January 28, 2015
CO gov’s administration contrite for spending without legislative OK
By Arthur Kane January 27, 2015
Henry Sobanet, director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting, called Colorado Department of Human Services’ decision to spend millions of dollars hiring staff at both the youth detention and Pueblo’s mental health institute a “miscommunication.”
“Whatever I can do in my power to never have this happen again I will do,” he said.
Interim Chief of Staff Kevin Patterson said he understands why lawmakers from both parties were upset by CDHS actions.
“We are not begrudging your reaction to this one bit,” he told the Joint Budget Committee staff.
Last year, CDHS hired 53 new staff members for juvenile detention facilities, spending $1.2 million it had left over from contract placements, and hired 30 staff members, at an annual cost of $2.4 million, for the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. It was part of policy to bring inmates who were found not-guilty because of mental illness back from Department of Corrections custody to the mental health institute.
While CDHS staff repeatedly appeared before the JBC to discuss funding the hires for the next fiscal year, they never told lawmakers they were already bring the staff on board with leftover money.
This upset lawmakers and staff.
“The fact that the Department elected to make a policy change, spend state funds to implement that policy change, and take actions that are not easily reversed prior to seeking authorization from the General Assembly is completely inconsistent with the legislature’s plenary power over appropriations,” staff wrote in a JBC briefing paper.
“You raise the cultural of understanding, the partnership of understanding,” Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said during Monday’s hearing. “I’m curious who knew what, when.”
Sobanet dodged the question of what happened to allow CDHS to spend the money without notification, but he repeatedly assured lawmakers it will not happen again.
“We take very serious our relationship with the committee,” he said. “We have a ‘no surprises’ rule and that is something we need to manage better internally.”
Patterson said after the hearing he believes it was an honest mistake by CDHS staff in failing to inform the Legislature, and he said there have been internal discussions but no consequences for human services staff failures.
In the past two weeks, JBC voted unanimously to rescind the money CDHS spent on the hires and Sobanet said if lawmakers don’t reverse that stance they may be forced to return inmates to DOC custody and possibly lay off some of the juvenile detention staff. Or the administration might have to exceed its budget, he said.
January 27, 2015
We should all be alarmed by the extent to which roles of parents and families have been relinquished to government. As Ronald Reagan once said, “As government grows, liberty contracts.” What should be the administration of academic learning and a few basic social skills has grown into a monstrous dependence on government to meet the needs of children, from food, to shelter, to moral instruction. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “As dependency on the public school system grows, the American family contracts.”
The following is the aggregate list of services offered, decade by decade, by America’s public schools. Jamie Vollmer, a teacher, consultant, and public education advocate, compiled this list as evidence for his argument that public schools need and are worthy of ever increasing levels of funding. Although I am using Vollmer’s list in it’s original form, my purpose in using it is not to support the growth of government-run education, but instead to reveal how many parental responsibilities have been taken up by public schools. It’s alarming to see the the extent to which roles of parents and families have been relinquished to a government entity. As Ronald Reagan once said, “As government grows, liberty contracts.” What should be the administration of academic learning and a few basic social skills has grown into a monstrous dependence on government to increasingly meet the needs of children from food, to shelter, to moral instruction. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “As dependency on the public school system grows, the American family contracts.”
From 1900 to 1910, we shifted to the school responsibilities related to:.
- Health (Activities in the health arena multiply every year.)
From 1910 to 1930, we added:.
- Physical education (including organized athletics)
- The Practical Arts/Domestic Science/Home economics (including sewing and cooking)
- Vocational education (including industrial and agricultural education)
- Mandated school transportation
In the 1940s, we added:.
- Business education (including typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping)
- Art and music
- Speech and drama
- Half-day kindergarten
- School lunch programs (We take this for granted today, but it was a huge step to shift to the schools the job of feeding America’s children one third of their daily meals.)
In the 1950s, we added:.
- Expanded science and math education
- Safety education
- Driver’s education
- Expanded music and art education
- Stronger foreign language requirements
- Sex education (Topics continue to escalate.)
In the 1960s, we added:.
- Advanced Placement programs
- Head Start
- Title I
- Adult education
- Consumer education (purchasing resources, rights and responsibilities)
- Career education (occupational options, entry level skill requirements)
- Peace, leisure, and recreation education [Loved those sixties.]
In the 1970s, the breakup of the American family accelerated, and we added:.
