell leftover heat from the plant to a local user. It is located adjacent to the American Gypsum wallboard plant, but at least for now that plant has a cheaper source for heat.

The biomass plant’s location near the Eagle River earned it a “no” vote from one town council member, Tom Edwards. “We’ve done a master plan for the river and this isn’t in compliance with the master plan,” Edwards said. While the wallboard plant already was there, “I didn’t intend to line the river with heavy industrial,” he said.

The biomass plant is using berms and other means to try to reduce its aesthetic impact.

While they weren’t his principal concern, Edwards also has heard some object for air-quality reasons.

But Swalnick said the American Lung Association often advocates for emissions standards far more protective than existing ones.

For Schwartz and others comfortable with biomass plants, they offer one means of helping address Colorado’s beetle-kill and wildfire crises at a time of tight government budgets.

Said Udall, “What she’s describing is a sweet trifecta here — jobs, profits and forest health.”

Sen. Udall applauds Gypsum biomass plant

Dean Rostrom of Eagle Valley Clean Energy LLC, left, speaks with U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, center, and state Sen. Gail Schwartz about the biomass power plant being built in Gypsum. The plant is on schedule to start production in December.

Derek Franz /


GYPSUM — U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said the Gypsum biomass power plant is a “win-win-win” project when he and state Sen. Gail Schwartz toured the plant’s construction site on Friday afternoon.

The Gypsum biomass plant is the first of its kind in Colorado and is on schedule to go online this December. The “woody” biomass plant will produce 11.5 megawatts of electricity per year by burning dead timber collected mostly from the White River National Forest. That main fuel source will be supplemented by other sources, such as wood construction waste that normally goes to the landfill. Of the 11.5 megawatts, 10 megawatts will be sold annually to Holy Cross Energy through a 20-year agreement and 1.5 megawatts will power the plant itself.

“When this goes online it will put us over the top of our goal to have 20 percent of our power coming from renewable energy by 2015,” said Holy Cross CEO Del Worley. “This will put us at around 22 or 23.5 percent renewable energy.”

Udall, who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, touted the public-private project as a fine example of how to bolster the economy and help the environment while generating domestic power.

“It’s a carbon-neutral, renewable energy source, it mitigates forest wildfire, it creates about 100 jobs in total and it’s going to be profitable,” Udall said. “There’s nothing wrong with profit — profit leads to reinvestment.”

Eagle Valley Clean Energy LLC — a subsidiary of Evergreen Clean Energy Corporation — is the company behind the Gypsum plant, which will get the bulk of its fuel from West Range Reclamation LLC. West Range is a forest and land management company in Hotchkiss that was recently awarded a long-term stewardship contract with the U.S. Forest Service. West Range will receive $8.66 million through the 10-year contract.

“The stewardship contract is at the heart of this,” Udall said. “It’s a beautifully fulfilling relationship.”


Environmental health

Schwartz said Colorado is 37th in the nation for utilizing biomass power but it is the No. 1 producer of biomass fuels.

“We have 4 to 6 million acres of standing dead timber in our state,” she said. “We have 175,000 slash piles in Colorado that we will burn anyway. This biomass plant will help clean our forest and mitigate wildfires as well as create jobs and electricity.”

Udall said the biomass plant is a market-based solution.

“[Eagle Valley Clean Energy] is bringing value to forest slash and waste,” he said.

Udall said the plant is carbon-neutral because the wood fuel contains carbon that is already in the environment.

“It’s circulating, unlike coal, which is mined,” he said.

Udall added that the biomass plant is “state-of-the-art” in terms of its filtration and monitoring systems for pollution.

Dean Rostrom, a principal of Eagle Valley Clean Energy, said electrostatic precipitators will filter almost 100 percent of the ash from the burning wood fuel before it makes it into the air.

“That smoke stack will look about the same when it’s operational as it does today — you won’t see anything coming out of it,” Udall said.

Rostrom confirmed Udall’s statement that the company uses the latest technology to control emissions.

“We exceed all air permit requirements,” he said.

The Gypsum plant will burn about 250 tons of wood a day.


More biomass?

Rostrom said he thinks “it makes a lot of sense” to build more biomass plants in Colorado but there are several factors that have to align.

“It’s a balancing act between an economy of scale and environmental sensitivity,” he said. “To date, most biomass proposals in Colorado have been 100 megawatt operations but they would consume too much [to be environmentally balanced].”

Pam Motley of West Range Reclamation said it is important to find markets that are close to the wood source.

“So much of the cost of wood is transporting it,” she said. “Markets need to be within 100 miles or it’s not economical and it’s not as carbon neutral because you’re trucking it so far.”

That’s one of the reasons that makes Gypsum’s plant a good fit for the area — its proximity to the White River National Froest.

“With modern mega-fires becoming a growing problem that threatens Colorado communities, our precious water supplies and our way of life in the West, we need to use every tool we have to reduce wildfire risks,” Udall said. “The Gypsum biomass power plant shows how we can reduce wildfire risks, create jobs and generate renewable energy sources. This biomass power plant also underscores the urgency for renewing the U.S. Forest Service’s Stewardship Contracting Authority by passing a farm bill. If Congress does not stand with me and act, job-creating public-private partnerships like this will grind to a halt.”

More people, less water make for hard situation

By Seth Mensing

The Crested Butte News

A recurring theme at this year’s workshop, hosted by Western State Colorado University, is what’s being called the “new normal.” Organizers held discussions on “What is the new normal?,” A New Normal for the Rio Grande Basin, A New Normal in Water Education and Outreach.
By definition, the terms drought or flood speak to something out of the ordinary. But what happens when a drought continues and water projections only continue to sink lower. By 2050, the population of Colorado is expected to double, while the amount of available water is expected to decrease by 10 percent to 20 percent.
And where most of the state’s population is squeezed along the Front Range, much of the state’s water falls on the opposite side of the Continental Divide. Through collaborative events like the Water Workshop, that divide, which is sometimes as much a figurative divide as it is a physical one, people can connect the issues with the very real people facing them.
During the workshop, water managers from the state’s nine basin roundtables—formed in 2005 to create a forum for people to talk about water—get together and talk about the challenges facing each.
Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District general manager Frank Kugel says, “The one thing that has been accomplished so far in the roundtable process is a much greater understanding of water uses and challenges in particular basins so we have a better understanding of what faces the Arkansas and the people in the South Platte Basin have a better understanding of what’s happening here in the Gunnison Basin.”
And when push comes to shove, as it sometimes does in water disputes, Kugel says things tend to go better when there’s a personal connection between the people on either side of the disagreement.
With concern over projected future water shortages on the rise, the workshop also brought seven members of the state’s Water Resources Review Committee that’s made up of five state senators and five representatives from around the state and chaired by Sen. Gail Schwartz. The committee held a public meeting on Thursday to hear some of the concerns first-hand and then took a tour of Morrow Point reservoir on Friday.
“I think the members of the Water Resources Review Committee that attended have a better understanding of a number of issues and should take back a fuller understanding of water needs and issues facing our basin and that we’re not flush with water by any means and that we’re facing future shortages,” Kugel says.
Kugel says between the water currently being used here in the valley and those uses reserved by farmers and municipalities downstream, all the way to the Colorado River Compact, there isn’t much extra water to accommodate massive population growth or any diversion plans.
Water diversion projects have a long history in Colorado, having taken place sporadically since the Grand Ditch opened in the 1890s. Only a decade later the Gunnison Tunnel opened to bring water to the Uncompahgre Valley. And for more than 30 years, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project has diverted Western Slope water to serve the growing needs of southeastern part of the state, while the Colorado-Big Thompson Project fed northeastern Colorado.
But the big concern in the Gunnison Valley is over the next one. “When the Front Range is looking at the monstrous gap in supply and demand facing them, they still feel a new or expanded trans-mountain diversion plan is big part of the equation,” Kugel says. “We’re keeping a watchful eye on their other efforts in water conservation and development of existing projects that have been identified and asking them to look to convert some agricultural uses to municipal uses.
“Basically, we’re asking they exhaust all other options before they come to us. We feel we have compelling evidence that there is no extra water to send to the Front Range because of those downstream obligations,” Kugel continued. “Through the roundtables and things like the Water Workshop, each basin knows what the other basin is facing. And we have very substantial evidence that we’re not flush.”
The roundtable process, in addition to the Colorado Water Workshop, is helping to alleviate some conflicts, if so far it’s only by bringing them to the forefront of the discussion among the people representing Colorado’s river basins.
“It definitely was fun and the networking and sharing ideas and experiences. It is good to understand how other basins are approaching the Colorado Water Plan and impending gap between supply and demand,” Kugel says.
It was also a good time to reflect on some of the high points in water management over the last half-century. Part of the Workshop’s focus was on the 40th anniversary of the state’s Instream Flow Program that provides a water right to aquatic wildlife. In 1980, the program guaranteed 23 cubic feet per second in the Slate River throughout the summer months to provide for fish and riparian habitat.
“We looked back at 40 years of the state’s Instream Flow Program that is protecting the aquatic health and riparian environment and that’s been a success by most measures,” Kugel said.
And that’s the kind of collaborative success water managers from across the state hope to see repeated in the future.

Are You Strong? Remembering Randy Udall

By Joe Romm and Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

JR: After a weeklong search, Randy Udall’s body was found in Wyoming Wednesday. He appears to have died of natural causes during a solo camping trip.

Randy was the brother of Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who released a family statement, which ended “Randy left this earth doing what he loved most: hiking in his most favorite mountain range in the world. He appeared to be on the obscure, off-trail route that he had proposed to his family. The entire Udall family is touched beyond words by the tremendous outpouring of support from people around the country. Randy’s passing is a reminder to all of us to live every day to its fullest, just as he did.”

I remember Randy as a passionate and pragmatic environmentalist and outdoorsman — from a famous family of them, including his father, AZ Rep. Mo Udall; cousin, Sen. Tom Udall of NM; and uncle Stewart Udall, Interior secretary in 1960s.

I got to know Randy (and Auden Schendler) during my two-year stay at Rocky Mountain Institute two decades ago. Auden, who still lives in the area and is VP of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, knew Randy far better, so I asked him for a remembrance.

by Auden Schendler

I’ll keep movin’ through the dark with you in my heart my blood brother.
-–Bruce Springsteen

I think we will solve climate change, but to do it we will need each other, and we will need leadership and also companionship. Increasingly, over the years, the environmental community has become fractured on the issue of climate — in some cases struggling over best approaches, expressing our frustration and criticism. This is healthy, but it has to be understood in the context of a common struggle. We are in this together.

That is why I find it so deeply saddening to lose leaders and fellow fighters in this battle. I saw Stephen Schneider as nothing less than a fearsome warrior, like a Viking. A wonderful ally.

Now we have lost another brother in arms—energy analyst, innovator, deep thinker, and part time warrior Randy Udall.

I met Randy more than 20 years ago, when he was younger than I am now, and he choose me to join him on grueling and epic skis and hikes in the Sierras, the Wind Rivers, and the Colorado Rockies. He was one of the strongest humans on earth, both physically and mentally. As an Outward Bound instructor on winter courses, he was known to ski into camp in the dark, eat a stick of butter, dig a hole in the snow, and go to sleep. He once skied the entire 200-plus mile John Muir trail in a week with his brother Mark. To hike with him was to be completely brutalized beyond exhaustion, into a new place. It required the kind of effort Randy and the rest of us are now putting into the climate struggle.

Udall was a pioneer and an innovator. Among many of his important accomplishments were the development of the first utility green power pricing program in Colorado, a mechanism for utilities to bring clean power online. He was a brilliant and incisive writer, a master of metaphor who would spend days mulling a turn of phrase. As editor of Rocky Mountain Institute’s newsletter, he brought wit and life to energy writing.

In his work at the Community Office for Resource Efficiency he developed likely the country’s first carbon tax, imposing a fee on energy intensive development. Like much of Randy’s work, the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program was oddly bipartisan. Many homeowners happily paid the fee, expressing their own desire to help out, to not do harm, to be part of the solution. In the same way, Randy understood that cheap coal and petroleum brought Americans the prosperity we enjoy today, and our solutions must not ignore that debt, and must not sweep the miners and the geologists and the utilities under the carpet. For this, Randy was beloved by coal miners and gas explorers, conservative utility CEOs and environmentalists alike.

His favorite way of speaking about hard challenges was to say: “It seems to make sense to….” What a wonderful turn of phrase. Together, Randy and I wrote one of the early critiques of LEED, a paper that we hoped would help reform the program. Randy and I can both be too critical and judgmental, but Randy wrote that paper, as he did all his work, out of love and hope. To build, not to destroy.

He was non-self promotional to a fault, and to me he often urged humility—what Ben Franklin called the hardest virtue. Despite having a famous name, a brother and a cousin who are senators, an uncle who ran Interior and a Congressman father who doubled the size of the national park system, public spotlight and power were not Randy’s gig. When I told him he ought to radically expand his work at CORE, he said: “I have no interest at all in building an empire.”

Randy was above all a realist. “Like it or not,” he said of fracking, although “many of my friends seem to hate it, this technology has become one of the underpinnings of our civilization, as central to the way we live as the cell phone or computer.” That realism sometimes led to dark humor. Randy was known for his shit-eating grin, and it was never clear if you were in on the joke.

For the last decade, Randy had been relentlessly hammering on a key climate problem, and a key solution—methane leaking from coal mines. Destroy methane en-masse, and we can buy ourselves some time to address CO2. After endless denials and failures, he and partner Tom Vessels finally found a willing partner in Jim Cooper, the mine president at the Elk Creek Mine in Somerset. The company I work for, Aspen Skiing Company, was able to finance the project to convert waste methane to electricity, in partnership with another Randy ally, the utility Holy Cross Energy. With 3MW of installed capacity, we have a prototype of a climate solution that crosses partisan boundaries and represents the bleeding edge of cooperation in a divided America.

Who owns the Elk Creek mine? Bill Koch, who recognizes the value of the project and allowed it to go forward. If that political incongruity seems dissonant, it is also a way forward in a fractured time. As mine president Jim Cooper emailed me recently: “I owe you a conversation on climate change.” Barriers come down slowly and painfully. Wisdom, or progress, Randy knew, often comes, to quote Aeschylus, “against our will … through the awful grace of God.”

This is in keeping. Randy was known for a shocking irreverence that he balanced with a gentle, caring way. He would feed you chunks of muffin from his hands if he thought you were hungry; leave tomatoes on your porch; hand you red licorice on the trail, then be incommunicado for a month. I call him a part time warrior because Randy fought and then recharged, engaged in pitched battle, then disappeared into the woods.

He lived Ed Abby’s rule: “Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.”

In the climate fight, Randy reminds us of the importance of our friends; of that fact that we are all cantankerous and difficult people, but we need each other desperately.

As he said to me not long before he died: “Auden, to the extent I was able to make friends, you have been a friend for a long time. You deserved more from me; others deserved more from me; I deserved more from me; and, above all, I needed others more than I ever suspected. As for the work I did at CORE, that you are doing at Ski Co, that needs to be done… It’s difficult and endless and exhausting and sometimes lonely. I read Romm’s blog and look at China’s emissions and try to make sense of where this is going to leave Tarn and Torrey and Ren, not to mention Willa. And the politics of it drive me nuts, McKibben holding hands with 12,000, picketing purportedly the most progressive President we’ve had, staking out a Democrat!”

The question Randy would ask of us is one he asked of me many times. “Are you strong?” This quality meant so much to Randy, but it was more than physical strength. He would ask us if we are strong enough to win this thing, to persevere despite our own doubts and limitations. Randy knew we could only do this together, as he said: “Dozens, hundreds of people chipping away at the iron glacier.” Randy would want nothing less of us than that we follow through with his life’s work.

If there is one quantum of solace, it is that Randy appears to have died very quickly, of perhaps a heart attack or stroke, mid-stride, outward bound on a flat high bench, off trail in the Wind River Range, his favorite place on earth. Just as we ought to be, he was girded for battle. He had his pack on his back, hiking poles in hand, certainly feeling the lightness and joy we all feel heading out on a new journey.

Under a vast, clear and blue Wyoming sky, he came to rest on his side. He was finally, to quote Stanley Kunitz, one of his favorite poets:

… absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring….
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

Business-related bills: How they fared


By Business Report Staff June 7, 2013

Gov. John Hickenlooper signs the Energy Savings Mortgage Program into law. Standing, from left, are Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette; Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville; Eric Drummond, a lawyer who focuses on alternative-energy issues, and Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood. The bill creates a voluntary program to strengthen consumer demand for energy-efficiency improvements in Colorado’s housing market by offering short-term incentives from the state for high-performing new homes and energy retrofits of existing homes. Participating lenders will provide funds to match the value of the state’s investment.

