Advocating strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level supportive of a livable climate.

Author: Kevin Cross Page 1 of 7

CCLC Statement Opposing SB24-230: “Oil and Gas Production Fees”

Posted on May 5th, 2024

The Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate (CCLC) is opposed to bills that perpetuate dependency on the oil and gas sector by funding state and local government programs through fees imposed on oil and gas operators. The next few years are crucial to implementing a path to a sustainable future on a livable planet, and SB24-230 takes Colorado in exactly the wrong direction by tying funding for diesel transit to oil & gas production fees.

In the scientific community, there is certainty that climate change is the existential threat of our lives and that of many generations to come, and there is no doubt that it is caused by the burning of oil and gas. Colorado, as the 4th largest oil producer and 7th largest gas producer in the nation has a special responsibility to address our contribution to this crisis, and to the harms it causes to our residents.

Colorado is already experiencing the devastating impacts of local warming. Western Colorado in particular is a climate hotspot, warming at double the national and global average. How many more life-threatening wildfires, rockslides, flooding, and road collapses must we endure? How long a megadrought are we to bear before Colorado recognizes that continuing to support mitigation strategies that allow continued emissions from the oil and gas is a losing strategy?

Expanding clean transit service is certainly a laudable goal that the legislature and citizens have supported year after year. But addressing traffic pollution by expanding the use of diesel trains and buses is no solution. As a leading producer of dirty fuels, it is incumbent upon us to begin to wean ourselves off these destructive products and move our economy to a clean energy future with cleaner air and better health outcomes.

Yet, SB24-230 ties oil & gas revenue to mass transit and wildlife habitat resiliency and restoration. With this bill Colorado is committing itself to a future of continued development of these destructive resources for the foreseeable future. Our local and state government budgets and programs are already overly dependent on oil and gas revenues. This dependency—perceived or actual—on dirty energy production has been consistently used as justification to reject stricter regulation of the industry and justify continued permitting of new oil and gas projects. Instead of creating yet another insidious budgetary dependency on oil and gas production, legislative efforts should be underway to reduce this dependency or addiction. 

When including the 20-year global warming factor of methane, and the damaging impacts of ozone formation caused by volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen, oil and gas development is far and away the number one contributor to environmental damage in our state, and this marriage of mass transit with fossil energy is bad for our people, bad for our state, and bad for the planet. 

This bill was part of Governor Polis’ and Democratic Leadership’s ‘compromise’ legislative package agreed to by a few oil and gas operators and conservation organizations in exchange for withdrawing nearly 20 ballot initiatives from the 2024 election year, killing 4 health and safety bills that targeted the oil and gas industry, and placing a moratorium on legislative efforts to regulate the oil and gas industry and protect the health and safety of Coloradans for the next three years. This compromise is not representative of the interests of the entire industry or environmental community, and primarily funds a commuter train from Denver to Boulder and Fort Collins.

75% of Coloradans know climate change is happening and nearly half of us have personally experienced the effects. Over 60 organizations and thousands of people supported SB24-159 to phase out oil and gas permits by 2030. Colorado produces nearly quadruple the gas, and double the oil that it consumes, exporting the product while saddling us with the pollution and environmental impacts. Boundless production is causing severe air quality issues, making Coloradans sick and accelerating climate change impacts. This isn’t a truce in the oil and gas wars between dirty energy and clean air and healthy communities. It’s a failure of leadership, just as leadership failed in enacting “Clean Air Clean Jobs” and in approving the Pueblo Unit 3 coal plant earlier in this century.

This dirty deal with dirty industry opens up a new vein in the economic lifeblood of Colorado and creates a new and dangerous addiction that is already killing us all. We oppose this dirty deal because we know dealing with it later is too late.

COLORADO COALITION FOR A LIVABLE CLIMATE

Micah Parkin, 350 Colorado

Natasha Leger, Citizens for a Healthy Community

Leslie Glustrom, Clean Energy Action

Jan Rose, Climate Reality Project Denver Chapter

Kevin Cross, Fort Collins Sustainability Group

Nat Miullo, Resilient Denver

Time for a New Electric Utility Paradigm 

Published in the Denver Post on April 27th, 2024

After nearly 20 years at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, I still wonder what parts of “climate crisis” and “extreme weather,” are not understood by Xcel, Colorado’s largest investor-owned utility (IOU), and its regulators at the PUC.