- Drug and alcohol abuse education
- Parenting education (techniques and tools for healthy parenting)
- Behavior adjustment classes (including classroom and communication skills)
- Character education
- Special education (mandated by federal government)
- Title IX programs (greatly expanded athletic programs for girls)
- Environmental education
- Women’s studies
- African-American heritage education
- School breakfast programs (Now some schools feed America’s children two-thirds of their daily meals throughout the school year and all summer. Sadly, these are the only decent meals some children receive.)
In the 1980s, the floodgates opened, and we added:.
- Keyboarding and computer education
- Global education
- Multicultural/Ethnic education
- Nonsexist education
- English-as-a-second-language and bilingual education
- Teen pregnancy awareness
- Hispanic heritage education
- Early childhood education
- Jump Start, Early Start, Even Start, and Prime Start
- Full-day kindergarten
- Preschool programs for children at risk
- After-school programs for children of working parents
- Alternative education in all its forms
- Stranger/danger education
- Antismoking education
- Sexual abuse prevention education
- Expanded health and psychological services
- Child abuse monitoring (a legal requirement for all teachers)
In the 1990s, we added:.
- Conflict resolution and peer mediation
- HIV/AIDS education
- CPR training
- Death education
- America 2000 initiatives (Republican)
- Expanded computer and internet education
- Distance learning
- Tech Prep and School to Work programs
- Technical Adequacy
- Post-secondary enrollment options
- Concurrent enrollment options
- Goals 2000 initiatives (Democratic)
- Expanded Talented and Gifted opportunities
- At risk and dropout prevention
- Homeless education (including causes and effects on children)
- Gang education (urban centers)
- Service learning
- Bus safety, bicycle safety, gun safety, and water safety education
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, we added:.
- No Child Left Behind (Republican)
- Bully prevention
- Anti-harassment policies (gender, race, religion, or national origin)
- Expanded early childcare and wrap around programs
- Elevator and escalator safety instruction
- Body Mass Index evaluation (obesity monitoring)
- Organ donor education and awareness programs
- Personal financial literacy
- Entrepreneurial and innovation skills development
- Media literacy development
- Contextual learning skill development
- Health and wellness programs
- Race to the Top (Democratic)
Please visit JamieVollmer.com to read more about him and his list. Posted by Marjorie Haun 1/27/15
January 26, 2015
This is the latest in our series of mental meanderings by Vietnam vet, author, and good friend, Forrest L. Gomez.
We can perhaps be thankful that the Democrats of the year 1941 were not like the Democrats of today. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of State Cordell Hull would have sent a letter of apology to Emperor Hirohito because exploding American warships gave Japanese pilots headaches. Hull would have immediately attempted to visit the Tojo government of Imperial Japan to let Bing Crosby sing the Japanese Imperial Staff a love song.
I guess elections only matter when Democrats win. Obama’s highly delusional State of the Union speech seemed to ignore altogether the butt-whipping his party took in the November elections, giving the GOP an additional 2,000 plus positions across the country. Maybe with the way the Republicans have voted so far, Obama is simply not afraid.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the media gave the Obama administration and the Democrat Party as much scrutiny over their incessantly obvious misconduct as they do the NFL? I have to wonder how most news reporters sleep at night.
“American Sniper” is ticking off the left more than “The Passion of the Christ” ever did. It doesn’t occur to them that most Americans are tired of their military and their country being portrayed as the bad guys.
The conspiracy buffs are hard at work. Even after all of the murder and destruction and terror, there are those who say that this cisis is manufactured by the CIA or the MOSSAD or the New World Order or some such. Get a life, you buffs.
Those of you out there who say you are atheists, but are “good, moral people”…what is your foundation for that? If you don’t believe in something greater than yourselves, and therefore humanity is just an arbitrary intangible, then you have to accept the principle that “morality” is controlled by consensus or law! That’s how homosexual marriage was foisted on the nation, and now the left is trying to legitimize pedophilia. The idea that the human intellect is the greatest power in the universe is actually depressing to me.
God loves all of you, and I can do no less, my brothers and sisters.
Have a great weekend!
– The Sarge
Reposted with permission of the author on Reagangirl.com 1/26/15
January 25, 2015
One neuropsychological effect of regular marijuana use is a significant loss in IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38, whereas non-users have no significant drop in IQ over their lifetime.