DENVER — Following are summaries of business-related legislation proposed during the Colorado Legislature’s 69th general assembly, and the fate of those bills.

Some bills still awaited a decision by Gov. John Hickenlooper by the Business Report’s deadline. Under Colorado law, a bill sent to the governor within the last 10 days of the legislative session must be acted upon within 30 days after adjournment, or it becomes law without his signature. The 2013 General Assembly adjourned May 8.


Colorado Advanced Industries Acceleration Act

House Bill 13-1001

Summary: The bill creates the advanced-industries acceleration grant program in the Colorado Office of Economic Development. Advanced industries are defined as: Advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, infrastructure engineering and information technology.

Sponsors: House: Young, Gerou, Ferrandino. Senate: Heath, Steadman.

Result: Signed by governor.

Small Business Development Centers Act

House Bill 13-1002

Summary: The bill requires the Colorado Office of Economic Development to expend $500,000 in each of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 state fiscal years for small-business development centers, or SBDCs. Appropriations made would be in addition to any other money the office receives. The state director of SBDCs in the office shall expend between 10 percent and 15 percent of these monies per year to increase awareness of SBDCs and shall equitably apportion the remainder for distribution to SBDCs across the state. If separate legislation is enacted to establish an economic gardening initiative, $200,000 of the $500,000 will be used for that initiative.

Sponsors: House: Tyler, Lee, Moreno, Primavera, Ryden, Schafer, Williams, Young. Senate: Jahn.

Result: Signed by governor.

Economic Gardening Pilot Project

House Bill 13-1003

Summary: The bill creates an economic gardening pilot project in the Colorado Office of Economic Development. Through the pilot project, staff members of the office and SBDCs who have been trained and certified in economic gardening principles and practices provide 12 months of strategic assistance to at least 20 Colorado-headquartered second-stage companies and SBDC clients selected by the state director of SBDCs in the office. The pilot project terminates in 2016.

Sponsors: House: Lee, Garcia, Tyler.

Result: Signed by governor.

Colorado Careers Act of 2013

House Bill 13-1004

Summary: The bill establishes the career pathways program in the Division of Employment and Training in the Department of Labor and Employment. The program would provide grants to eligible entities to enable individuals to acquire skills necessary to obtain or improve their employability. The bill establishes a career pathways fund and directs the division to submit an annual report to specified committees of the general assembly. The program would be repealed on Jan. 31, 2016, unless the director of the division sends notice to the reviser of statues that the program has proved effective through significant job placement.

Sponsors: House: Duran and Melton. Senate: Kerr.

Result: Signed by governor.

Refund for Overpaid Sales and Use Tax

House Bill 13-1009

Summary: The bill requires a person who overpays the state sales and use tax to apply for the refund within three years after the date of purchase.

Sponsors: House: DelGrosso, Senate: Jahn.

Result: Signed by governor.

Employer Access to Personal Information through Electronic Communication Devices

House Bill 13-1046

Summary: The bill prohibits an employer from requiring an employee or applicant for employment to disclose a user name, password or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device. This does not include access to nonpersonal accounts or services that provide access to the employer’s internal computer or information systems. The bill also would prohibit an employer from discharging, disciplining, penalizing or refusing to hire an employee or applicant who does not provide access to personal accounts or services. The bill clarifies that an employer may investigate an employee to ensure compliance with securities or financial law or for suspected unauthorized downloading of proprietary information based on the receipt of information about these activities.

Sponsors: House: Williams. Senate: Ulibarri.

Result: Signed by governor.

Deadly Physical Force Against a Person Who Has Made an Illegal Entry into a Place of Business

House Bill 13-1048

Summary: The bill would have extended the right to use deadly force against an intruder under certain conditions to include owners, managers and employees of businesses.

Sponsors: House: Everett. Senate: Grantham.

Result: Failed on a 7-4 vote in House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Energy Savings Mortgage Program

House Bill 13-1105

Summary: The bill creates a voluntary program to strengthen consumer demand for energy-efficiency improvements in Colorado’s housing market by offering short-term incentives from the state for high-performing new homes and energy retrofits of existing homes. Participating lenders will provide matching funds to double the value of the state’s investment.

Sponsors: House: Max Tyler, Senate: Gail Schwartz.

Result: Signed by governor.

Benefit Corporation Act of Colorado

House Bill 13 1138

Summary: Bill allows for-profit businesses to register as benefit corporations if they include in their mission statement a general or public benefit to society, ranging from something as broad as environmental protection to something as specific as supporting a local school. Two-thirds of a company’s shareholders must approve the registration. Benefit corporation status allows the company to pursue public benefits without risking a shareholder lawsuit for using profits to pursue the benefits.

Sponsors: House: Lee. Senate: Kefalas.

Result. Signed by governor.

Changes to Enterprise Zone Tax Credit

House Bill 13-1142

Summary: The bill would cap enterprise zone tax credits at a maximum of $750,000 per company per tax year and increase new business facility employee credits, investments in job training programs and credits to employers providing health-care benefits to their employees.

Sponsors: House: Hullinghorst. Senate: Heath

Result: Signed by governor.


Use of Consumer Credit Information by Employers

Senate Bill 13-018

Summary: The bill would prohibit an employer’s use of consumer credit information for employment purposes if the information is unrelated to the job. It would require an employer to disclose to an employee or applicant for employment when the employer uses the employee’s consumer credit information to take adverse action against him or her and the particular credit information upon which the employer relied. It would authorize an employee aggrieved by a violation of the above provisions to bring suit for an injunction, damages or both.

Sponsors: House: Fisher. Senate: Ulibarri.

Result: Signed by governor.

Report Business Fiscal Impacts of Proposed Legislation

Senate Bill 13-020

Summary: The bill would direct the staff of the legislative council to designate a five-day period following the introduction of new legislation or the notice of proposed rule-making during which any person may submit comments regarding the potential business fiscal impacts of the new legislation or rule.

Sponsor: Senate: Harvey.

Result: Failed on a 3-2 vote of the Senate Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs.

Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation

Senate Bill 13-024

Summary: The bill would prohibit an employer from requiring any person, as a condition of employment, to become or remain a member of a labor organization or to pay dues, fees, or other assessments to a labor organization, charity organization or other third party in lieu of the labor organization.

Any agreement that violates these prohibitions or the rights of an employee is void. The bill would create civil and criminal penalties for violations and authorizes the attorney general and the district attorney in each judicial district to investigate alleged violations and take action against a person believed to be in violation. The bill states that all union agreements are unfair labor practices.

Sponsor: Senate: Hill.

Result: Failed on a 3-2 vote of the Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology.

Energy District Private Financing Commercial

Senate Bill 13-212

Summary: The bill would set up a voluntary program to provide commercial building owners access to money to pay for energy conservation and renewable energy improvements. The bill expands the Climate Smart type program used in Boulder County into a statewide program.

Sponsors: House: Tyler. Senate: Jones, Schwartz, Johnston.

Result: On the governor’s desk as of June 3.

Renewable Energy Standard

Senate Bill 13-252

Summary:The bill would require rural electrical cooperatives, including Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Intermountain Rural Electric Association, to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, versus 10 percent today.

For-profit companies such as Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy already are required to achieve 30 percent renewables by 2020. SB 252 passed the Legislature after an amendment that reduced the requirement from 25 percent to 20 percent.

Sponsors: House: Ferrandino, Duran. Senate: Morse, Schwartz.

Result: On the governor’s desk as of June 3.

Colorado’s ZNE Goose Lays Golden Eggs


Architecture 2030 June 10, 2013

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With political acrimony in Washington expected to continue, state and local governments cannot wait for the federal government to create the badly needed jobs, economic activity, and resultant revenue needed to sustain themselves; they must use the options available and undertake the task on their own – and they can.


Colorado just took a giant step forward.

The Centennial State is set to create more construction jobs, increase state and local government tax revenue, and move its housing market to Zero Net Energy (ZNE) – meaning homes that produce as much on-site energy as they consume! 

Thanks to the Colorado Energy Saving Mortgage Program*, signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper on May 28, a homebuyer purchasing a new or renovated ZNE (HERS 0 rating) home is eligible for an $8,000 reduction on financing the total cost of their home mortgage. A new or renovated home that has a HERS rating greater than HERS 0, but less than HERS 50 (50% energy reduction), will also receive a mortgage reduction incentive.

In addition to an $8,000 mortgage incentive, homebuyers will benefit further from lower energy bills, which can be used to offset any cost increase on a ZNE home. For example, $30,000 in improvements on a 2,200 square foot home would require an additional $94.53 in mortgage payments each month. The monthly energy savings, however, would be $154.00. That’s a net savings of $59.47 a month.

Bill introduced by Senator Gail Schwartz, and Representatives Max Tyler and Mike Foote.
Example is base on a 30-year 4% mortgage, and average home energy cost of $0.84/sf/year.

Under this new program, a homebuyer can receive an $8,000 incentive, and purchase a zero net energy home that is worth substantially more – and at a lower annual cost than an equivalent non-ZNE home.

According to the analysis conducted by Architecture 2030, each $1 million in incentives will generate:

  • • $16.8 million in construction,
  • • $29.6 million in indirect and induced spending,
  • • $3.3 million in state and local government tax revenue, and
  • • $170 thousand in annual property taxes.


This program “has great support from the construction and financial sectors, as we continue to work together to keep Colorado at the forefront of renewable energy, clean tech and energy efficiency policy nationally” said Senator Gail Schwartz.

With interest rates low, now is the ideal time to leverage state and local government incentives to generate local building sector jobs, increase tax revenue, and stimulate the growth of an affordable high-performance housing market.


New York is following Colorado’s lead.

On May 17th, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton introduced a Zero Net Energy Tax Credit Bill in the New York State Assembly. 

The bill, patterned after the ZNE program developed by Architecture 2030, would give homebuyers a personal state income tax credit for purchasing a new or renovated home equal to:

  • • $5,000 for a HERS 50 home (50% energy reduction),
  • • $7,500 for a HERS 25 home (75% energy reduction), and
  • • $10,000 for a HERS 0 home (zero net energy).

The tax credit would more that pay for itself – each $1 million in tax credits would create $26.8 million in total spending, and generate $3 million in state and local government tax revenue.


And in New Mexico,

a Sustainability Tax Credit bill, introduced by Senator Peter Wirth, was passed and recently signed by the Governor. The bill provides personal and corporate income tax credits, for both new and renovated high-performance commercial and residential buildings. 

We encourage each state to get into the golden egg business with its own ZNE goose. For more information and a customized state ZNE Plan, contact Architecture 2030.

See the latest information on strategies for designing Zero Net Energy buildings at the new groundbreaking 2030 Palette.


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Snowmass senator’s clean energy bills become law

A file photo of state Sen. Gail Schwartz, center, discussing clean energy. Two bills she sponsored became law Tuesday.
A file photo of state Sen. Gail Schwartz, center, discussing clean energy. Two bills she sponsored became law Tuesday.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two clean energy bills into law Tuesday that Colorado Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village co-sponsored.The first bill, SB 13-212, is designed to create clean energy and construction jobs, help Coloradans save on their energy bills, and reduce air pollution. It creates the opportunity for new energy conservation and renewable energy financing options for commercial property owners. Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, co-sponsored along with Sen. Schwartz.

“In this time of limited financial resources, Senate Bill 212 requires no state money. The small businesses that participate will help us create clean tech and construction jobs while they save money on utility bills, improve their property, and reduce air pollution,” said Sen. Matt Jones.

The bill builds on earlier legislation allowing Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs at the local level. Boulder County’s successful “ClimateSmart” program is an example of a PACE program. PACE programs use an independent district to sell bonds and loan the proceeds to property owners, who could then install energy-related upgrades immediately and pay back using energy savings over time. Payments are made along with their property tax bill. Energy efficiency and renewable energy options, such as solar, qualify under the program, dubbed CPACE.

The second bill Hickenlooper signed into law yesterday, HB 13-1105, sets standards for the Colorado Energy Saving Mortgage program, which administers financing for people purchasing energy-efficient homes or home improvements to increase energy efficiency. Sen. Schwartz, a Democrat, carried the bill in the Senate. Sen. Jones is a co-sponsor.

Under HB 13-1105, the property’s Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score would help determine the maximum mortgage value. The lower the HERS score, the more energy-efficient the home is. For new homes with a HERS score of zero, the maximum value of the mortgage would be $8,000. For new homes with a higher HERS score, or for home improvements, the Colorado Energy Office would determine the maximum mortgage value.

Over the past two years, an existing Energy Star mortgage program has provided 188 energy-related mortgages. The programs provide financial incentives for people to purchase energy-efficient homes, and the state will partner with utilities and private lenders under HB 13-1105 to establish an incentive pool of an expected $1 million or more.

“CPACE and Energy Savings Mortgage Program are critical new tools that Coloradans can use to make our buildings more efficient and cut down on utility bills,” Schwartz said. “These programs have great support from the construction and financial sectors, as we continue to work together to keep Colorado at the forefront of renewable energy, clean tech and energy efficiency policy nationally.”

Sen. Jones and Sen. Schwartz champion green building, job creation

DENVER – Today, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two bills into law that will create clean energy and construction jobs, help Coloradans save on their energy bills, and reduce air pollution. Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) and Sen. Matt Jones (D-Louisville) are the prime co-sponsors of SB 13-212, which creates the opportunity for new energy conservation and renewable energy financing options for commercial property owners.

The bill builds on earlier legislation allowing Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs at the local level.  Boulder County’s successful “ClimateSmart” program is a PACE program, for example.  PACE programs use an independent district to sell bonds and loan the proceeds to property owners, who could then install energy-related upgrades immediately and pay back using energy savings over time.  Payments are made along with their property tax bill.  Energy efficiency and renewable energy options, such as solar, qualify under the program.  Extending financing options to commercial owners creates a program known as CPACE (add Commercial to PACE), and both Sen. Schwartz and Sen. Jones believe the bill will lead to economic victories for the state.

“In this time of limited financial resources, Senate Bill 212 requires no state money. The small businesses that participate will help us create clean tech and construction jobs while they save money on utility bills, improve their property, and reduce air pollution,” said Sen. Matt Jones.

HB 13-1105, which was also signed today, sets standards for the Colorado Energy Saving Mortgage program, which administers financing for people purchasing energy-efficient homes or home improvements to increase energy efficiency.  Sen. Schwartz carried the bill in the Senate and Sen. Jones is a co-sponsor.

Under HB 13-1105, the property’s Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score would help determine the maximum mortgage value. The lower the HERS score, the more energy-efficient the home is. For new homes with a HERS score of zero, the maximum value of the mortgage would be $8,000. For new homes with a higher HERS score, or for home improvements, the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) would determine the maximum mortgage value.

Over the past two years, an existing Energy Star mortgage program has provided 188 energy-related mortgages. The programs provide financial incentives for people to purchase energy-efficient homes, and the state will partner with utilities and private lenders under HB 13-1105 to establish an incentive pool of an expected $1 million or more.

“CPACE and Energy Savings Mortgage Program are critical new tools that Coloradans can use to make our buildings more efficient and cut down on utility bills. These programs have great support from the construction and financial sectors, as we continue to work together to keep Colorado at the forefront of renewable energy, clean tech and energy efficiency policy nationally,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz.

Sen. Schwartz goes on Meet the Leaders with Rep. Hamner

Watch Sen. Schwartz and Rep. Hamner discuss agriculture, energy, education, and other issues important to Colorado.

About Meet the Leaders:

An insightful program with area leaders, Meet the Leaders explores the people, policies and issues which are responsible for directing the future course of regional communities. Through discussion and query directed by our host / moderator, Meet the Leaders helps our viewers to gain a deeper understanding and a greater awareness of the factors integral to the formation of local decision.

Rep. Hamner 00:32
Sen. Schwartz 14:55


Memorial Day 2013: Helping veterans this past legislative session

By Sen. Gail Schwartz [SD-5]

This Monday, our nation celebrates Memorial Day, the historic celebration and remembrance of those who gave their lives in service to this country.  My position on the frontlines of statewide policymaking has given me a special appreciation for our freedom in a democratic republic.  As a result, I have a special respect and sense of obligation to our men and women in uniform.  Our troops and veterans play a vital role in protecting our nation and in the maintenance of our democracy.  Their sacrifice for a cause larger than themselves allows me and my colleagues the opportunity to serve our constituents through government.  In other words, our troops and veterans protect not only American citizens, but American democracy itself.

It seems only right then that one of our highest priorities as legislators is to support our veterans to the greatest possible extent.  Just as veterans have been busy protecting American lives and interests, my colleagues and I in the Senate and House of Representatives have been working to fix problems that confront veterans every day.  A provision of SB13-210 seeks to help veterans who have fallen on hard times by converting the unused Fort Lyons Correctional Facility into a shelter and rehabilitation center for hundreds of homeless Colorado veterans.  Memorial Day also reminds us of the importance of dignified resting places for our fallen heroes.  SB 13-040 honors fallen service men and women by expanding and funding the Homelake Military Veterans Cemetery.

These are just two pieces of legislation passed this session meant to honor and assist our veterans.  You can learn more about any of the legislation below by visiting the Colorado General Assembly website at  Also, please continue to contact my office with ideas of legislation to help veterans. I am excited to continue to serve our nation’s true heroes in the coming year.

HJR 13-1006: Concerning recognition of Military, Veterans, and MIA/POW Appreciation Day

HJR 13-1008:  Concerning U.S.S. Pueblo

HJR 13-1009:  Concerning the designation of the Leopard Creek bridge in Placerville as the “Pfc. Paul L. Haining Memorial Bridge”

HJR 13-1012:  Concerning the designation of National Guard and reserve retirees as veterans

HJR 13-1010:  Concerning recognizing the 60th anniversary of the armistice marking the end of the Korean War

HJR 13-1011:  Concerning recognition of military personnel from Colorado who have served in Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom and in the Global War on Terrorism, and honoring those who have died while serving their country in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world

HB 13-1008: Concerning the extension of the veterans preference in state hiring to the spouse of a veteran if the veteran is unable to work due to a military service-connected disability

HB 13-1119: Concerning placement of the word “veteran” on identity documents issued by the Department of Revenue for veterans with proper documentation

SB 13-040: Concerning the completion of the cemetery expansion project at the Homelake Military Veterans Cemetery

SB13-210:  Repurposing the unused Ft. Lyon prison into a homeless transitional facility for veterans and others



Colorado “graywater” measure could reduce water bills

April 16, 2013 by Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post

If House Bill 1044 were a book, it might be called “Fifty Shades of Graywater,” a suggestion that made Sen. Gail Schwartz laugh out loud.

“If only the bill were that much fun,” she said. “But it’s a very important bill when it comes to water conservation and water efficiencies.”

Graywater is wastewater in a building that comes from showers, hand-washing sinks and washing machines. It does not come from toilets, urinals or kitchen sinks.

Colorado is the only western state that doesn’t allow treated graywater to be used for flushing toilets, landscaping and such, but a proposal scheduled to be heard Wednesday in a Senate committee would change that.

House Bill 1044, by Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, legalizes the use of graywater, calls for the development of regulations to protect the public health and gives cities and counties the discretion to offer graywater permits to single- or multi-family dwellings.

Bill supporters say a household with four people could save 58,000 gallons a year if it had a graywater filtration system installed.

A similar bill died last year in its first House committee amid concerns it would harm downstream water rights. Fischer said he reworked the bill, which was then endorsed by Colorado Water Congress .

The House unanimously passed the measure, which will be heard Wednesday by the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who sits on the committee, said he’s excited to hear the bill.

“As long as we can protect the downstream users’ historical rights, there is nothing wrong with this idea,” he said. “A lot of money and energy goes into cleaning up water to bring it to drinking water standards, merely to put it on lawns and flush toilets, and we don’t need to do that.”

Schwartz also addressed that point, saying a number of Colorado’s wastewater treatment facilities are aging and need to be updated. She said the use of graywater would mean less input into those plants.

Fischer said he got the idea for carrying the bill from two Colorado State University professors who have been working on graywater issues. They have a graywater disinfectant vat set up in one of the residence halls and have been testing the system.

Uplifting Our Next Generation: 2013 legislative initiatives

By Senator Gail Schwartz

April is child abuse prevention month, and it reminds me that our communities are next in line after families in protecting children and ensuring they have the best start in life.  The 2013 report called Kids Count in Colorado provides vital statistics regarding the well-being of our children.  This type of data is critical to creating and shaping policy to create the most effective programs to best serve our communities.  We all agree that protecting children and investing in them at a young age will benefit them as they grow up to become successful, happy adults. This month, I am supporting a range of  legislation aimed at helping the children of my district achieve their potential.

There has been a variety of bills this session that work to protect well-being of children in Colorado.  For example, HB13-1271 will set up a statewide hotline to report child abuse and neglect.  Reporting and preventing abuse is critical because of the lifelong impacts abuse has on children.  Since 2007, more than 175 children have died as a result of abuse and neglect. Our current patchwork of reporting methods has resulted in too many vulnerable children not receiving critical resources.  If passed, the statewide hotline bill would ensure that family and neighbors would be able to call one number and reach a live person to report a child in danger, no matter where he or she is in the state.

Another bill, HB13-1117, seeks to align early childhood services to help keep kids and families from falling through the cracks.  Currently, many of the voluntary services that serve Colorado children and families are housed in several different state agencies.  By streamlining enrollment processes and program administration into one place — the Office of Early Childhood — our young children will have better access to the investments they need to grow up strong.

Two bills regarding the well-being of children in our state have already passed both the House of Representatives and Senate and are on their way to the governor’s desk. The first bill, SB13-163, continues the Colorado Infant Hearing Advisory Committee. The committee provides recommendations on guidelines for newborn hearing screenings and best practices for hospitals, audiologists, early interventionists, and physicians.  Second, Governor Hickenlooper recently signed SB13-008, which stabilizes taxpayer savings by eliminating the three-month waiting period for the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).  This bipartisan reform provides continuity of health care coverage for Colorado kids and avoids gaps in coverage.  Nearly 19% of all Colorado children, and 28% of kids in Senate District 5, are not currently enrolled but are eligible for coverage either through CHP+ or Medicaid.

Currently 11.5% of children in our district lack any form of medical insurance. As a result, SB13-200 also seeks to expand Medicaid eligibility, and bring the state in alignment with new federal requirements. This bill would extend health insurance to more than 160,000 uninsured Colorado parents and adults.  Research shows that when parents are insured, they are more likely to have their kids insured too—and use that health coverage appropriately for preventive care like annual check-ups and immunizations.  By expanding coverage for adults, this would also be a big step forward for covering all kids in Colorado.

Protecting the welfare of Colorado’s children extends beyond the efforts of the legislature. With April designated as child abuse prevention month, this is a time to remember that we are all responsible for the well-being of the children in our communities, and one person can make a difference. If you have any concerns about a child, you can anonymously call the Child Protection Ombudsman at 303.864.5111 or visit

21st Century Education for Colorado

By Senator Gail Schwartz

Last week my column addressed child well-being and the legislation affecting the health and safety of our children.  This week I would like to share why it is critically important to support and improve our schools. Each year that we do not fully invest in developing the minds of the next generation is maybe another year we are responsible for remediation, diminished earning potential, and the growth of public programs. School funding should be fully transparent and equitable for districts throughout the state; and we should target our dollars where they can make the biggest difference in closing the achievement gap and supporting under-resourced districts.

The Colorado General Assembly has approved SB13-213 to reform K-12 education in Colorado. The Future School Finance Act rewrites outdated school finance policy. This new policy addresses the distribution of state and local funds to our 178 school districts and charter schools. The bill establishes full-day kindergarten for all children and early childhood education for at-risk three and four year olds, both of which are critical to a child’s academic success, and school readiness. In addition, programs for at-risk students, online/ASCENT students, English language learners, special education, and gifted and talented education will also see increased funding. This bill offers additional state support for mill levy match, innovation, and teaching and leadership investment.

Given the diversity of Senate District 5, I am aware of constituents’ concerns about the financial burden some districts will experience; however, all districts should benefit from this new formula. Adequate funding must be available to all districts for competitive teacher salaries and costly expenses to ensure top performance. Districts in SD5 will see increased funding in key areas for at-risk students, English language learners, special education, and gifted and talented. Finally, SB13-213 introduces a first-of-its-kind website that will enable parents to view exactly how dollars are being spent in their children’s schools, ensuring your taxpayer dollars are spent on effective programs you support.

The second proposed school finance bill is the annual school finance appropriations bill, SB13-260, which passed the Senate on April 19. Addressing the funding needs of K-12 public schools in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, this bill increases the base per pupil funding, and adds 3,200 openings in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP). The bill also secures $20 million more for special education. SB13-260 creates the Quality Teacher Recruitment Program, allowing the Colorado Department of Education to contract with vendors to assist in recruiting, training, and retaining highly qualified teachers in struggling school districts.

Related to school finance, this session I sponsored SB13-214, updating BEST Oversight and Funding, to ensure a promising future for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program by assigning responsible government oversight through the Capital Development Committee along with the BEST Board and State Board of Education. Since passing BEST in 2008, the program has funded 181 projects in more than 284 individual schools in 94 schools districts and 15 charter schools, benefitting more than 113,000 students across the state. BEST has continued to put Coloradans to work, creating, or saving, 17,000 jobs, and has helped address approximately $980 million in capital construction needs. BEST provided safe, high-quality learning environments that have greatly benefitted SD5 schools.

These bills strive to modernize Colorado education, and demonstrate an investment not only in our children today, but also for the future of Colorado. In order to help our students reach their full potential, the system needs to have the financial framework in place to ensure that all districts can sufficiently meet the needs of their pupils. I believe in the future of Colorado K-12 schools, and that our children’s academic success is vital. And I will continue to advocate for SD5 schools, families and communities.


Hemp May Provide Opportunity for Local Farmers

February 27th, 2013 by Thomas Wills

The Colorado based organization HempCleans ( would like to work with the State and local governments to jumpstart the return of one of America’s fiber and oil seed crops, industrial hemp.

As part of a town meeting hosted by State Senator Gail Schwartz in Hotchkiss on February 10, representatives of HempCleans gave an overview of the uses of hemp and in-progress efforts in Colorado to bring the crop back. Schwartz and fellow legislator Don Coram plan to collaborate on a bill that would facilitate the growing of the crop in the State.

A lesser noted result of the passage of Amendment 64 last fall was an addendum that also legalized the growing of industrial hemp in Colorado.

Hemp has been grown in the United States since pre-Revolutionary War times and was once a primary cloth fiber and oil seed crop until supplanted by cotton. But due to the illegalization of a related plant, marijuana, hemp has also been prohibited from being grown by farmers in the United States since the 1940’s.

In the meantime industrial hemp is grown in Canada, Europe and most of the rest of the industrialized world.

Industrial hemp contains only trace amounts of THC (the active drug component in marijuana). Retail sale of hemp products in the U.S. is estimated at $365 million annually.

During the meeting, Janson Lauve, Lynda Parker and Eric Hunter of HempCleans explained the status of industrial hemp in the state and the world while passing around samples of hemp products that are manufactured elsewhere and imported into the United States.

These include a pair of 100% hemp cloth blue jeans (wonderfully soft but made in China), hemp socks, hempcrete (similar to cinderblock), hemp OSB board, and hemp soaps and oils. Manila rope is also made from hemp. Hunter roamed the room pouring samples of hemp milk (similar to soy or almond milk.)

Hunter explained the current economics of growing hemp and both he and Parker stressed that there is an effort (particularly on the Internet) to oversell the possibilities of the crop. Hunter said that seed yields were about 200 to 800 pounds an acre resulting in an average of about a $900 per acre yield on just the seed.

The value of the stem fiber would be in addition to this. Hemp oil sells at wholesale levels from $12 to $50 a gallon with certified organic oil at the top end. Hemp is also a nitrogen fixer and thus would be a productive rotational crop, enriching the soil in many ways including extracting some contaminants.  T

he initial market for hemp in Colorado would be for small growers to produce quality seeds for other future growers. Currently it is illegal is import non-sterilized hemp seeds into the United States so they would need to be produced within the state. HempCleans is working to secure a supply of seeds for prospective growers.

In the long term, Parker said that, if the crop is to become a major contributor to the economy, Colorado needs to develop the industrial infrastructure to process hemp fiber and seeds. If we could do this before other states, Parker said, we could capture a larger portion of the current and future hemp markets.

Even though growing industrial hemp is now legal in Colorado it is still an issue that needs to be clarified by the federal government since the DEA still technically has the power to prohibit (or allow) its cultivation.

Parker urged support of the Industrial Hemp Farm Act (HB1866) which has drawn broad bipartisan support including that from Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. Parker said that four more states are poised to legalize the growing of hemp.

In Canada a regulatory framework has been set up that charges hemp farmers a registration fee of about a thousand dollars plus $5 per acre per year to fund inspections.

At the end of the meeting the difference between hemp and marijuana was underlined when local marijuana growing advocates Scott C. Wilson of Hotchkiss and Jere Lowe of Paonia asked why anyone would grow hemp at a dollar a pound for seed when they could grow marijuana for thousands of dollars a pound for the high THC herb.

Parker explained that the hemp issue was separate from the pot issue. Hemp would be a useful alternative crop for farmers, another option with many benefits beyond the crop itself.

On February 4, the Delta County Commissioners passed a general ban on the growing of commercial scale recreational marijuana in the county. The ban does not affect the future cultivation of industrial hemp.

The North Fork Merchant Herald

Senator Gail Schwartz Listens to Local Constituents

February 27th, 2013 by Thomas Wills

State Senator Gail Schwartz held an open house meeting in Hotchkiss on February 10 and heard from a group of about 30 local constituents. Topics included historic preservation, the possible closure of the Delta prison, marijuana, industrial hemp, water issues, gun control and facilitation of micro-hydroelectric projects.

Schwartz began the meeting by introducing Bob McHugh of the local effort to save and restore the Enos T. Hotchkiss barn at the edge of town. The project gained additional attention recently when it was acknowledged at a Denver luncheon as being one of the most endangered historical structures in Colorado. Schwartz had also been present at the awards luncheon.

The Western Slope Interpretive Society is currently raising money to conduct an evaluation of the structure and write a plan to restore it.

Lottie Hellman of Delta was very concerned that the Delta prison might be closed and pointed out that the facility provides some 140 local jobs. It has a capacity of 500 inmates and currently houses 384. Schwartz expressed support for retaining the prison.

Dixie Luke of Rogers Mesa worried that with recent large government grants to pipe ditches and install lower water use sprinklers that the government might be preparing to ask that the area give up some of its water.

Mayor Wendell Koontz of Hotchkiss said he would like to see a push to encourage the Front Range to conserve more water.

He and another constituent asked about a possible Mt. Emmons molybdenum mine near Crested Butte. It was proposed that the mine use Kebler Pass as a mine haul route and would thus impact the North Fork.  Schwartz suggested that the mine might not be approved since it was in the Crested Butte watershed.

“I don’t support it,” she said. She said that there was strong opposition to the plan in the ski area town.

Then came the issue of the BLM gas leases with Schwartz saying that the BLM deferment of the leases was positive.

“I think it was the right outcome,” she said.

On the issue of gun control Schwartz said that she had a solid record of defending the second amendment right to bear arms. She then tempered this by saying that she also supported requiring backgrounds checks on all firearms sales.

Susan Raymond of Powell Mesa and the Delta Conservation District inquired about support for micro-hydroelectric installations. Schwartz was very enthusiastic about the growing trend in installing micro-hydro on canals and ditches. The piping of local ditches would make such uses easier.

She said there was a federal initiative underway to allow states to regulate such installations under 5 megawatts rather going through the onerous federal FERC process.

Schwartz gave a general report and listed her main issues as education, getting reliable broadband Internet service to rural areas, facilitating methane capture from the coal mines, and promoting forest health.

Schwartz spoke briefly of the hemp and marijuana issues saying that “our state is in a unique position in that Colorado is only one of two states that have passed this.” She said she was particularly interested in sorting out the specific issues regarding industrial hemp as viable farm crop separate from marijuana.

The North Fork Merchant Herald

Colorado has key role in America’s energy future

Written by Marianne Goodland, State Capitol Reporter
Wednesday, 27th February 2013 12:33
Agricultural forum draws record crowd
By Marianne Goodland Special To The Times Fort Morgan Times
The annual Governor’s Forum on Agriculture drew a record audience to the Denver Renaissance Hotel last week.Ken Salazar, who next month steps down as Secretary of the Interior, spoke to the more than 250 in attendance on natural resources issues.

The United States is on a good path to defining its energy futureunder President Obama’s energy agenda, Salazar said. That includes developing additional oil and natural gas in the United States. He noted that the nation is producing more oil in the Gulf of Mexico than before the BP disaster in 2010.

In the last four years, the amount of renewable energy produced — wind, solar and geothermal — has doubled.

In addition, the Bureau of Land Management has instituted projects to permit development of renewable resources on public lands. In the last four years, 10,000 megawatts of power, the equivalent of 30 power plants, have been generated through renewable energy projects on BLM land.

There is a “very significant role for rural America to play” in that energy future, Salazar said. It includes biofuels, wind farms on the eastern plains of Colorado, or a 3,000 megawatt farm in Wyoming to bring energy to Las Vegas. “Rural America will play a key role” in addressing America’s energy future, which he called “imperative” for the United States.