The abundant evidence showing marijuana causes permanent harm to its users won’t stop Libertarians, hippies, and burnouts from defending the wacky weed with every ounce of passion they can muster. Frankly, I’m bored with people who tout pot as a medicine or a harmless social “lubricant” on a par with alcohol. As far as I’m concerned, such incorrigible fools can defend marijuana use all the way to the dispensary, but the rest of us have a moral obligation to warn our young people about the personal catastrophes that await them if they become users. The following list of facts are derived from several scholarly, peer-reviewed studies on the various ways marijuana will fry your brain.
HOW DOES THC FRY THE BRAIN?
- Delta-9 tetrahydrocannibanol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana, chemically resembles the endocannabinoids produced naturally in the human brain, especially the chemical, Anandamide. THC “fools” or interrupts the natural process of Anandamide receptors in the brain, causing disturbances to the functions that natural cannabinoids “modulate” such as mood, appetite, sensation, memory, pain and pleasure.
- Natural endocannabinoids shape brain development by guiding neuron growth where it is needed, supporting neuron function, and helping the myelination process in the growing brain. Myelination of the brain cells is not complete until the mid to late 20s in humans. THC interferes with all of these critical development processes, and is most damaging to the brains of adolescent marijuana uses because their brains will fail to myelinate properly, causing irreversible structural and psychological changes.
- THC mimics Anandimide but has a much STRONGER and LONGER-LASTING effect on neuron activity. The brain will adapt to THC exposure causing the user to become addicted.
- One way scientists prove the addictive power of substances is through animal research in which rats will ‘self administer’ a substance to which they become addicted. Laboratory experiments with THC revealed that rats continually administered the drug in the same way they would cocaine, heroin and nicotine.
- THC has been found to increase dopamine release in the reward center of the brain, causing a sense of pleasure or euphoria, much like other addictive drugs.
- The withdrawal symptoms of THC include; restlessness, anxiety, irritability, anger, aggression, sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
- Marijuana addiction accounts for more admissions into teen substance abuse treatment programs than all other intoxicants combined, including alcohol.
- Marijuana addiction is related to the age at which a user begins using; the younger the individual when he begins to use marijuana, the more likely he will become dependent and suffer long-term negative cognitive and behavioral effects.
- THC affects areas of the brain which dictate memory, movement, coordination, vision, judgment and pleasure.
- The hippocampus, which is the center of memory formation and retrieval, sleep regulation, and stress responses, is especially sensitive to THC exposure. Brain imaging studies have proven that regular marijuana users have, on average, smaller hippocampuses and worse memory performance than non-users.
- One neuropsychological effect of regular marijuana use is a significant loss in IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38, whereas non-users have no significant drop in IQ over their lifetime. Those users who started before age 18 had greater drops in IQ than those who started using after age 18.
- Those who use marijuana regularly during adolescence are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, and/or depression in adulthood.
- Brain scans of of adolescent marijuana users (who had little or no alcohol intake) indicated that the corpus callosum–the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain–were structurally much thinner than those of non-users. Similar structural differences in corpus callosum are found in people with schizophrenia.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THC
- THC intoxication impairs memory, motor coordination, reaction time and visual perception.
- National studies of intoxicant induced fatal car crashes have shown that by 2009 33% of the drivers had THC in the systems. This is a three-fold increase from prior years, and is on the rise in states where medical and recreational marijuana is now legal.
- Since THC stays in the body for protracted periods of time, an individual does not to be acutely intoxicated to be under the influence while driving.
GROWTH AND FERTILITY
- THC affects glands, hormones and certain organs. Studies have shown that adolescents who begin to use marijuana regularly before age 16 are shorter in height than their peer controls.
- Daily use of marijuana may increase the risk of testicular cancer.
NOT YOUR HIPPIE UNCLE’S POT
- Marijuana is bred and cultivated to increase THC levels in the plant. Marijuana now is 5 to 10 times more powerful than when it first became popular among young people.
- As the amount of THC in pot increases the adverse effects, such as paranoia, anxiety and panic, hallucinations, erratic mood swings, and aggressive behavior are magnified.
- There has been a dramatic increase in recent years of emergency room admissions by people who have ingested pot in some form.
- Synthetic forms of THC, which can be up to 10 times more powerful than even today’s cultivated pot are accountable for all of the typical adverse effects of marijuana, as well as seizure and heart attacks.