The conference also featured a workshop on draft rules for food production from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Food Safety Modernization Act sets forth new produce safety standards and preventive controls for human food. The first two sets of draft rules were issued last month, and apply to both domestic and international food producers.

Devin Koontz of the USDA said that the draft rules are intended to be risk-based and flexible, and not a “one size fits all” approach. The draft rules were developed after more than 500 meetings with farmers and industry leaders, Koontz said.

The food produce safety rules are a new area for the USDA, Koontz said. The standard is based on preventing contamination, with specific standards for certain commodities.

The rules apply to farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold most produce in raw or natural states. Farms with less than $25,000 in income per year, on a three-year average, would be exempted.

The rules also don’t apply to grains or produce that requires further processing, which are covered under different standards.

Comments on the proposed rules are due by May 16. For a full list of the proposed rules, go to

In action at the state capitol:

Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton) has introduced House Bill 13-1231, which would limit the already-rare practice in Colorado of tail docking of dairy cattle. Under HB 1231, tail docking, the partial amputation of a dairy cattle tail, would be prohibited unless performed by a licensed veterinarian and under anesthesia, performed for therapeutic purposes, and that the vet attempts to “minimize the animal’s long-term pain and suffering.”

Lebsock told this reporter that he knows of just one farm in the state, in Morgan County, with about 10,000 head of cattle, where the tails are docked.

The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes the practice, as does animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, which has worked with Lebsock on HB 1231.

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), who opposes HB 1231, said this week that if the bill truly means to address animal cruelty, it should include dogs and cats, whose tails are partially amputated. Tail docking also is common with pigs and sheep.

Lebsock said his bill is intended to address abuse with only one animal, dairy cattle. He indicated the issue is a public relations problem for agriculture. “I want our agriculture industry to look good,” he said. Lebsock is a Sterling native whose family still owns a farm in the area.

Lebsock is a member of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, but HB 1231, was assigned to the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee, where it is likely to get a more friendly reception.

But he also said that if HB 1231 does not get signed into law, the bill’s proponents are planning to put a measure on the 2014 ballot to stop the practice, and he believes it would pass with at least 75 percent support.

HB 1231 is on the calendar for a Thursday, March 7 hearing.

In other action at the capitol:

The House on Monday approved the first four bills contained in the Democrats’ gun control package, largely along party-line votes, with all Republicans opposed and most of the Democrats in favor. The four bills went through close to 12 hours of debate in the House on Feb. 15 and another four hours of final debate on Monday.

Rep. Ed Vigil (D-Alamosa) told his House colleagues he would vote against all four of the bills, earning a show of support from House Republicans.

HB 1224, which would limit high-capacity ammunition magazines to 15, passed on a vote of 34-31, with three Democrats voting against.

HB 1229, which requires a background check on any gun transaction, passed 36-29, with Vigil the lone “no” vote.

HB 1226, which would require those going through a background check to pay for it, was the closest vote, 33-32, with four Democrats voting against.

The last bill, HB 1226, which bans concealed weapons on college campuses, passed 34-31. All four bills are now awaiting action in the Senate.

The first bill by Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) to clear the Senate is now awaiting action from the House ag committee. Senate Bill 13-075 is one of several bills from the summer Interim Water Resources Review Committee that deals with water conservation efforts, and the bill unanimously passed the Senate on Feb. 13.

SB 75 encourages water conservation. Under the bill, once a final permit is established by the state engineer for water usage from designated groundwater basins or aquifers, that will be the basis upon which further water usage is set.

During a Feb. 7 Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee hearing, Brophy cited the example of Don Brown of Wray. Brown installed more efficient irrigation equipment, but as a result his final permit was changed from 400 acre feet to 335 acre feet of allowable use, in effect penalizing him for saving water.

“This protects (farmers’) interests long-term,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, who chairs the Senate Ag Committee and which passed SB 75 unanimously. Colorado Farm Bureau endorsed SB 75 during the committee hearing on Feb. 7.

Brophy didn’t fare as well with several other bills.

Senate Bill 13-064 would have asked voters to decide whether Colorado would be on Daylight Savings Time year-round. The bill was assigned to the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which rejected the bill on a party-line vote on Feb. 4.

The next day, the Senate Transportation Committee killed Brophy’s SB 16, at his request, which would have put into law standards on the use of self-driven vehicles.

It’s already perfectly legal to operate a self-driving car in Colorado, Brophy told the committee. The bill would allow people to work on cell phones while in the vehicle, for example, and that would require a change in statute.

“I look forward to seeing this technology evolve over the years; it’s coming sooner than you think,” Brophy said.

Committee chair Sen. Rollie Health (D-Boulder), thanked Brophy for bringing the bill to the committee and the issue to his attention and said he found it fascinating.

People with impaired vision could benefit from the technology, according to Denny Moyer, executive director of The Ensight Skill Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation.

Moyer, who has macular degeneration, has not been able to drive for the last 25 years, and noted that unemployment for the vision-impaired is 75 percent, largely because they can’t get to work.

Seniors also will benefit from this technology, Moyer said: “It will mean true independence for people who experience vision loss.”

Google has developed a self-driving car project, and the vehicles involved have logged more than 400,000 miles in California and Nevada without an accident. Darcy Nothnagle of Google called Brophy’s leadership on the issue “forward-thinking” and that the technology will be there sooner than people think.

On Monday, following a lively three-hour hearing, the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee killed Sonnenberg’s HB 1125, also on a party-line vote.

The bill would have asked that the state veterinarian be consulted before livestock could be seized. The bill stems from a case in Clear Creek County, where reindeer and other livestock were seized by local animal control officials.

Sonnenberg said he wanted livestock cases reviewed by “someone with 12 years of education on animal health, not 12 hours of training.”

The bill drew strong opposition from a number of animal rights groups, including Lisa Pederson of the Colorado Federation of Animal Welfare Agency.

Pederson told the ag committee that HB 1125 would set up different standards of cruelty for livestock than for other animals. “It would weaken existing animal cruelty statutes,” she said.

The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association also opposed HB 1125; Dr. Curtis Crawford said the bill raised unintended consequences for both people and livestock. The bill’s standard for seizure, imminent death, is “ill-defined,” Crawford said, and it also raises liability and safety concerns for veterinarians.

Republican efforts to ban the enforcement in Colorado of any new federal firearms laws also went down to defeat on Monday. HB 1187, co-sponsored by Sonnenberg, was defeated by the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 7-4 party-line vote.

Sonnenberg has had better luck this week with his bill on modernizing the receipt process for commodity warehouses. The Senate ag committee gave HB 1034 its unanimous seal of approval on Feb. 14, and it now awaits approval from the full Senate.

Approach to prison discussion

Senator Gail Schwartz (Senate District 5) reports receiving a number of letters from area citizens after a recent article in the DCI entitled, “Prisons targeted in state budget review.”

“This article helped bring to my attention the situation of the Delta Correctional Center’s placement on the list to be reviewed by the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budget,” she said this week.

“While this evaluation process could lead to a potential closure of the facility, the process has only just begun and no decisions have been made at this time.

“In an effort to be proactive, I have requested that the Colorado Department of Local Affairs engage with the Department of Corrections going forward to ensure a transparent and equitable process. I understand that the Delta Correctional Center and the surrounding community are closely linked. At my recent town hall in Hotchkiss, we discussed at length the contributions and programs the citizens of Delta are providing to support the inmates, like the prison ministry program. Also, the inmate work force is a valuable asset to the county and local agriculture community. Most importantly, the correctional facility is a significant job provider as the prison employs 138 Delta residents. These issues are an important factor to be considered in any prison evaluation.”

She promises to engage with the facility and with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budgeting as the process moves forward.

Anyone seeking additional information may contact Sen. Schwartz at (303) 866-4871 or

Constituents speak out

Constituents speak out during Schwartz visit

Kathy Browning
Published on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 08:59
Hits: 166

Sen. Gail Schwartz held a town hall meeting at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss on Feb. 10. This is her seventh year as a state senator.

“I want to thank you for the privilege and honor to represent Delta County,” Sen. Schwartz said.

With the senate’s redistricting, she now serves seven counties, not 11, including Delta, Pitkin, Eagle, Lake, Chaffee, Gunnison and Hinsdale. Those counties represent the headwaters, agriculture, recreation and a whole range of important resources, she said.

Colorado has 100 legislators with 65 in the house and 35 in the senate. This year one-third of the representatives are new.

“I make sure rural communities are well represented,” Sen. Schwartz said. “We strive for a lot of equity when it comes to our schools, our programs, our opportunities to have access to broadband communications, our health …. We are entitled to resources.”

Sen. Schwartz introduced Bob McHugh, who announced the Hotchkiss Barn is now listed on the Endangered Places List. McHugh said it’s important to be recognized. The barn is probably the oldest building in this part of the state. It was built by Enos Hotchkiss. “The Hotchkiss Barn represents the agricultural heritage of the valley,” McHugh said. The land surrounding it is in a conservation easement preserving it as agricultural land and open space. The Hotchkiss Barn is the centerpiece for this area.

Sen. Schwartz said hopefully the State of Colorado through the state historical society will be involved in its restoration.

Sen. Schwartz invited citizens to listen to everything said in committee meetings, in hearings and on the floor of the legislature at

She said Rep. Don Coram has been an excellent partner in the legislature. They have introduced nine joint bills. Rep. Millie Hamner will be joining with Schwartz in introducing future bills. The legislature meets from January to May, for a total of 120 days.

The habitat stamp will be renewed. The senator said it is an investment in habitat from hunting and fishing licenses. It helps place agricultural land in conservation easements. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is now a more efficient department. Parks are doing well. Sweitzer and Paonia State Parks are off the table to be re-purposed.

Legislation on civil unions which would provide legal rights for homosexual and heterosexual non-married couples is a reasonable bill, the senator noted.

Another bill would allow undocumented students who have completed high school, have a good record and who have applied for citizenship be given in-state tuition.
Sen. Schwartz said the drought is as serious as last year. This will lead to cut backs on grazing permits. She is focused on water and forestry issues.

Letty Hellman asked her support of the local prison. It is believed that there may be possible closing of some prisons in the state by this fall. Hellman said Delta Corrections employs 140. Inmates are working in four counties. The prison has a chapel that “is second to none, and was not built by taxpayers.” Hellman noted, “We as a county have really accepted this prison.” She encouraged citizens to write the governor’s office, legislators and county commissioners to preserve the facility here.

As a member of the Capital Development Committee, Sen. Schwartz has visited 19 prisons. The prison population has dropped and there is 50 percent recidivism across the state. The Delta prison’s spiritual and educational programs here are impressive, she noted. Inmates built furniture for the capitol and have served on hot shot crews fighting wildfires. Two state and one private prison may be closed this year. Fewer services are made available in private prisons. Delta Corrections has 384 inmates and 500 beds.

Following the senator’s time with constituents, a presentation explained the benefits of the agricultural hemp initiative. “There are many economic development opportunities associated with industrial hemp. auto makers, and building materials manufacturers to cosmetic and cellulosic ethanol providers, there are dozens of industries in Colorado and the U.S. whose pent up demand for this crop could create an industrial boom,” Lynda Parker of Hemp Cleans said. Her flyer stated, “The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that prohibits hemp cultivation, due to the DEA’s refusal to distinguish between low-THC hemp and high-THC marijuana.”

USFS 2012 Arial Forest Health Survey Results



DENVER, Feb. 6, 2013 — The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service today released the results of the annual aerial forest health survey in Colorado, which indicates that the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically, while the spruce beetle outbreak is expanding.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic expanded by 31,000 acres, down from last year’s reported increase of 140,000 acres. This brings the total infestation to nearly 3.4 million acres in Colorado since the first signs of the outbreak in 1996. Most mature lodgepole pine trees have now been depleted within the initial mountain pine beetle epidemic area. However, the infestation remains active from Estes Park to Leadville.

In contrast, the spruce beetle outbreak is expanding, with 183,000 new acres detected in 2012, bringing the total acreage affected since 1996 to nearly 1 million acres (924,000). The areas experiencing the most significant activity are on the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests in southern Colorado. Spruce beetles typically attack spruce trees downed by high winds. Once the populations of spruce beetles build up in the fallen trees, the stressed trees surrounding them offer little resistance to attack. Similar to mountain pine beetle, the increase in spruce beetle activity is due to factors that increase tree stress, including densely stocked stands, ongoing drought conditions and warmer winters.

“Now more than ever it is important that we work across the entire landscape to ensure forests are more resilient for generations to come,” said Dan Jirón, Regional Forester for the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. “A vibrant forest products industry, aggressive community actions, strong collaborative efforts and targeted high-priority projects will allow us to make progress to promote forests more suitable for an uncertain future climate.”

“The spruce beetle epidemic in our high-elevation forests demonstrates the breadth and complexity of issues affecting Colorado’s forests,” said Joe Duda, Interim State Forester and Director of the Colorado State Forest Service. “Active forest management and a viable forest products industry will allow landowners and land management agencies to expand forest treatments on lands available for management, while reducing wildfire risk and protecting important natural resources and infrastructure.”

In late 2012, two 10-year stewardship contracts were awarded by the U.S. Forest Service to improve forest resiliency on 20,000 acres affected by the mountain pine beetle on the Medicine Bow-Routt and White River National Forests. These contracts are in addition to the Front Range and Pagosa Springs Long-Term Stewardship Contracts awarded previously. The contracts reduce forest health treatment  costs and foster new uses of beetle-killed forest products to benefit forest resiliency and jobs.

The forest products industry is better positioned as mills come on line to take advantage of trees being removed from forested lands across Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service and partners are working to provide a reliable and predictable supply of biomass for new markets.

“Over the past several years, the Forest Service has worked with local, state and private partners to increase our collective ability to improve forest health and reduce wildland fire and public safety risks,” said Jirón. “From encouraging biomass projects, to aggressively treating beetle-killed trees near communities, and partnering to protect water resources, the Forest Service is working to efficiently fund projects to treat as many priority forested acres as possible.”

Through the passage of legislation in recent years, the Colorado General Assembly has supported forest management actions that demonstrate community-based approaches to forest restoration and watershed health. The Colorado Forest Restoration Pilot Grant Program is a cost-share program that provides funding for up to 60 percent of the total cost for projects. To date, more than $4.7 million in state funds and another $1 million in leveraged federal funds have been awarded to 86 projects across the State. Those funds additionally leveraged more than $8 million in matching funds to restore more than 12,000 acres of forest. In addition, the 17 projects currently in progress will result in treatments on another 1,200 acres.

Schwartz visits Salida

Cailey McDermott, Mail Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013 6:49 am

Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) responded to questions about education, “chem trails” and gun control during her town hall discussion Saturday at the Salida Community Center.

About 40 people from Chaffee and Saguache counties attended the forum.

Schwartz is the chair of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

She is also the vice chair of the Capital Development Committee and serves on the Local Government Committee.

Schwartz started the town hall with a few updates from the first month of the new legislative session.

“(The Colorado Senate) passed the civil unions bill (Friday),” she said.

“It’s not about marriage, simply civil rights. It means people can’t refuse to sell a cake or rent a room based on sexual preference,” Schwartz explained.

She continued to say that she’s consistently been a supporter for civil rights.

This session Schwartz said she is focused on water issues, protecting the forests and solutions to methane emissions.

She said, while the state’s snowpack is at 75 percent, the state is 95 percent dry.

“We’ve run out of colors for the severity of the drought conditions – especially in the Eastern Plains,” Schwartz said.

On the subject of forests, she said Colorado has in excess of 4 million acres of dead timber.

“We must find ways to remove the fuels,” she said, adding that the state has enough resources for the areas of risk.

She said she is working on renewing the Building Excellent Schools Today grant program.

Because of the program, she said, Senate District 5 will have 17 new schools.

Schwartz said another bill she will be carrying again this session deals with methane emissions.

She said the emissions are responsible for the reduced snowpack, dead trees and diminishing river flows.

Captured methane can be used for electricity, Schwartz said.

“It’s a great resource we can capture and use for electricity and capture those gases from harming the environment,” she explained.

In response to a question about affordable assisted living, Schwartz said, “It’s critical to keep the working force and the seniors in the community.”

Schwartz said she previously worked as the director of a housing authority.

Keith Baker, Buena Vista, thanked Schwartz for her continued support of Browns Canyon and said he doesn’t support any initiative to restrict local control of fracking.

Schwartz said while Colorado passed the most restrictive rules for oil and gas in the country, she said she does not believe it is the “place of legislature to set up rules; it should be a function of the Oil and Gas Committee.”

Linda Taylor asked about gun control and gun safety laws.

Schwartz said although there are no specific bills on the issue currently, she’s a “strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.”

She said she believes that no matter how guns are sold, online or direct, a background check should be required.

JT Williams, Crestone, said education is really important in the topic of gun safety, and “a little education goes a long way. A hammer will kill just as fast as a gun with a bullet.”

Schwartz said she has never owned a gun.

Claudia Mann, head of Chaffee County Montessori School, asked about state funding for schools.

Schwartz said 47 percent of the state budget is spent on schools, and 43 percent is for K-12 education with the rest for higher education.

“We are 48th in the nation in funding K-12 education. And we are last in funding higher education,” she said.

She said a ballot question about implementing a temporary funding boost for education failed in November.

Matthew Clark, San Luis Valley, said he wanted to bring up the topic he felt was the “elephant in the room – protecting the atmosphere.”

He said the issue of “weather modification or ‘chem trails’” has not been covered in the media and asked if the topic has been discussed at the state level.

“I’ve watched Colorado blue skies turn to milky white haze,” Clark said.

Schwartz said the weather modification program is about increasing snowpack and said it’s not the same as “chem trails.”

“Those are two separate issues,” she said.

Clark said that modifying and manipulating snowfall in any way has a negative effect on the environment and atmosphere.

He said a lot of people believe that it actually causes storms to break up and disperse.

Schwartz said having clean air and clean water is her bottom line.

She said, “Experts from California and Utah say weather modification is proven to produce 13-17 percent more moisture, but only when clouds are present.”

She said the program is an important one for the state.

Changing topics, Bill Hudson, Salida, told Schwartz about the city council’s proposal to increase fees for open-records requests.

He said if the city charges thousands of dollars for people to see public records, he’s concerned about transparency.

Schwartz said government should be transparent. At the state level she said they have charges in place for open-records request.

She said some requests require a staff member to do extensive research and go on a “wild goose chase.” But she said just getting copies of documents should not be an issue, and she asked Hudson to keep her in touch on the matter.

After Schwartz spoke, HempCleans made a brief presentation about the value of growing nondrug industrial hemp crops.

More than half the attendees left before the hemp presentation.

Senator Schwartz fight to protect Colorado’s forest health, alongside Governor Hickenlooper

Sen. Nicholson and Sen. Schwartz watch as Gov. Hickenlooper signs the Executive Orders

DENVER — Today, Governor Hickenlooper issued two Executive Orders to protect wildland-urban interface areas and protect forest health.

Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D-Gilpin County) and Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), who represent areas most impacted by forest health, applauded the governor’s efforts.  Both Senators are committed to protecting our forest landscapes.  Sen. Nicholson served on the Lower North Fork Fire Commission throughout the interim and is sponsoring four significant forest health bills this session, including:

  • Financial Incentives for Wildfire Mitigation (HB 1012): The bill continues income tax deductions for landowners who perform wildfire mitigation measures.
  • All Hazards Resource Mobilization (HB 1031): The bill clarifies the duties of the Office of Emergency Management in developing a statewide all-hazards resource mobilization plan.
  • Colorado Prescribed Burn Act (SB 083): The bill requires the Division of Fire Prevention and Control to implement a prescribed burning program.
  • Creation of Permanent Interim Wildfire Committee (SB 082):  The bill creates a permanent interim committee to review and propose legislation or other policy changes to wildfire prevention and mitigation.

“Coloradans need to adapt to the increasingly dry climate and mitigate the risk of forest fires.  Nobody wants to repeat what we saw last year with the Lower North Fork Fire, High Park Fire, Waldo Fire, and so many other fires.  Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Orders will help us to prepare for, and hopefully avoid, the worst.  I am committed to doing everything I can at the legislature to protect Colorado from catastrophic wildfires,” said Sen. Jeanne Nicholson.

Sen. Schwartz is working this session to achieve greater forest health through efforts with biomass energy.

“Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Orders set a roadmap to address the serious fire risk to our communities and watersheds while creating jobs and supporting our forest product industry. This significant step to improve forest health will help create value for dead and dying timber, protect our homes in forested areas, and improve the health of our forests,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz.

Executive Order B 2013-002 establishes the Task Force on Wildfire Insurance and Forest Health.  The task force will examine how to best protect people, property, and the general environment in wildland-urban interface areas.

Executive Order B 2013-001 establishes the Wildland Prescribed Fire Advisory Committee.  The committee will examine wildfire preparedness, responses, suppression, coordination, management, and prescribed fire, and advise the Director of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.


Sen. Nicolson serves Senate District 16, which spans Gilpin County, a small section of Southwest Denver, and parts of Boulder and Jefferson Counties from Conifer to Superior.  Sen. Nicholson is the Democratic Caucus Chair for the Senate Majority.  She is also the chair of the Local Government Committee and a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.


Senator Schwartz serves Senate District 5, which spans Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake, and Pitkin counties.  Sen. Schwartz is the Senate Majority Whip.  She is the Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee.  She also serves on the Senate Local Government, and is the vice-chair of the Capital Development Committee.

Collective- Bargaining Bill Moves Forward

By Charles Ashby
Wednesday, February 6, 2013


SB25: Granting collective bargaining rights to firefighters.

• Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, No.

• Steven King, R-Grand Junction: No.

• Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village: No.

• Ellen Roberts, R-Durango: No.

The Senate approved the bill 19-15. It now heads to the House.


DENVER — One Western Slope Democrat joined Republicans in opposing a controversial bill to grant firefighters collective bargaining rights on Tuesday.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said she voted against the measure because it impacted all fire departments and fire protection districts in the state, and not just the larger ones.

Regardless of her opposition, the measure cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate on a 19-15 vote.

Currently, SB25 applies to departments with two or more firefighters, making it far more pervasive than a measure that passed in 2009 that was vetoed by then Gov. Bill Ritter. That bill impacted departments with 50 or more workers.

Under current law, home-rule cities such as Grand Junction may place ballot measures before their voters asking if they want to offer such powers to firefighters. While some have approved it, most others have not, including Grand Junction.

The bill would negate those votes and approve the practice outright, which was one of the main reasons Ritter cited in his veto message of the 2009 measure.

Eric Brown, press secretary to Gov. John Hickenlooper, said the governor is aware of the “deep concerns” local government officials have over the issue, and members of his staff are “talking with interested parties to find common ground” over it.

He would not say whether the governor would similarly veto the measure if it reaches his desk in its current form.

The bill now heads to the Colorado House, where Democrats have a 37-28 majority.

Denver Post Editorial Board SB- 25

Colorado’s Democratic governor should threaten to veto his party’s SB 25, which would usurp local control and increase costs.
By The Denver Post Editorial Board The Denver Post

A measure that would make it easier for firefighters to unionize while usurping local control and potentially driving up costs for cash-strapped governments easily passed out of the Senate last week.

Given Democrats now control both chambers at the capitol, the speed at which the ill-conceived Senate Bill 25 blazed through the Senate is hardly a surprise.

What is surprising is that Gov. John Hickenlooper hasn’t stepped up to stop this disaster before it gets made worse.

His nature may be to try to broker some sort of compromise, but we think it’s time for Hickenlooper to douse the effort with a veto threat.

Sponsored by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, SB 25 is a bad bill for several reasons.

Like a similar bill vetoed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2008, this year’s model usurps local control and threatens to increase costs for local governments.

It’s still unclear if it’s even constitutional — though we suspect that Ritter, a former district attorney, had a pretty good grasp on that when he said he thought it wasn’t.

And this year’s version is actually more onerous than the version vetoed by Ritter.

Tochtrop’s 2008 measure applied only to fire departments of 50 or more employees. But the 2013 payback essentially covers every fire department in the state.

The Senate amended the bill so that it applies to any municipality, authority or district that employs “two or more firefighters.”

Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village was the lone Democrat to vote against the bill. She objected to its not having an exclusion for smaller departments.

But 19 of her colleagues were happy to reward their labor pals at the expense of Colorado communities.

As we’ve said before, there is nothing in current law that prohibits firefighters from collectively bargaining, but it does leave the decision up to the locals, which makes sense.

Many municipalities across Colorado have seen fit to let their fire departments unionize. Many have gone the opposite route.

For Democrats in the statehouse to jam through a one-size-fits-all measure that threatens to undercut labor contracts in municipalities that already have them and force unions on jurisdictions that have chosen a different path is deplorable.

Hickenlooper, who likes to talk about “eliminating the fundamental nonsense of government,” has an opportunity here to stop this fundamental nonsense before it gets worse.

While he may take heat from his party and its labor allies, the right thing for Hickenlooper to do is to throw a wet blanket on SB 25.

Gail Schwartz keeps focus on renewable energy, water and economic development

Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer | Posted: January 14, 2013

As the legislative session is about to kick off, state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, has drought and renewable energy on her mind.

For her first bill of the 2013 session of the Colorado General Assembly, Schwartz will introduce legislation that would allow farmers to implement water-conservation measures without fear of endangering their water rights.

The bill, which would enact safeguards against the normal “use it or lose it” rules governing Colorado water rights, was defeated in a summer water committee, where a supermajority is required to move forward. But in the normal session, Schwartz, who is the chair of the Senate’s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, would need just a majority to pass the bill. The idea, Schwartz said, is to protect farmers who choose to cut down on water use, since not taking the full allotment can expose water rights holders to abandonment claims.

“Given the drought circumstances, we need to do things differently,” said Schwartz, 63, who is halfway through her second and final term as a state senator.

In an interview in Aspen on Thursday, Schwartz emphasized her focus on energy and rural economic development, but she acknowledged that creating a system for legal marijuana sales and legislation concerning gun control would be headline-grabbing issues during the upcoming session, which officially kicks off on Wednesday.

With proper safeguards and oversight in place, Colorado’s status as being one of the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana could end up being much ado about nothing, Schwartz said.

“My inclination is we are just a little ahead of the curve,” Schwartz said.

She pointed to the state’s “good experience” so far regulating medical marijuana dispensaries as a road map. Schwartz predicted there will be a state licensing system with additional local controls for pot shops, but she said she is looking forward to the recommendations of a panel that is studying the issue.

“We need a good, strong, predictable system of access,” she said.


Schwartz added she is excited for the prospects of legalized industrial hemp farming in Colorado, because of the plant’s many uses from oils to textiles and its suitability for dry climates.

While acknowledging that gun ownership is a part of life in western Colorado, Schwartz said she would entertain conversations about banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as requiring background checks for online and secondary-market gun sales.

“The criminals know” where the loopholes are that could allow them to easily purchase weapons, Schwartz said.

Other bills Schwartz plans to carry this session include a proposal to assign renewable energy credits to methane-capture power generation systems. Such projects convert the methane gas that leaks out of coal mines into electricity, a recent example being a partnership involving the Elk Creek Coal Mine in Somerset and Aspen Skiing Co. that is expected to generate up to 3 megawatts of power. The rest of the surrounding valley could generate 50 to 100 additional megawatts through a robust methane capture program, Schwartz said. Her bill would aim to give developers of those projects more incentives.

“We need to give it value to make it a competitive resource,” she said, likening the program to incentives for solar and wind power. Schwartz said renewable energy is especially critical to her agenda, given the threat posed by climate change to the ski industry.

Schwartz also wants to move a bill that would use some of the tax dollars generated by fees on cell phone bills to deliver broadband Internet service to rural areas.

Schwartz’s Senate District 5 was changed in 2011’s reapportionment process, which dropped San Luis Valley counties and added Eagle and Lake counties. She will not have the chance to run for reelection in the new district, however, since term limits will require her to step down in 2014. While that is still two years away, Schwartz said she hopes to remain engaged in agriculture and energy issues, either on a state or federal level, after she leaves the legislature.

Legislators energized for new session 

Peter Marcus, The Colorado Statesmen | Posted: December 14, 2012

State lawmakers on Thursday outlined an extensive legislative agenda related to energy for the upcoming session that begins on Jan. 9. The legislature is likely to address establishing a renewable thermal standard, incentivizing so-called “green” construction and capturing methane gas, increasing the value for diseased trees to be used as fuel, accelerating the use of alternative fuels for state fleets, and establishing a clean energy commercial building program.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, unveiled their ambitious agenda at a Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce panel discussion at IHS’ global headquarters in Englewood. IHS is an information company that includes energy consulting.

“I have two years left,” Schwartz told The Colorado Statesman following the meeting. “And also, now that we have both chambers, I think instead of watching legislation come out of the House that was simply trying to dismantle our goals in the state that we had put in place with the New Energy Economy, I think we can move forward and broaden those conversations to a broader proposal of clean energy, and that does include a whole spectrum of resources.”

Democrats took back control of the House and retained the Senate following the November election, offering an opportunity for them to push an agenda that focuses on renewable energy and cutting fossil fuels. Much of that work started under former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration, who coined the term New Energy Economy. But Schwartz and Tyler say there is more to be done.

The legislators are shooting for a renewable thermal standard of 1.5 percent, which the lawmakers hope can be accomplished through a “small, modest” fee on natural gas customers. The fee would be about 1 cent per therm, and would be modeled similar to the electric side, which includes a 2 percent renewable energy fee on all electric customers.

The renewables fee has helped the state to nearly reach its goal of requiring utilities to get 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Tyler and Schwartz sponsored the legislation in 2010 that raised the standard from 20 percent. The following year, Republicans attempted to lower the standard, but their attempt failed.

Colorado voters in 2004 backed Amendment 37, which imposed a 10 percent renewable standard on all utilities. In 2007, the legislature raised it to 20 percent.

Schwartz believes Coloradans want a separate renewable thermal standard, or RTS. It would integrate thermal technologies, including solar thermal, geothermal and biomass into public policy.

“It is a very, very modest fee on that. And so the question is, if you look at the surveys that are done in the state of Colorado, and over 70 percent of the people in this state support renewable energy generation, and this simply is alignment with that,” explained Schwartz.

“If you look at your electric bill, it’s not the 2 percent that’s expensive,” she continued. “What we’re paying is for the utility infrastructure, and all of those costs for the resources are totally on the backs of the customers.”

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who also sat on the panel hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, did not seem too intrigued by the proposal. Brophy said he is more focused on the economy than climate change.

“I guess I’m a little more concerned that there are fiscal challenges than I am about carbon dioxide production in the United States,” Brophy told the audience.

He appeared to have the support of Tom Clark, chief executive of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Clark questioned the impact of climate change to begin with, suggesting that it may not be as dire as some make it out to be.

“It’s a challenge for us because of these precipitous jumps in CO2 levels in the atmosphere — I’m not sure what they’re going to do to us long term — but obviously they’re up significantly,” said Clark.

But Tyler said the impact of climate change is not debatable: “I have a little disagreement with my friend Tom over here when he says maybe CO2 is going to be a problem… CO2 is going to be a serious problem.”

Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, who also sat on the panel, cautioned against any extreme positions on climate change and reducing fossil fuel exploration.

“What I find interesting is that we’ve become kind of an extreme on every level,” said Scott. “We have to be extreme solar, extreme wind, extreme oil, extreme gas. But all we seem to be doing is clouding the issue, and we’re not really getting anything accomplished.”

Tracee Bentley, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s associate director for policy and legislation at the Colorado Energy Office, said the state is taking an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy.

“When it comes to renewable energy… we shouldn’t say we have enough renewable energy, we’re done there. That just doesn’t make sense,” said Bentley.

Schwartz said she is still working out the details of many of her other energy proposals, but they include:

• Incentives for eco-friendly architecture by 2030, noting that the so-called “built environment” consumes 60 percent of energy;

• Addressing the state’s forest health by helping create value for small diameter and diseased trees in order to expand biomass as fuel;

• Expanding and defining alternative fuels for state fleets;

• Incentivizing the capture of methane from coal mining; and

• Establishing a commercial property assessed clean energy, or PACE, financing for energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy.

Schwartz reviews legislative session

Cailey McDermott, Mail Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012 9:35 am

Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) named the Local Foods, Local Jobs bill as her biggest highlight of the Colorado legislative session that closed Wednesday.

Schwartz spoke to The Mountain Mail about that bill and other legislation she helped pass during the regular session.

The bill, which became the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, created an opportunity for people to produce cottage foods in their home kitchens, Schwartz said.

She said the idea for the bill came from meeting with local growers in Chaffee County about wanting more produce and more local foods.

Another bill Schwartz sponsored that became law is the electronic waste bill banning disposal of electronic waste in Colorado landfills.

Schwartz sponsored a stalking bill, signed into law Friday, that enforces stricter laws regarding the offense.

It was introduced in response to the murder of a Leadville teacher, Vonnie Flores, who was shot by her neighbor after being stalked for five years, Schwartz said.

The bill requires automatic restraining orders and a court appearance before a stalking suspect can be released from jail.