- Poison control centers are reporting a significant increase in calls related to synthetic THC.
MARKETING TO YOUNG PEOPLE
- After decades of decline, teen use of marijuana is on a dramatic upswing. This is explained by the promotion of marijuana as a “medicine,” legalization in some states, and positive portrayals of its use in popular culture, which all lead to a decreased negative perception of marijuana.
- Medical marijuana and recreational pot operations market to young people through “sexy” and colorful advertisements.
- THC in soda pop, candy, lollipops, butter, and other “edible” forms is designed to appeal to adolescents with the use of bright colors, funny brand names, and cartoon-style logos. These products taste like what they look like and it is not readily apparent that they contain natural or synthetic THC.
- Adults possessing medical marijuana licenses or cards account for nearly half of the pot obtained by teen users.
- Most adults using “medical” marijuana do so because they have a vague diagnosis such as “severe pain.”
- The THC in “medical” marijuana is stronger than street marijuana, often up to 12 times as strong.
IMPACT ON EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
- When medical marijuana became legal in Colorado, expulsions related to possession of pot or intoxication rose about 75% between 2009 and 2011. The number of marijuana-related expulsions has increased even further since recreational pot was legalized by the voters via Amendment 64 in 2012.
- Marijuana smoke contains most of the cancer-causing chemicals, including tar, contained in tobacco smoke.
- Marijuana smoke is usually unfiltered and held in the lungs longer than tobacco smoke.
- Regular marijuana smokers report bronchitis, wheezing, shortness of breath and more sick days in comparison to non-smokers (regardless of tobacco use).
Most who defend marijuana do so because they have a personal preference for it. There are some Libertarian purists who actually oppose any laws prohibiting free expressions of human behavior. Our realities, however, are not so simple. Decades of sound research proves that marijuana is a social evil to be socially discouraged and legally prohibited. The emerging generations of young people have a monstrous economic, social, and political obstacles before them. It’s time for adults to clean up their own lives so they may pave a better path for their children’s future.
by Marjorie Haun 1/25/15
Resources: A Comparison of Mainstream and Sidestream Marijuana and Tobacco Cigarette Smoke Produced Under Two Machine Smoking Conditions ~David Moir et al, July, 2007
Persistent Cannabis Users show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Mid-life ~Madeline Meier et al, April, 2012
The Teen Brain on Marijuana [PDF] Sion Kim Harris, PhD, Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research, Boston Childrens Hospital, Harvard Medical School
January 24, 2015
As originally published in Denver Post Opinions
Please, don’t protect Browns Canyon more
It’s no secret where The Denver Post stands on a national monument designation for Browns Canyon, given the ample ink and column inches it’s given to those backing the idea.
But as someone who knows Browns Canyon well but believes a monument designation would be the fastest and surest way to ruin it, let me offer a few points in rebuttal.
Monument-backers know Browns Canyon has been managed since 1980 as a wilderness study area. That’s just about the highest level of protection a piece of federal land can get. Any additional “protections” aren’t just redundant, they’re also potentially ruinous, since they’ll most likely degrade the serenity of the place by drawing more crowds while adding nothing but more federal meddling and red tape.
“National monument” status may attract more tourists, which is why so many nearby merchants are on board. But given the proliferating number of new national monuments designated by legacy-seeking recent presidents, and the watering-down of the “brand” this brings, one has to wonder if they’re really such a draw.
If Browns Canyon rates as a national monument, almost any Western landscape does. All these politically motivated designations do is further blur distinctions between the “crown jewels” and the costume jewelry.
Designation-pushers promote the perception that support for this is universal in Chaffee County. But objections have been voiced by local stakeholders, including ranchers, a water district (which fears the possible impact on water rights) and locals who oppose any more road closures and access restrictions. The congressman representing that district, Doug Lamborn, also knows there are local divisions, which is one reason he’s taken a principled stand against designation.
Promises made today about preserving all existing uses aren’t worth anything, because federal land policy isn’t really made by politicians or bureaucrats. Litigious green groups use lawsuits and friendly judges to set the agenda, which is to overturn multiple-use management and restrict public access as much as possible. They’ll have a stronger case for doing that if Browns Canyon becomes a national monument.
Why the sudden rush to ram through a change this significant for an already protected piece of land? Isn’t it something our elected representatives in Washington and at the statehouse ought to debate, before President Obama waves his magic pen and forever changes Browns Canyon?