“It was a good session. We focused on economy growth and building of jobs – and local government, too,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said another bill she worked “very hard” on was the rural broadband access bill.

She thanked Wendell Pryor, Chaffee County Economic Development Corp. director, for his help.

Connectivity in Chaffee County and Salida costs about $20,000 a month, Schwartz said.

Having one Internet line in and out of the county makes the county and the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center vulnerable if it’s cut off, she explained.

Schwartz said, unfortunately, the House ran out of time to vote on several important bills, including the rural broadband bill, before the end of the session at midnight Wednesday.

She said discussion on the civil union bill was lengthy, and the House ultimately took no action on that measure either.

A special session will start at 10 a.m. today to address a few of the important bills that weren’t voted on during the regular session, like a number of water-related projects and the rural broadband bill.

Schwartz said the first item slated for action is the “projects bill,” giving the ability to allocate water and monitor river flows and storage.

She said in the face of statewide snowpack at 16 percent of average, “we can’t risk any oversights regarding water.”

Lawmakers trying to resurrect bills lost alongside civil unions measure

By PATRICK MALONE | | Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 11:47 am

DENVER — Lawmakers are grouping today to salvage what they can after Tuesday’s bitter political tug-of-war that doomed civil unions in Colorado for the time being and dashed dozens of other proposals along with it.

Among the bills that the Legislature is trying to resurrect on its final day of the legislation session are a measure that would authorize more than $40 million in water projects, including two in the San Luis Valley, and another that would prioritize underserved rural areas for broadband Internet expansion.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, sponsored both measures.

Legislative leaders are working today to roll authorization of the water projects into another bill that still has a chance to pass.

Faced with the sure passage of civil unions for same sex couples because some of their fellow Republicans and joined Democrats to support it, Republican leaders in the House halted action for three hours so Democrats could not demand a vote on it before the midnight deadline for its passage.

The stall tactic also came at the expense of bills to create a legal standard for marijuana intoxication while driving, criminalizing the abuse of bath salts as an intoxicant, reduce business taxes through bonding related to unemployment insurance, eliminating zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools and setting the course for the future of student assessment in Colorado schools.

Senate Passes Bipartisan Rural Jobs Act Today

Posted May 02, 2012 @ 06:00 PM
Denver, Colo. —

Today, the Senate approved the bipartisan Rural Broadband Jobs Act sponsored by Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass).   This bill aims to improve internet access in underserved areas by mapping rural areas, and developing recommendations for providing reliable broadband availability.  Currently, many areas in Colorado only have access to dated or unreliable Internet service, and some areas have no internet access at all.  This bill will help the state increase access to broadband and ensure businesses in all regions of the Colorado have the opportunity to be competitive and successful.

Senator Schwarz offered the following comment on the passage of the Rural Broadband Jobs Act today:

“The passage of this legislation will allow us to gather important data to ensure that all our communities have 21st Century broadband access.   It is essential to Colorado’s continued economic growth that all of our schools, hospitals and businesses, urban or rural, have all the necessary tools to be competitive and successful.”

The Rural Broadband Jobs Act charges the Office of Information Technology (OIT) with indentifying underserved areas and developing a strategic plan to bring service to these areas.  The Office of Information Technology will collaborate with local governments, broadband access providers, and stakeholders to develop recommendations to maximize broadband connectivity in Colorado’s underserved markets.

Rich Moorhead, CEO of Monarch Mountain, offered the following support for the Rural Broadband Jobs Act:

“Business growth is currently inhibited by a lack of broadband service in our area. With better broadband access, we could attract new businesses and create more jobs in existing small businesses. Our area is also heavily reliant on tourism and our guests expect to have connectivity. In addition to the economic impact, Senator Schwartz’s bill would mean a lot to our rural communities in terms of better emergency services, better medical care and better educational opportunities for our youth.”

The Rural Broadband Jobs Act is part of the Senate Majority’s “Colorado Works Jobs Package,” a series of bills focused on increasing employment in the state.  This bill will now go to the House where it is sponsored by Representative Don Coram (R-Montrose).

Schwartz sponsors bill to help forests

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
State Sen. Gail Schwartz on Senate Bill 180: “This bill will allow us to work on improving the health of our forests and foster job growth in the renewable-energy and timber industry.”
Contributed photo
DENVER — With wildfire season already in full swing across Colorado, the Forest Energy Jobs Act — introduced to the state Legislature on Friday by state Sen. Gail Schwartz — couldn’t be more timely.

“We are all well aware of the fire risks,” said Schwartz a Snowmass Village resident. “And while this has long been a concern for the Roaring Fork Valley, which has shown a lot of good thinking around the issue, we need to take a statewide approach.”

Senate Bill 180 does just this. According to Schwartz, the bill will create new jobs and promote Colorado’s forest health by encouraging and incentivizing the timber industry to remove diseased wood material.

As chairwoman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, Schwartz has long seen the health of Colorado’s forests as a focal point. In 2011, she helped create the Forest Health Working Group, which was charged with coming up with recommendations for “legislative solutions to the state’s deteriorating forest health and increasing fire risk.”

According to Schwartz, more than 98 percent of Colorado has been designated in drought condition, and more than 65 percent of essential Front Range drinking water is at risk of fire damage. Thus, the Colorado Forest Energy Jobs Act will focus on prioritizing forest management in high-risk areas, creating renewable-energy enterprise areas and organizing a work group to study renewable thermal energies and the possibilities for further development of these resources.

“This bill will allow us to work on improving the health of our forests and foster job growth in the renewable-energy and timber industry,” Schwartz said in a prepared statement, adding that the “health of our forests is not just a rural issue because the more than 2 million people and nearly 900 communities at wildfire risk are located along the Front Range.

“As the recent tragedy in Jefferson County has shown us, we need to start actively improving our forests, protecting our watersheds and decreasing fire risk.”

Specifically, the act will require the Colorado State Forest Service to identify areas most in need of forest-management services and look for funding sources. The bill also will develop renewable-energy enterprise areas, which will be regions where tax credits and incentives will be provided to businesses converting woody biomass, made from timber, into an energy source.

Schwartz said she believes this is an important job-creating opportunity for Colorado’s rural communities. In fact, a biomass project is under way in Gypsum, along the Interstate 70 corridor between Glenwood Springs and Vail.

“This is a huge success story,” she said. “Creating renewable energy is something we should all be concerned with.”

Senate Bill 180 is part of the Senate majority’s Colorado Works Jobs Package, a series of bills focused on continued job creation and economic growth in the state. This legislation will now be heard in the Senate’s Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee.

Gov. signs e-waste ban law

By PATRICK MALONE | | Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2012 12:00 am

DENVER — Just in time for the observance of Earth Day this weekend, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law Friday that bans disposal of electronic equipment in landfills and requires the state of Colorado to dispose of its e-waste through certified recyclers.

It’s “green” in the environmental sense, and means “green” as in cash-money for an emerging business sector that includes 2002 Pueblo Community College graduate Henry Renteria-Vigil.

“It’s going to put us in a good position,” he said.

His Denver-based certified recycling business, R2 Stewardship, got its start with a contract with the Pueblo Army Depot, and grew to enjoy its first $1 million year in 2011.

Now that SB133 is law, more will join Renteria-Vigil in that club, according to Marjorie Griek, executive director of the Colorado Association for Recycling.

“It means jobs,” she said. “It’s economic development, and it means less toxics in our landfills.”

Hickenlooper lauded the economic and ecological aspects of the bill as well. He noted that great expense goes into the retrieval of rare-earth metals common to electronics, and plucking them from castoff items reduces the need to mine them.

“It really does find that sweetspot between creating jobs for the economy and promoting the environment,” he said.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, was among the bill sponsors. She said the same items in electronics that hold value when recycled pose serious environmental risks when left to decay and seep carcinogens into the soil.

“That potentially goes into our groundwater at our landfills and threatens the health and safety of our state,” she said.

Adams State University bill passes

Posted: Thursday, Apr 12th, 2012

ALAMOSA — Adams State is awaiting the governor’s signature on a law officially changing the college to a university.

House Bill 12-1080 successfully passed out of the Colorado Senate on Wednesday.

“We are very excited about entering a new phase as a university,” said Adams State President David Svaldi. “We truly appreciate the support of the state legislature and especially of the bill’s co-sponsors, House Representative Ed Vigil and State Senator Gail Schwartz.”

The college’s Board of Trustees voted to pursue the name change Aug. 26, after exploring the issue for three years. The change will be official Aug. 7, 2012, effective with the fall 2012 semester (2012-13 academic year.)

“Becoming Adams State University is a logical next step. We have been operating at this level for some time,” Svaldi added. “This will more clearly communicate to prospective students the high quality and breadth of our academic programs for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as for distance learners.”

Graduate students now make up more than one-quarter of Adams State’s enrollment, and most of them take classes online, noted Dr. Michael Mumper, senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Program Development. The university name will improve Adams State’s competitiveness in this and the undergraduate market, because prospective students often erroneously associate the name “college” with two-year institutions, he said.

Adams State’s Graduate School recently introduced its ninth master’s degree program, in Music Education. Total enrollment has broken records for the last three years in a row, and Adams State now has the most graduate students in its history.

Steve Valdez, chairman of the Adams State Board of Trustees, said Adams State is successfully developing new revenue streams to compensate for state budget cuts – 30 percent over the last four years. Adams State’s expanding master’s degree and distance education programs are essential to supporting the on-campus, undergraduate programs, he said.

“We cannot continue to make up for state budget cuts by increasing tuition. Adams State must remain affordable for students who have the most to gain from earning a college degree – and who have the most to lose without one,” Valdez said.

This will be the institution’s fifth name since its founding 91 years ago to prepare public school teachers for rural Colorado. Adams State Normal School opened in 1925; in 1929 the name was changed to Adams State Teachers College of Southern Colorado, then shortened in 1938 to Adams State Teachers College. The current name was adopted in 1946 in recognition of the broader offering of undergraduate liberal arts programs and the expansion of graduate degree programs.

Local Foods, Local Jobs Act Signed into Law

April 9th, 2012

Filed under Featured

Governor John Hickenlooper has signed the bipartisan Local Foods, Local Jobs Act (SB-48) into law. The Local Foods, Local Jobs Act , sponsored by Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass),supports local, small-scale growers and producers by creating alternative methods for them to sell homemade, value added goods.

This legislation will allow small growers to sell their products directly to consumers, jump starting local economies and increasing the availability of healthy, locally grown foods. Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, as well as local farmers and producers Monica Wiitanen and Beth Conrey were present to show their support at the bill signing.

Senator Schwartz offered the following comment on the Local Foods, Local Jobs Act becoming law today:
“The passage of this legislation is so important to the economic success of our small farmers and producers, and I’m grateful many of these folks were able to come down to the State Capitol to testify and see all of their hard work signed into law. I appreciate my colleagues across the aisle for their support of this bill. I encourage everyone to support local producers and your farmers’ markets to enjoy Colorado’s locally grown goods.”

The Local Foods, Local Jobs Act will ease impediments to local markets by exempting home kitchens from certain health inspections that are generally applied to large retailers. Home kitchens will be trained on safe food handling and processing procedures, as well as labeling requirements to ensure healthy products. Small businesses that promote locally sourced foods can get a strong start due to these streamlined regulations.

This bill is part of the Senate Majority’s “Colorado Works Jobs Package,” a series of bills focused on continued job creation and economic growth in the state.

Nearly 30 other states have passed similar laws to promote local products. Senate Bill 48 was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Representative Don Coram (R-Montrose).


ASC closer to University promotion

Posted: Friday, Apr 6th, 2012
BY: Julia Wilson
Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — What’s in a name? When it involves a change from “college” to “university” that is an easy question to answer: prestige.

Adams State College is close to clearing its final hurdle to becoming Adams State University.

Wednesday the Senate Education Committee referred House Bill 12-1080 to the Committee of the Whole with a recommendation that it be placed on the consent calendar. The motion passed unanimously.

The bill is scheduled on the consent calendar for a second reading on Tuesday, April 10.

It was previously approved by the House Committee on State, Veteran and Military Affairs and to the Education Committee. The Bill then passed in the House and was sent to the Senate where it was relegated to the Senate Education Committee.

ASC President David Svaldi hopes to have the institutions status changed by the Fall 2012 semester.

The Bill has been moving swiftly through the system:

January 11, 2012: Introduced in the House (Sponsored by Rep. Edward Vigil and Sen. Gail Schwartz) and assigned to the House Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs.

February 29, 2012: Referred without amendments to the Education Committee.

March 14, 2012: Referred without amendments to House Committee of the Whole.

March 26, 2012: House Second Reading passed.

March 27, 2012: House Third Reading passed.

March 30, 2012: Introduced in Senate and assigned to the Senate Committee on Education.

April 4, 2012: Referred without amendments – Consent Calendar to Senate Committee of the Whole

April 9, 2012: Scheduled for Second Reading in the Senate.

If the Bill passes the Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper the number of programs, both undergraduate and graduate, will expand.

Administrators of ASC also expect enrollments to continue increasing as well.

“It is a natural progression to change Adams State College to Adams State University,” Svaldi has said in the past. “Changing our name to university will better represent the high quality and breadth of Adams State’s academic programs, for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as for distance learners.”

Administrators have maintained the name change is not going to be a radical change.

“Adams State is already operating on the level of a university, and our name should reflect that role,” reads an FAQ for students. “The university name will more accurately reflect the range and quality of our graduate and undergraduate missions, showcasing our academic quality along with changes in the marketplace. Retention of ‘Adams State’ in our name demonstrates a continuation of our essential character and values.”

If the name change is approved alumni will be able to get new diplomas with Adams State University on them, and transcripts will be issued under the ASU name.

Q & A with Colorado State Senator Gail Schwartz

Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass) was elected to represent Colorado’s Senate District 5 in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010. Previously, she was elected to serve on the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado from 2000 to 2005 and, before that, she was appointed by Gov. Roy Romer to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education from 1995 to 1999.

Colorado Central: Could you briefly explain SB12-048, the “Local Foods, Local Jobs Act” and how it will affect residents of Central Colorado? Where does the bill currently stand? 

Sen. Schwartz: In Mid-March the bill was signed into law! This is a “Cottage Foods Law” that allows local growers and bakers to prepare value-added products – jams, jellies, baked goods, dehydrated foods – in home kitchens and sell them directly to consumers on a local level. The intent of the law is to incubate entry-level opportunities for people to prepare and market their products without having to make a large investment in a commercial kitchen set-up or special licenses. This is a project that has been two years in the making, and grew out of a series of meetings with farmers and growers in Salida, Hotchkiss and Alamosa.

Colorado Central: Tell us a little about the Forest Health & Biomass Bill.

Sen. Schwartz: Last year’s bill, SB11-267, set up a forest health working group to provide a spectrum of recommendations to support the timber industry in development of sustainable harvesting practices, promoting healthy forest management and woody biomass energy development. This group’s findings are presented on the Colorado State Forest Service This year’s bill will implement many of the recommendations identified in the working group’s report.

Colorado Central: As you know, access to broadband internet is critical for rural education, business opportunities and job growth. You are working to improve access through SB 129, the “Rural Broadband Jobs Act.” What would that bill do and what is its status? 

Sen. Schwartz: That bill is waiting for a third reading in the Senate. It sets up a working group to investigate the status of broadband connectivity in rural areas of the state and develop a strategic plan for improvement. Currently, local planning teams made up of business, elected officials and other community leaders are working with the state Office of Information Technology, using federal dollars to map out connectivity accessibility around the state. Once that is done, the big question will be: where will the funds come from to invest in this critical infrastructure in our rural communities?

Colorado Central: Solar Reserve is proposing to construct a “power tower” in Saguache County near Center. The height of the proposed tower is more than 600 feet and the entire project would cover about 4,000 acres. While the project is considered to be renewable, there are concerns about the impact it would have upon the historic heritage of the San Luis Valley, the viewscape, wildlife and water consumption. What are your thoughts on the project? 

Sen. Schwartz: I’m pleased to see the level of solar energy development in the San Luis Valley and I continue to do work on the Saguache project. I am waiting to see what the county commissioners and the community decide before I give my opinion on the subject, as I feel my role is not to interfere with local determination and local process. When there are projects in front of communities throughout the District, like Over the River for example, I prefer to wait and allow the process to unfold locally before I weigh in.

Colorado Central: Oil and gas development continues to boom in rural Colorado. What would you say to your constituents who have concerns about it? 

Sen. Schwartz: Oil and gas extraction hasn’t really impacted the constituents in District 5, partly because not a whole lot of oil and gas development is going on in the district, with some exceptions in the San Luis Valley, and the North Fork Valley in Delta County. I recognize significant concern about the proposed BLM oil and gas leases. In Hotchkiss in late January, I helped facilitate a hearing that over 500 people attended, and 100 people testified about their concerns about the impact of oil and gas development on their economy, their land, and their way of life.  However, oil and gas extraction is going to become a bigger issue for the state as a whole because of industry innovations for the extraction processes allowing access to resources that were previously inaccessible. More people are going to be concerned about the quality of their air and water, and we must make sure that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission is involved in protecting people and resources locally.


Colorado Central: You are supporting greater awareness of the importance of electronics recycling. What are some of the things you are working on to help rural areas improve efforts to keep those toxic materials out of landfills and waterways? 

Sen. Schwartz: SB12 -133, my bill on this issue, has passed the Senate and has nearly passed the House.  The basis of the bill is a statewide ban on dumping electronics in landfills. (Just to give you an example of how toxic electronics can be, an old TV could have up to 40 lbs of lead in it!). Recycling these components will keep our ground water and land safe and cuts down on resource waste. Jobs will come from “resource recovery,” since the bill requires the state to use certified recyclers. There will be education programs for the public, and certified recyclers can come to local communities.  BlueStar is one of the recyclers that will be coming to local communities – it’s a great company that has a policy of hiring disabled workers and providing well-paying jobs.

Colorado Central: Lately, women’s access to birth control, abortion, and health care in general seems to be under increasing attack on the state level, including in Colorado.  As a woman and a legislator, could you please comment on this trend?

Sen. Schwartz: It’s unfortunate that there is considerable focus on women’s reproductive rights and access to health care right now, when we need to be looking at education, local economies, and supporting our families. I am struggling with why there is this need to control women’s access to health care and I don’t think government should be involved in this battle. Do we really need to revisit women’s rights that have been established for decades? Dwelling on this issue doesn’t create a single job, and it’s not my priority.

Colorado Central: What do you think of term limits for state representatives, and whether you think they have helped or hindered the democratic process in Colorado? 

Sen. Schwartz: In a way, we already have term limits – they are called “elections.” People always have a chance to replace their representatives. I have seen what it takes to really understand the issues and gain momentum in the Legislature – but because of term limits you see a lot of expertise walk out the door. Term limits also lend more power to lobbyists- because of the time crunch to come up to speed as a legislator, legislators often turn to the lobby to understand the issues. I don’t mean to criticize lobbyists, but over-reliance on their opinion and expertise is an issue to take seriously.

Colorado Central: Redistricting impacted your district quite a bit with Senate District 5 losing six counties, all of which were in the San Luis Valley;  Saguache, Mineral, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Conejos, and Costilla counties. Gained were Lake and Eagle counties. What do you say to those in the district who are concerned that the rural issues of Chaffee, Gunnison, Hindsdale, Lake and Delta counties now will be over shadowed the wealth and larger population bases of Eagle and Pitkin counties? 

Sen. Schwartz: I’m sorry to be losing the counties of the San Luis Valley in District 5, as I spent so much time there to becoming familiar with the local issues and priorities. But, as a result of that, now they’ll have “two senators!” I will always be concerned with issues in the San Luis Valley.  Glad to see Eagles and Lake Counties coming in – I focus on issues all these counties have in common: we all want good jobs, good schools and protection of natural resources. I prefer to focus on our commonalities, not our differences.

 Colorado Central: In early March you held some townhall meetings across Central Colorado. What were some of the common themes constituents discussed and what are you doing to address them?

Sen. Schwartz: I just had one last weekend in Alamosa. The issue of Adams State College changing its name came up, as it did in Gunnison with Western State College, and what the name change means to each of the local communities.  Provisions for veterans is always an issue around the District, and broadband connectivity is also a common theme for schools and hospitals in each community in particular.  This issue of connectivity started for me back in 2007 and led to my involvement with numerous Broadband bills including this year’s bill, SB12-129, the Rural Broadband Jobs Act.

Colorado Central: You have three daughters. Have any of them shown interest in a career in public service?

Sen. Schwartz: They are happy that there are term limits! I want to thank them and my husband, for they have been supportive and engaged every step of the way – but I have cured my daughters of any desire to ever serve in public office. Give them time to recover and they may think differently, but for now, no!

Colorado Central: Read any good books lately?

Sen. Schwartz: As I will be reading nearly 700 bills and the supportive material – I don’t have time for books! I’ve been part of a book group for over 25 years, and it is one of my greatest pleasures, when I get time to read!


Editors note: Special thanks to Elliot Jackson for conducting and transcribing this interview with Sen. Schwartz.

E-waste dumping ban passes Colorado Legislature

Both houses of the Colorado Legislature have approved a bill that would ban the dumping of electronic waste into the state’s landfills. The legislation goes before Gov. John Hickenlooper for approval.

Following introduction and approval in the Senate, the bill passed 43-20 Wednesday, March 21 in the House of Representatives. “We were thrilled,” said Randy Moorman, a lobbyist with the Colorado Environmental Coalition who had supported the measure.

Should Hickenlooper sign the bill, Colorado would join 17 other states with similar laws, according to the Colorado Conservation Voters.

The proposal gained bipartisan support.   It was sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.  Senate co-sponsors were Democrats Irene Aguilar and Linda Newell, and Republicans Steve King and Jean White.

“I call it a jobs bill,” said Coram. If the measure becomes law, it is estimated that it may create up to 2,500 new jobs in Colorado.

Schwartz felt relief that her bill passed the legislature. “It took more than four years of effort,” she said. “We’ve finally come to the right solution.”

In previous years, a measure failed that would place the burden on manufacturers. The current proposal mandates that state agencies arrange for the recycling of waste electronics with a certified recycler.

If it gains final approval, the law would go into effect July 1, 2013. The stay allows time to educate the public and to gear up for the increased demand.

The proposal before Hickenlooper is the work of a team of individuals representing industry and individuals, recyclers and manufacturers.  It provides a solution at low or no cost, depending on the situation.

It comes in the nick of time. Schwartz cited industry estimates that the use of electronic devices will swell to 50 billion by 2020– just eight years from now.

She believes most people want to keep electronic waste out of the landfill. “That old television may contain up to 40 pounds of lead. That flat screen TV may have mercury,” she said.

Certified recyclers can recover useful resources that might otherwise deteriorate and pollute the groundwater when discarded in a landfill, she added.

New wildlife area dedicated

Posted: Friday, Mar 16th, 2012

The sign marking the new wildlife area

Rapid weather change reminder of water’s importance

MONTE VISTA — The dedication ceremony of the Shriver-Wright State Wildlife Area had just ended when all hail broke loose.

As everything comes with a weather risk in Colorado, the timing was fortunate, since all speeches were finished and the sign with the new site name had just been unveiled.

Instead of perhaps 40 in attendance at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, approximately 150 showed. The number of seats available reflected the first number given, so most stood and watched and heard speeches by a number of Colorado officials and friends and family members of Doug Shriver and Ray Wright.

All were there to pay tribute to the two acclaimed protectors of San Luis Valley water resources, who died together in a roof avalanche in March 2010.

Rio De La Vista of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust began the ceremony, introducing family of the two and the procession of speakers, including Doug’s widow, Karla Shriver, who is also a Rio Grande County Commissioner; water veteran Steve Vandiver, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, Mike King, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Roxanne White, chief of staff for Governor John Hickenlooper.

State Senator Gail Schwartz and Representative Ed Vigil were also on hand, as well as a staff member of Congressional Representative Scott Tipton’s office.

Salazar credited Shriver and Wright with changing his attitude regarding environmentalists, making him one of them, “more than I had ever been before.”

He said Shriver, in particular, “Stood up for what he believed in,” on such issues as water rights, and joked that Shriver’s family “taught me all my bad habits.” He clarified he was saying that in jest, because the two “were terrific mentors,” and fought hard “to preserve our way of life, in the San Luis Valley.” Salazar also noted that both had sacrificed a great deal of time in their lives when perhaps they could have just been relaxing or having fun, working during the week and on weekends, long hours, often by themselves. He agreed with White’s statement that, although the men’s lives were cut short, “They were not forgotten and were very significant people.”

Before unveiling the new sign indicating the Shriver-Wright State Wildlife Area, north of Home Lake on Rio Grande County Road 3 East, along the Rio Grande River, a poem written by Ray Wright in 2003 titled “High Stakes” (composed for the Colorado Water Congress) was read to the crowd. A heavy round of applause followed as the blanket covering the sign was pulled off.

Just about then, at about 3 p.m., the reminder came that everyone in Colorado is exposed to the environment, especially if one is outdoors, with a few rumbles of thunder and approaching dark clouds, and then a few minutes later, as the large crowd began to disperse, hail started to fall heavily.

It is fair to say that Wright and Shriver were honored in a heartfelt way and the storm was certainly a reminder that water is a very important facet of living in the San Luis Valley.

State lawmakers support wind energy

By PATRICK MALONE | | Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:00 am

DENVER — The General Assembly adopted a resolution Wednesday recognizing the wind-energy industry in the state on the heels of a vote in the U.S. Senate that threatens to cripple it.

The resolution acknowledges that wind energy and associated industries provide 6,000 jobs in Colorado and generate $10 million in property taxes for Colorado counties annually. Rural landowners in the state receive more than $5.4 million in lease payments for the wind-energy projects on their property.

Sponsors Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Cokedale, and Sens. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Greg Brophy, R-Wray, all represent Southern Colorado counties.

“Wind is a vital industry to Colorado and important in creating Colorado jobs,” McKinley said.

In the House, the resolution passed 53 to 10, with only Republicans voting against it to show their support for traditional energy sources.

Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, was not among them.

“The capital investments Vestas provided for our community, I think it’s important that they continue to be a viable company,” he said. “They are providing a renewable energy product that is helping our energy resource portfolio, and they are helping drive down the cost of renewable energy.”

Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, blasted the Republicans who opposed the resolution.

“It’s a shame some choose to represent special interests rather than Coloradans,” he said. “Colorado has the opportunity to be a leader in wind. Simply put, wind energy means more jobs in Colorado. All Colorado legislators should be on board and in support of this critical alternative energy.”

Snowmass senator spearheads legislation that aims to turn recycled electronic waste into jobs

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are searching everywhere for ways to create jobs — even landfills.

The state Senate passed the Electronic Recycling Jobs Act on Wednesday by a vote of 28-6. Afterward, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, took to the steps of the State Capitol with representatives from the recycling industry who brought bins filled with antiquated faxes, printers, computers and other electronics.

Gold, silver, copper, aluminum and other valuable metals are often found in the gadgets consumers toss in the trash. The devices also contain chemicals harmful to the environment.

State Sen. Gail Schwartz speaks about new legislation that would ban computers, TVs and other electronics from landfills as Randy Moorman (left) of the Colorado Environmental Coalition looks on.
Photo by Troy Hooper

The bill “creates new opportunities for the recycling and responsible disposal of the electronics we all enjoy, while reducing waste, protecting our groundwater and recovering resources,” Schwartz said.

“It’s important we don’t put jobs and resources in the trash can,” she said.

Electronic waste is already clogging up Colorado’s landfills and, Schwartz noted, a Cisco study predicts thatby the year 2020, there will be 50 billion mobile-connected electronic devices on the planet. By banning certain electronics from landfills — computers, televisions, DVD players, cell phones and so on — the burgeoning electronics recycling industry in the state could really take off. The bill would direct state agencies to use a certified recycling firm for electronics by July 1, 2013.

Colorado businesses and households are currently throwing away between 40,000 and 161,000 tons of electronic waste a year and only recycling 8,000 tons, legislators said. For every 10,000 tons of electronic waste recycled, at least 130 jobs are created with the possibility of twice that many, according to Colorado Conservation Voters. A ban has the potential to create 2,500 jobs, they said.

Seventeen other states already have laws similar to the one that passed the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill next moves to the House, where it enjoys bipartisan support.

“The Electronic Recycling Jobs Act puts into place a market-driven approach that strengthens local economies, provides for the reuse of valuable raw materials from electronic waste and creates jobs and keeps harmful materials out of our landfills,” said state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, the bill’s House sponsor. “It’s good for business and it’s good for Colorado families.”

Small business owners also came out to promote the legislation.

Henry Renteria-Vigil with R-2 Stewardship said the electronics industry is growing in Colorado.

“Seven years ago, before I started my business, I was on welfare and now I just made my first million,” Renteria-Vigil said. “With this landfill ban … more electronic waste will be diverted from our landfills and into our businesses. I will be able to hire more employees.”

Eric Anderson with Metech Recycling estimated his company’s workforce in Colorado would grow from 73 to 100 within just a few months of the law taking effect and, later on, it might quadruple.

“A new ban on electronic waste in landfills,” Anderson said, “will drive more material into recycling so facilities like ours will add jobs and expand, providing greater access to recycling for Coloradans and Colorado businesses.”

Colorado Eyeing ‘No Access’ Broadband Map

February 29, 2012 By 

Colorado residents and businesses frustrated by a lack of broadband connectivity in the state’s rural areas may have some hope on the horizon.

A bill is circulating in the Colorado General Assembly that would require the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Office of Information Technology (OIT) to identify and map communities that don’t have sufficient build-out ofbroadband networks. The mapping would have to be done by Jan. 1, 2013.

Colorado Senate Bill 12-129, sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, also would require development of a strategy to increase broadband access to those areas. The work done to uncover communities with limited or no access to high-speed Internet will be done using existing PUC and OIT broadband data and mapping information.

Last year the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched a National Broadband Map, but its accuracy has been questioned. SB 12-129 would give a Colorado-specific look at the areas in the state without broadband coverage.

Schwartz said the intent of the Rural Broadband Jobs Act is to help Colorado improve access to broadband so that businesses throughout the state have opportunities to be competitive and successful.

“I am looking for a definitive assessment of underserved and unserved areas in our state that lack broadband access,” Schwartz said in an interview with Government Technology. After those areas are defined and as funding becomes available, she’d like the state to invest in the infrastructure needed to bring broadband to those underserved locations.

Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI), which represents county interests in the state, supports SB 12-129. Andy Karsian, the organization’s legislative coordinator, said various rural counties have had opportunities to attract employers, but they couldn’t seal the deal — primarily due to a lack of high-speed connectivity those potential businesses require.

Rural-area economic development and educational opportunities in Colorado are directly tied to broadband access, and are a key reason behind CCI’s endorsement of the bill, Karsian said.

“We’re supportive of the bill because even though we recognize it’s just a mapping exercise for the state, it is one more way for us to emphasize the importance of connecting all these rural areas around the state to broadband,” Karsian said.

In order to develop a strategy to deliver broadband to all areas of Colorado, SB 12-129 also would permit the Public Utilities Commission and Office of Information Technology to form an advisory panel of representatives from broadband providers and local governments.

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit economic and community development consulting group, called SB 12-129 a “lot better” than what other states are doing.

In an email to Government Technology, Mitchell wrote that his reaction to the bill is a reflection of how poorly most states are dealing with high-speed Internet going from a nicety to a necessity. Mitchell added that while he hopes SB 12-129 leads to good recommendations that embrace non-commercial approaches to broadband delivery, such as government-owned networks, he isn’t holding his breath.

“Unfortunately these advisory panels often end up stacked with representatives from DSL and cable companies that prefer the status quo until they can devise a scheme for the public to funnel more subsidies their way,” Mitchell said. “I hope that will not be the case in Colorado.”

Amendments and Issues

Colorado’s SB 12-129 has been modified slightly since it was introduced. The bill now would require OIT to compile a map of all existing broadband assets owned by Colorado, including fiber, towers, conduit and other high-speed network technology.

According to Jon Gottsegen, Colorado’s state GIS coordinator, that task isn’t as easy as it sounds. Language in SB 12-129 was changed so that, instead of allowing OIT direct access to PUC federal grant funds, the office now has to apply for them. OIT estimates the work could cost up to $100,000 in the first year.

“Currently we don’t have any data on state-owned [broadband] assets,” Gottsegen said. “The $100,000 is an estimate of having an employee to do the work. The problem is we don’t really have a sense of the magnitude of the mapping that is going to be required because we don’t [know] the number of agencies that have these assets and how many they have.”

Additionally, the bill’s scope was narrowed.

The introduced version of the legislation used language that instructed OIT and PUC to “identify areas in Colorado where markets for broadband access are not competitive,” with input from broadband providers. But those terms were changed in an amendment made to the bill in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy.

The bill now reads that OIT will identify “areas in Colorado without broadband access,” in collaboration with PUC and broadband providers.

Dems kick off election year with dinner

Daily staff report
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado — Eagle County Democrats began their 2012 election year activities at the group’s annual fundraising dinner late last month at Balata, at the Sonnenalp Golf Club. The capacity crowd had the opportunity to talk with local Democratic officials and to meet Democrats running for office in Eagle County this November.