Sean Paige lives in Colorado Springs.
Reposted by Reagangirl.com 1/24/15
January 19, 2015
As published on the Daily Signal
How These Green Companies Are Gouging Consumers With the Government’s Help
Solar panels are being installed on the roofs of homes and businesses all across America at a record pace. The fad is the latest way for families to “go green” — the energy equivalent of blue recycling bins.
The Solar Energy Industries Association likes to tout the industry’s “amazing success” — but it’s holding a “Shout Out For Solar” social media event Friday as it sees an “uncertain future.”
That’s because its continued success depends on a cascade of government subsidies, including a 30 percent federal investment credit that expires at the end of 2016.
Guess what? Taxpayers are paying for it — and through the metaphorical roof.
Thanks to the slew of solar industry subsidies, homeowners can effectively contract with solar leasing firms that will install those panels for free. But they often get gouged later, as do taxpayers in one of the great corporate welfare scams of modern times.
Shady Solar Leasing Firms?
Congress is investigating if the industry is ensnaring homeowners in green energy “teaser” loans.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, plus 11 House colleagues fired off a letter last month to the Federal Trade Commission asking if the booming solar leasing market — a “new industry with a limited track record and little regulatory oversight — poses a “considerable risk” to homeowners.
Some leasing companies “sold large numbers of subprime mortgages to unsuspecting homeowners in the runup to the subprime mortgage crisis,” the investigators have found.
California and Louisiana homeowners have filed class-action lawsuits vs. solar leasing companies alleging fraudulent marketing campaigns that don’t warn customers of true costs and risks.
Meanwhile, utilities such as Edison International complain that regulators require them to buy solar power at inflated, money-losing rates. Ultimately they must pass the costs on to other ratepayers.
Net Metering Hits Utilities
Under this “net metering” scheme, utilities have to give a credit off their utility bills to solar homes, and this is subtracted from the cost of the electricity they do use from the electric grid system.
According to E&E News, a leading energy policy newsletter: “43 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories have net metering policies in place, with differing capacity limits. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, all public utilities are required to offer net metering to customers upon request.”
None of these “renewable energy” subsidies to harvest the sun’s rays will have more than a tiny impact on greenhouse gas emissions. But when green homeowners can pass the costs on to their neighbors, then schemes like this can look attractive.
The solar subsidy comes on top of federal and state government- financed low-cost loans to solar companies such as Solyndra — many of which have gone bust, an analysis by the Institute for Energy Research shows.
Then there are “renewable energy standards” in about half the states that require utilities to buy a set percentage of their electric power from wind and solar energy. This hikes utility bills by forcing the power plants to buy power from higher-cost sources vs. more-affordable coal and natural gas.
The solar installation subsidy leader is SolarCity. Its advertisements romance customers with slogans like: “Go Solar, Install is Free” and “We … cover maintenance, repairs and insurance at no added cost…”
Homeowners buy the solar power system at an ultralow long-term interest rate while immediately receiving the prized 30% tax credit. Or they install the equipment with a long-term, no-money-down lease option.
SolarCity offers customers loans with financing with major banks including Bank of America and Citigroup.
According to SolarCity’s 2014 annual report, 93 percent of new customers enter into the second option. In a typical lease, SolarCity owns the equipment and pockets the tax credits. The homeowner pays SolarCity monthly for the energy individually consumed from the panels. The electric utility credits net metering proceeds to the homeowner.
These solar panels are installed regardless of whether the savings from the electric power generated covers the cost of materials, installation and upkeep. Often, they don’t come close.
For example, these handouts for small-scale home systems are so generous solar is frequently installed in areas with intermittent sunlight. None other than Google — which touts its green initiatives — recognized this problem with on-site energy production, rejecting such proposals as “not feasible.”
In Google’s own words, “At best the difference is one of appearance (Google would “look greener”), and at worst it reduces the impact of our investment because a project built in a less favorable location would generate less energy over its life.”
Google’s conclusion: What’s the point?
Rooftop solar’s largest subsidy is net metering, because it forces the local power company to purchase any excess energy generated by these home systems, regardless whether demand exists for the energy.
A sunny day with below-normal energy demand may lead to a surplus of electric power. The homeowners can sell this unneeded solar power at a tidy profit to an unwilling buyer at full retail cost — a level often four times the wholesale rate.
Solar panel users are guaranteed access to the electric grid when they need it — on stormy or cloudy days, for example. But they fail to pay their fair share for construction and upkeep of the grid, making them free riders.
With power generation plants, fixed costs can make up 20 percent to 50 percent of electricity’s retail price.
So solar users don’t have to pay for the fixed cost of the grid system, but get to charge for its cost imbedded in the retail price of electricity when they sell to the grid.
Each solar panel home enjoys a $1,000 subsidy paid for by their neighbors and other grid users, according to Greg Bernosky of the Arizona Public Service Co.
A few years ago, the Institute for Energy Research found solar energy receives more than $700 in total subsidies per megawatt-hour produced. The per-megawatt subsidies to oil and gas — which President Obama rails against — were less than one-one hundredth as large.
It’s highly doubtful the solar industry could survive without these corporate welfare handouts. SolarCity admitted as much in its annual report:
“Our business currently depends on the availability of rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives. The expiration, elimination or reduction of these rebates, credits and incentives would adversely impact our business.”
Rep. Gosar isn’t worried just about the taxpayers, but the families that have been lured by “deceptive marketing strategies” into sucker deals. His investigation has found that “homeowners who signed these zero-money-down leases are struggling to sell their homes” and may not have been “fully aware of the terms of their 20- (to)30-year leases.”
In some cases these pay-me-later long-term leases exceed the life of the roof or the homeowner’s intention to live in the home.
The class actions in Louisiana and California allege solar panel companies overstated potential savings. The California lawsuit vs. SunRun complains that its website claimed “nationwide, electricity rates have been increasing 6 percent per year over the last thirty years … and there’s no evidence that this trend will reverse anytime soon.”
These claims stand in stark contrast to U.S. Energy Information Administration data showing that residential electricity prices have leveled off in recent years.
SolarCity claims “you can watch your savings grow over time” by locking in “low, predictable” solar energy rates. Yet, the fine print indicates solar power costs on home systems will increase by up to 2.9 percent annually for 20 to 30 years. Hardly a bargain if long-term electricity trends have reversed due to the natural gas boom.
SolarCity has not responded to our request for comment.
Meanwhile, the handouts keep coming as the Obama administration continues to tout renewable energy as the power source of the future. The solar industry boasts it plans on issuing one million new long-term leases by 2018. All of this at a time when solar’s economics have been crushed by the 50 percent fall in oil and gas prices since last summer.
Don’t be surprised if all of this means massive taxpayer losses that could make Solyndra look like a picnic by comparison.
Originally appeared in Investors Business Daily.
Teacher-led high school students protest fracking in Colorado
By Marjorie Haun | Watchdog Arena
GREELEY, Colo.—The Colorado Energy Task Force, formed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2013 to study and make recommendations to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the state Legislature, held a public meeting in Greeley, Colo. last Thursday.
As one in a series of public meetings on the issues surrounding oil and gas development, specifically fracking, the hearing was held in Weld County, the heart of Colorado’s current natural gas boom. Presented at the Island Grove Regional 4H building, the meeting was open to the public and featured testimony from panelists as well as public comments at its conclusion.
Among the attendees were Jefferson High School teacher Rob Liebman, a paraprofessional aide and about 25 students who attend the alternative-learning campus in the Greeley-Evans School District 6. Liebman’s group arrived early and, initially, sat quietly as they waited for the task force to begin their meeting. According to Mr. Liebman, most of the students were from his Environmental Science class, along with a few from a Government class.
The Task Force meeting was delayed, and after a few minutes, Liebman led his students outside to listen to about 15 anti-fracking activists who stood in front of the entrance to the 4H building, stridently laying out their case against gas and oil development in Colorado. The high school group gathered in closely to listen. Liebman gave no indication that he wanted the students to remain neutral or simply observe.
The protesters indicated that they were associated with Moveon.org and Wild Earth Guardians, but would not disclose their specific identity. Their leader, a young woman, said their website was “cleanwater.org,” but the “Ban Fracking Now” signs they provided to those at the rally showed the URL “foodandwaterwatch.org.”
I attempted to obtain a copy of the printed flyers the activists were passing out, but they refused me. Teacher Liebman, however, obtained some of the handouts which he gave to the students to share among themselves. A few of the students were given “Ban Fracking Now” signs, which they held while the anti-oil and gas protesters gave speeches.