Gail Schwartz, state senator from Pitkin County, will have Eagle County in her district next year and spoke to the crowd about her plans for the future. Miller Hamner, the county’s current state representative, will serve Eagle County through the rest of this year before seeking office in her new district.

Two Eagle County commissioners attended — Jon Stavney, who’s seeking re-election, and Peter Runyon, who has served two terms. Runyon said he supports Jill Ryan, who has announced her run for the commission.

Sal Pace, former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, spoke about his campaign for Congress in District 3. Pace said that polls show that district voters do not want incumbent Scott Tipton re-elected. Pace also said he has out-raised his opponent for this last quarter.

Retired Colorado State University political science professor and current Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush spoke about her run for State House District 26, a newly drawn district that includes Eagle County. Todd Barson and Bruce Brown both announced their respective candidacies for district attorney. Barson is an attorney in Breckenridge, while Brown has a law practice in Idaho Springs.

Jessica Garrow, Aspen resident and recent graduate of the University of Colorado, spoke of her run for that university’s board of regents, basing her campaign on the necessity of affordability of tuition for Colorado residents.

Rick Palacio, Colorado Democratic Party chairman, and Alec Garnett, executor of the Colorado Dems, were the featured speakers for the evening. They stressed the importance of the November elections and the need for Colorado Democrats to register all eligible voters in time for the election.

State eyes methane as a renewable energy

State eyes methane as a renewable energy Print E-mail
Written by Kathy Browning
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 00:00
Tony Prendergast, DMEA board director, testified at a State House committee hearing on Feb. 13 regarding a bill to include coal mine methane as an eligible resource under the Renewable Portfolio Standards.

“I want to point out that [DMEA] understands that it’s technically not a renewable resource but we feel it fits the eligibility criteria,” Prendergast said on Feb. 20. “If it is included in that renewable energy standard as a qualifying eligible resource it would improve the marketability of that resource.

That resource being utilized by being more marketable would be good for local economic development, good for the mines and provide another locally-generated energy resource which is something DMEA is very interested in.” He added, “We have one mine, Oxbow, that believes this can be a valuable resource.”

The bill was passed by the House committee, allowing the mines to capture methane gas which otherwise is vented into the atmosphere. The methane would be eligible under Colorado’s renewable energy standard to be used as an energy source. The bi-partisan bill was introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Randy Baumgardner.

One company working for the bill’s passage in the state legislature is North Fork Energy, which was formed by Oxbow Mining, LLC, Gunnison Energy Corporation and Vessels Coal Gas, Inc. The company is working to capture methane from Elk Creek Mine in Somerset. According to the company website, North Fork Energy “is actively marketing electricity and Verified Carbon Emissions. North Fork’s current estimated potential is up to 40 Mega Watts of electricity and 3,000 carbon offsets per day.” North Fork’s first electricity customer is Holy Cross Energy with service expected to begin mid-2012.

North Fork Energy manager Tom Vessels is chairman of the Colorado Government Minerals Energy and Geology Policy Advisory Board. Vessels recently formed the Coal Mine Methane Coalition to promote the kind of legislation which is now before the House. The company works on capturing methane from mines in the Rocky Mountain and the Appalachian coal basins.

Vessels has had a methane recovery project at a large abandoned underground coal mine in Cambria County, Pa., since May 2008. “The plant has since sold more than 407.7 million cubic feet of pipeline quality natural gas to Peoples Natural Gas, a Pittsburgh based natural gas utility. Through this process the project has produced over 120,000 tons of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) by reducing the same volume of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from being released to the atmosphere. As an extension to this project Vessels has recently installed an electrical generation unit capable of producing 750 kilowatts per hour of electricity. This phase of the project will further increase the volume of CERs from the project,” their website states.

Better broadband service sought in outlying areas

By PATRICK MALONE | | Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:00 am

DENVER – Communities in the slow lane of the information superhighway lined up Thursday to testify in support of a Southern Colorado lawmaker’s proposal to identify areas of the state most underserved by broadband Internet.

“We’re going to begin that process (identifying) how extensive the needs are in our rural communities,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who sponsored SB129.

The bill would direct the Public Utilities Commission and the Office of Information Technology to identify areas of the state with limited – or no – access to high-speed Internet It would authorize the PUC to organize an advisory panel to assist in the process and generate recommendations about how to better serve those areas.

Representatives of the Office of Information Technology estimated the effort would cost $100,000 in its first year.

Wendell Pryor, director of the Chaffee County Economic Development Corp., testified to the impacts of limited bandwidth on businesses in that area.

Princeton Hot Springs Resort, an economic driver that generates the second-highest amount of sales tax among businesses in Chaffee County, is unable to process credit cards electronically when bandwidth traffic is high.

“The broadband is simply not sufficient to allow them to do that, so it’s done manually,” Pryor said.

He said Monarch Ski Resort, which anchors the winter tourist season in Chaffee County, asks the staff to shut off their computers in order to have adequate broadband availability for skiers and customers.

“It is a problem, and those are documented facts,” Pryor said.

Education in Chaffee County also feels the bandwidth pitch. A new high school is scheduled to open in Salida in the fall.

“They don’t have adequate bandwidth to meet the needs of the students,” Pryor said. “They barely get by with what they have, and it is expensive.”

In Buena Vista, plans to equip students with Kindle electronic reading devices were scuttled by the absence of bandwidth.

“Why should the rural areas of the state, especially in terms of economic development, be treated as less than?” Pryor said

Representatives of wireless providers Viaero Wireless and CenturyLink testified in opposition to regulatory aspects of the bill and its ties to federal telecommunications guidelines. After their testimony Schwartz revised the bill to address some of their concerns.

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee deferred action on SB129 until a later date.

Local foods, local jobs act passes the senate today

Denver, Colo. —

Today, the bipartisan Local Foods, Local Jobs Act (SB-48), sponsored by Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), passed in the Senate. The Local Foods, Local Jobs Act supports local, small-scale growers and producers by creating alternative methods for them to sell homemade, value added goods.  This legislation will allow small growers to sell their products directly to consumers, jump starting local economies and increasing the availability of healthy, locally grown foods.
Senator Schwartz offered the following comment on the Local Foods, Local Jobs Act today:
“As our economy continues to recover, it’s important that we provide Coloradans with every opportunity to strengthen their small businesses.  This legislation will help support our local communities by allowing small scale growers and producers to make the most of their products.”
The Local Foods, Local Jobs Act will ease impediments to local markets by exempting home kitchens from certain health inspections that are generally applied to large retailers.  Home kitchens will be trained on safe food handling and processing procedures, as well as labeling requirements to ensure healthy products.  Small businesses that promote locally sourced foods can get a strong start due to these streamlined regulations. Having passed in the Senate today, the bill now heads to the House for consideration.
This bill is part of the Senate Majority’s “Colorado Works Jobs Package,” a series of bills focused on continued job creation and economic growth in the state.
Nearly 30 other states have passed similar laws to promote local products.  Senate Bill 48 is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Representative Don Coram (R-Montrose).

State Legislature recognizes Colorado Centennial Farms and Ranches

Denver, Colo. —

Colorado farmers and ranchers who have maintained ownership and operation of their land for more than a century were recognized by the State Legislature today (Thursday, Feb. 2) for their strength, endurance, and perseverance despite the economic challenges modern farming and ranching presents.
Sen. Gail Schwartz, Senate Agriculture Committee chair, and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, House Agriculture Committee chair, sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 12-011, which was read today on the floor in both the House and the Senate.

Sen. Schwartz and Rep. Sonnenberg supported Colorado middle and high school students involved with the Colorado Preserve America Youth Summit in the drafting of the resolution. The youth summit is an award-winning program that creates opportunities for youth 13 to 18 to get into the field to learn about history, archaeology, heritage tourism and preservation.

“We are so pleased to dedicate a day at the Capitol to honor Centennial Family Farms and Ranches and their remarkable agricultural heritage,” said Sen. Schwartz. “Their steadfastness across generations has truly shaped our state’s identity, and has enabled them to endure over time to continue to feed their local communities and support the state economy.”
“Today we honor the families that have provided the food and fiber for over a hundred years,” said Rep. Sonnenberg. “I am also proud of the students that made it a priority to recognize those instrumental in making agriculture a leading industry in Colorado.”

The Colorado Centennial Farms program was started in 1986 by former Gov. Richard D. Lamm. The program recognizes that these farms are vital to Colorado’s economy and history, and families of designated Centennial Farms are honored annually at the State Fair in Pueblo. In the last 25 years, 414 family farms and ranches in 61 out of 64 Colorado counties have been designated through the program.

Colorado Centennial Farms was created by History Colorado and the Colorado Department of Agriculture and is administered by the State Historical Fund. It is supported by the Colorado State Fair and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“We appreciate the Legislature’s recognition of the contributions Centennial Farms and Ranch families, and all family agriculture producers, make to Colorado and our nation,” said Rebecca Goodwin, an Otero County Centennial Farm/Ranch family member. “For generations, our farm — along with many of Colorado’s Centennial Farm and Ranch families—have proudly helped feed America. We choose a way of life that has been a rich part of Colorado’s heritage since before statehood, and proud to help it to become the state’s second largest industry while still balancing stewardship of the land.”

For a copy of SJR12-011, see

Home-food business bills find favor in first hearings


Christy Hovland breaks up a huge brick of chocolate at her home in fruita. She hopes to make artisan treats under her business name Cherry Street Chocolates in her home if the Rep. Laura Bradford home kitchen bill passes

By Charles Ashby
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Committees in the Colorado House and Senate on Thursday simultaneously heard two bills introduced by local lawmakers designed to help Coloradans create their own home-food businesses.

While the House Economic & Business Development Committee approved a measure offered by Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee supported another one introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.

Both measures center on allowing would-be entrepreneurs to use their own home kitchens to produce products meant for local sale.

Dozens of people testified in favor of both measures, many saying they have been left jobless because of the recession and are just looking for ways to become self-employed.

“If I was able to do this, I wouldn’t have to rely on the state. That’s one less person that they have to pay for,” Mandy Gabelson, who operates Ava Sweet Cakes from her Mesa County home, told the House committee while testifying for Bradford’s bill. “We want to be entrepreneurs, but there has to be a way for us to walk through that door.”

Bradford’s bill is intentionally limited to “nonpotentially hazardous” food. That primarily means baked goods, such as cookies, cakes or brownies.

The Schwartz/Coram bill, which would create the Colorado Cottage Food Act, includes other home-food businesses, such as fruit and vegetable canning.

But Schwartz’s bill is far more limiting, critics said. It caps annual sales for a single, home-produced product at $5,000 a year. Still, local farmers said Schwartz’s measure would help.

“This bill would make a big difference to our farm operation, as we could use excess or injured produce to make garlic and chile powder, dried tomatoes, kale chips, potato bread and lots more,” Paonia farmer Monica Wiitanen told the Senate committee. “It really has a spiral effect, and I think it will bring some life and prosperity into our community.”

A similar bill introduced by Schwartz and Coram last year was defeated because of concerns it would raise too many public health issues.

■ In other Legislature news, a House committee killed a bill Thursday to set campaign donation limits on school board candidates.

On a 5-4 party-line vote, the GOP dominated House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB1067, which would have set contribution limits to school board candidates of $500 per individual and $5,000 per small donor committee.

Local Foods, Local Jobs act will help Colorado’s small farmers

Denver, Colo. —

On Jan. 26, Local Foods, Local Jobs act, sponsored by Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), passed through the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee. The Local Foods, Local Jobs act supports local, small-scale growers and producers by creating alternative methods for them to sell homemade, value added goods.  Senate Bill 48 will allow small growers to sell their products directly to consumers, jump starting local economies and increasing the availability of healthy foods.

Senator Schwartz offered the following comment on Senate Bill 48:

“I am pleased to see that this jobs bill passed with bipartisan support as it will directly benefit many hard-working Coloradans. By empowering Colorado’s small farms and small-business entrepreneurs, this bill will create jobs, strengthen the economy, and promote tourism in our local communities.”

The Local Foods, Local Jobs Act will ease impediments to local markets by exempting home kitchens from certain health inspections that are generally applied to large retailers.  Home kitchens will be trained on safe food handling and processing procedures, as well as labeling requirements to ensure healthy products.  Small businesses that promote locally sourced foods can get a strong start due to these streamlined regulations.

Sixty-five year-old Monica Wiitanen is the owner of The Small Potatoes Farm in Paonia, Colorado, and will directly benefit from the passage of Senate Bill 48:

“This bill would make a big difference to our farm operation as we could use excess or injured produce to make garlic and chile powder, dried tomatoes, kale chips, potato bread, and lots more.  I work with a young professional baker and this will create income for him as well. It really has a spiral effect, and I think it will bring some life and prosperity into our community.”

Nearly 30 other states have passed similar laws to promote local products.  Senate Bill 48 is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Representative Don Coram (R-Montrose).

Local Motion: Senator Gail Schwartz

0 Comments | Posted on Jan/12/2012 by Ari Brocious in Local MotionNews,News Archives

Colorado District 5 State Senator Gail Schwartz will be moderating a public hearing this weekend organized by Citizens for a Healthy Community in response to the 30,000 acres of oil and gas leases proposed in the North Fork Valley. KVNF’s Ariana Brocious spoke with Schwartz about why she’s attending the hearing, and oil and gas around the state.

That public hearing, organized by Citizens for a Healthy Community, will be held this Saturday, January 28th, from 1-5 PM at Hotchkiss High School.

KVNF has been covering the proposed North Fork leasing and will continue to do so. To listen to our coverage to date, please visit our archives.

Senator Schwartz to Conduct Public Hearing on Lease Nomination

January 16th, 2012 by Submitted

Filed under CommunityNews

Citizens for a Healthy Community is holding a public hearing on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed August 2012, 30,000-acre oil and gas lease sale in the North Fork Valley. The hearing will be held on Saturday, January 28, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Hotchkiss High School. State Senator Gail Schwartz will conduct the hearing.

On Monday, December 12, 2011, twenty representatives from Citizens for a Healthy Community, NFRIA/WSERC Conservation Center, High Country Citizens Alliance, Western Colorado Congress, Valley Organic Growers Association, and Black Canyon Land Trust had a conference call with Barbara Sharrow, Manager of the Uncompaghre Field Office of the BLM to discuss the proposed 30,000-acre lease sale. In this call, we asked Ms. Sharrow to hold a public hearing in the North Fork Valley to provide citizens the opportunity to express their concerns regarding the proposal. Ms. Sharrow stated BLM would not hold a public hearing.

Citizens for a Healthy Community believes the size and scope of the proposed lease sale make it imperative that the public is given the opportunity to express their concerns at a public hearing. Therefore, we have scheduled the January 28 hearing. The goal of this hearing is to record public comments to submit to the BLM.

Along with our partners, Citizens for a Healthy Community has held community meetings on the proposed lease sale in Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia. More than 1,000 citizens attended these three meetings, demonstrating that this is a very important issue to North Fork Valley residents.

Come hear citizens of the North Fork Valley express their concerns over BLM’s proposed oil and gas lease sale.


This entry was posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 at 3:55 pm and is filed under CommunityNews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Schwartz to carry home-kitchen foods bill

By PATRICK MALONE | | Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012 12:00 am

DENVER — State Sen. Gail Schwartz plans to carry legislation again this year that would allow the sale of homemade food without health department inspections.

A similar proposal that aims to promote locally produced foods last year did not pass.

Schwartz will also introduce legislation that:

  • Bans dumping of electronic waste at landfills, instead redirecting it to recycling centers.
  • Seeks to reduce the risk of fire posed by standing dead timber.
  • Expands broadband Internet access in rural areas.
  • Continues the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST program that has helped build 12 new schools in Schwartz’s Senate district, including some in the San Luis Valley.

“We must focus on legislation to strengthen Colorado’s economy, protect our state’s natural resources and improve access to quality education and health care in our rural communities,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz Goes to Bat for the Mountains

I wanted to publicly thank Sen. Gail Schwartz for her recent efforts at the State Capitol. Sen. Schwartz was instrumental in amending a statewide diesel bill that would have weakened the anti-idling ordinances of Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale.

Click here to read the full post.

Camel Crops Up at Ziegler Reservoir Dig Site

Add the Ice Age camel to the growing list of animals that roamed the area around Snowmass Village some 50,000 to 150,000 years ago.

Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass Village), who is also a member of the town’s Tusk Force, chats with Dr. Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science . . .

Click here to read the full post.

Task force will address beetle-kill wood management in Colorado

While the Forest Health Act of 2011 still awaits Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature, the wheels are already turning on the act’s goal of removing and using 4 million acres of beetle-kill wood from the state’s forests.

“We need to try to take this issue head-on,” said Colorado State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who sponsored the act along with state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, and Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon.

Click here to read the full post.