One of Liebman’s students, a young man, shouted the word “immature” at a woman who stood behind the gaggle of anti-frackers holding a sign with the words “I support Oil and Gas.” At no time did Liebman or the paraprofessional aide attempt to calm the students or ask them to return the “Ban Fracking Now” signs to the protest organizers.
A small group of individuals, locals, and those involved in the oil and gas industry, stood near the protesters holding signs in support of oil and gas. Liebman directed his students to stand in front of the pro-energy citizens and block them by holding up their “ban fracking” signs, which they did. He then took out a camera and snapped a number of photographs of them doing so.
After the meeting of the Colorado Energy Task Force was delayed for a few more minutes, the protesters eventually entered the building and sat in the audience. Liebman and his students also sat in the audience for a short time. Despite the rules of the meeting, which forbade the display of signs, some of Liebman’s students held the “Ban Fracking Now” signs on their laps and, at times, held them up for onlookers to see. Only minutes after the meeting began and introductions of the members of the Task Force were made, the Jefferson High teacher, paraprofessional aide, and students left the meeting.
When asked about the occurrence, Larry Green, the principal of Jefferson High, defended Rob Liebman by saying, “The intent of the outing was to see the Task Force and look at both sides of the issue.” Green would not say, however, whether or not he supported students from his high school joining the anti-fracking protest.
In a written statement, Direct of Communications for Greeley-Evans School District 6, Theresa Myers, said, “The intent of the field trip was not for the students to take part in any protest. Our director of high schools has met with the principal, and actions are being taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.
January 16, 2015
EDITORIAL: U.S. solar policy headed in wrong direction
As originally published in the Daily Sentinel
Roan settlement casts a cloud over state’s energy economy
By Sen. Ray Scott
The congratulatory back-slapping which followed the Nov. 21 announcement of a “landmark settlement agreement” on Roan Plateau oil and gas leases was an embarrassing example of life imitating art. A month of mourning for Colorado’s energy economy may be more appropriate.
At one level, the political high-fives from Interior Secretary Jewell, Sen. Bennet, Gov. Hickenlooper and environmental activists are understandable. With the cancellation of 17 of the 19 original oil and gas drilling leases representing about 50 percent of the land area encompassed by the leases, the opponents of oil and gas drilling on the Roan Plateau won a major victory. So, they did a little dance in the end zone after the touchdown. And doubtless, it was also a victory for the pragmatists among us who do not like the prospect of continued litigation that might have extended for a decade.
But many Coloradans have not joined the celebration. What about the impact of this settlement on Colorado’s energy economy, now the second-fastest growing energy economy in the nation? Frankly, the settlement is not a good precedent and may well only encourage additional lawsuits to hold up oil and gas drilling on public lands.
The Dec. 9 announcement by the U.S. Forest Service that more than 90 percent of the 2.2 million acres of land in the White River National Forest will be placed off-limits for future oil and gas development is another indication of how much the federal government cares about the future growth of Colorado’s energy economy: not much.
For these and other reasons, the celebration over the Roan Plateau settlement is premature and highly debatable.
In the first place, the “settlement” is not yet final, and we won’t know the full story for another two years when the Bureau of Land Management issues its revised plan. Moreover, some important “conditions” regarding the impact on local government revenue are not a formal part of the settlement and must be acted upon by the Colorado general assembly. While the governor’s December budget proposal accommodates that “hold harmless” agreement, it will require the appropriation of about $23 million out of the General Fund and depends on legislative approval.
Let’s look at the settlement agreement in the larger context of the state’s energy economy. In announcing the settlement, our governor was excited by the prospect of “orderly development” of the Roan Plateau’s mineral resources. But when we stop to ask who will control and define this “orderly development” and who will guarantee that it will be genuinely “balanced” in allowing expanded drilling, the answer is not all that satisfying.
The reality is that the “orderly and balanced development” of our energy resources is in the hands not of elected Colorado lawmakers but our friendly federal overseers at the Department of the Interior and, of course, unelected federal judges. Now, I ask: What could go wrong?
It is true that the state’s oil and gas industry has endorsed the agreement, and open criticism of the plan has been rather muted. But how much of this absence of open criticism is based on real satisfaction with the plan and how much on either pure exhaustion with the expensive process of litigating and “negotiating” with federal agencies and a fear of retaliation from the same forces that brought the Roan Plateau lawsuits?
There are other troubling questions.
Who is speaking up for the thousands of middle-class citizens who will not be offered new jobs in the development of valuable resources on lands now forever removed from natural gas drilling?
What kind of precedent does this settlement provide for future “negotiations” when well-funded environmental interests decide to challenge already existing mineral leases on federal lands?
Can anyone trust federal agencies to keep their word and implement contracts and agreements when a new lawsuit can open up any agreement to new challenges and threaten additional years of expensive litigation?
Many Coloradans will remember when a newly elected governor pledged to make job creation the “top priority” for his policy agenda. What he failed to tell us is that energy jobs were not included on that menu when challenged by environmental radicals at Earthjustice and the Colorado Wildlife Federation. When challenged, our governor chose to collaborate with the opponents of energy development and Obama administration officials instead of standing tall for Colorado’s economic interests.
It is hard to be confident of our state’s long-term oil and gas development when political appointees in federal agencies control so many of those decisions. More than 36 percent of Colorado’s land is owned by federal agencies, which places Colorado eighth among the 50 states in the extent of federal control of lands. The high-handed Roan Plateau “settlement” is a harsh reminder of that bigger problem.
Contrary to the cheerleaders in the governor’s office, the Roan Plateau settlement is not a “collaborative model” for future development. Quite the opposite is true: It gives added impetus for Colorado joining Utah and other Western states in rolling back that federal ownership of public lands and with it, rolling back federal control of our lives and our economic destiny.
Senator Ray Scott represents Colorado’s 7th District in the State Legislature
Reposted with permission from the author on Reagangirl.com 1/15/15
January 11, 2015
As originally published on the Daily Caller Nov. 12, 2014
The Endangered Species Act Set To Harm Another Endangered Species
By BRIAN SEASHOLES
Today the federal government takes a significant step to reinforce what has become increasingly clear over the Endangered Species Act’s forty-year history: the law’s penalty-based approach causes enormous harm to the very species it is supposed to protect.
The decision today to list the Gunnison sage grouse leaves the bird, its cousin the greater sage grouse, and many other imperiled species facing bleaker futures. Listing deters not only conservation in the Gunnison sage grouse’s Colorado and Utah range, but also conservation in many states, communities and businesses across the country that are working very hard to conserve imperiled species, prevent their listing and avoid the Endangered Species Act’s punitive and expensive regulations.
This is especially true for by far the biggest listing decision in the Act’s history; it seems enormous conservation efforts at a price of more than $1 billion were not able to prevent the greater sage grouse’s listing, which could cost 32,000 jobs and $5.6 billion in annual economic output across eleven western states and 165 million acres.
Greg Walcher, who was heavily involved in sage grouse conservation as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources from 1999-2004, asserts, “Massive investment and local participation was made with the clear understanding that the Gunnison sage grouse would not be added to the federal endangered species list.”
Gunnison County, which contains 93 percent of the grouse’s population, is ground zero for conservation efforts that include hiring the nation’s only full-time municipal endangered species biologist, stringent sage grouse-specific zoning ordinances, forming a working group in 1995 to organize and implement conservation initiatives, and protecting 97 percent of privately owned habitat with various agreements.
This private land is part of the 64,000 acres of sage grouse habitat in Colorado under conservation easements that cost the state $30 million and the 126,500 acres in a federally-approved Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, which was sold to people, especially the forty-seven landowners who enrolled their land, as key to preventing listing.
The result has been a healthy, slowly increasing grouse population, most notably in Gunnison County. Despite all of this, the federal government has reneged and listed the grouse.
Communities and landowners in Colorado and Utah feel deeply betrayed and anxious because of the Endangered Species Act’s much-feared land and resource use regulations. “The community most impacted — ours — overwhelmingly opposes [listing the grouse]” states Chris Dickey, publisher of the Gunnison Country Times, a weekly newspaper and website. “The Gunnison Basin is a model for a community’s conservation-minded response to an imperiled species.”
The sage grouse also loses due to its listing. “A listing will have a lot of people saying, ‘I’m done,’” Jonathan Houck, Gunnison County Commissioner, told the Post. “I don’t mean we’re going to purposely bring harm to the bird and the habitat. But if you voluntarily alter how you work your land and that’s not enough, it sends a clear shot across the bow. It says, ‘Why put in the effort, why put in the money, why tax your resources? Because in the end it will never be enough.’”
Reposted by Reagangirl.com 1/11/15