After many years of advocacy by customers in Boulder and around the state, Xcel is making steady progress on decarbonizing its electrical system. The good people who work for Xcel deserve recognition for this progress, but Xcel and its regulators seem to think we can experience a “climate crisis” but still have the same weather we had in the 20th century. Not likely that!

How many demonstrations do we need before we recognize that the weather in the 21st century will be very, very different from the weather of the 20th century and that we should be building and operating an electrical system that reflects this new reality?

In the past 11 years in Boulder County, we’ve seen the floods of September 2013, the Marshall fire of December 2021 and now the strong winds and the public safety power shutoff in April. There is every reason to believe that we will be seeing many more extreme weather events in the months and years to come.

Sadly, Xcel, with the approval of its regulators, keeps spending large amounts of money on 20th-century technologies — coal plants, methane (a.k.a. “natural gas”) plants and big transmission lines with no apparent consideration for what happens when this 20th-century model fails in the face of the extreme weather of the 21st century.

There can be no argument that the costs of the 2013 flood, the 2021 Marshall fire and the 2024 power shutoff are extremely large, financially and emotionally — yet they are essentially ignored by Xcel and the PUC when planning the future electrical system.

Although there are many things that can be done to increase the ability of the electrical system to withstand current and future extreme weather events, one of the key concepts is to start building a system that uses the thinking and technologies of “islandable” microgrids that can keep operating independently when the transmission and distribution systems fail.

Building a cost-effective and resilient 21st-century electrical system will require the best and most innovative thinking our country has.

One way to unleash the needed innovation and provide price discipline is to allow communities to “go shopping” for their electrical provider under a system referred to as community choice energy in Colorado and community choice aggregation (CCA) in other states.

In states where CCA has been allowed, many communities are finding they can get lower rates, cleaner energy, more local generation and a significant revenue stream to help fund a more resilient and equitable electrical system.

In Colorado, politically diverse communities, that used to be wholesale customers of Xcel (including Fountain, Steamboat Springs and the Grand Valley around Grand Junction) have found that they indeed can get better deals by “going to market.” All have left Xcel and chosen another provider.

Sadly, communities such as Boulder that are retail customers under franchise with Xcel, are not allowed to seek out the best prices and programs and instead are forced to accept Xcel’s decisions, monopoly rates and often poor customer service with no option.

One might think Gov. Jared Polis — sometimes described as the country’s most “libertarian” governor — would want to support competition and innovation and allow market forces to work.

Sadly, however, Polis and his administration generally have decided to support Xcel’s monopoly, oppose competition and drag their feet in moving microgrid policy forward. It is past time for Polis and his administration to do more than write self-serving letters admonishing Xcel!

Here’s hoping Colorado’s leaders soon start to support competition in our electrical system to help provide price discipline and unleash successful innovation so that we can build a more equitable 21st-century electrical system that reflects the new climate realities of this century — instead of being forced to accept Xcel’s attachment to its 20th-century business model and thinking with no recourse. Here’s hoping they begin soon. The climate clock is ticking — for sure!

Leslie Glustrom is trained as a chemist and biochemist. She has spent most of the past 20 years participating at the Public Utilities Commission working to decarbonize our electrical system and helping to build the climate movement in Colorado and beyond.

Hope for Larimer County Air

Published in the Denver Post on April 17th, 2024

As a representative of the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, and Environment, I wholeheartedly support House Bill 1330, which aims to address our dire air quality issues in Larimer County. With an “F” grade in ozone from the American Lung Association, we are in crisis. Science, including findings from the Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment, has shown that emissions from oil and gas facilities are a primary culprit of our unhealthy air, particularly when combined with regional airflow patterns that transport pollution into our county.

HB 1330 is a beacon of hope for not just Larimer County but all of Colorado. It promises a shift towards honest emission assessments, acknowledging the significant cumulative impacts of so-called minor sources. By requiring new emissions to be offset, it introduces a practical approach to reducing pollution and, crucially, offers better protection for communities directly impacted by air pollution.

The oil and gas industry must prioritize the health of our environment and communities over lobbyists and advertising. Supporting HB 1330 is supporting the health and well-being of every resident in Colorado.

Doug Henderson, Larimer County

We are Running out of Road on Transition to Green Energy

Published in the Daily Camera on April 10th, 2024

Despite the Camera’s endorsement, Colorado lawmakers rejected a bill (SB 159) that would have gone after orphan and abandoned oil and gas wells and begun the transition away from petroleum extraction. In doing so, our legislators kicked the can down the road. The problem is: we are running out of road.

We have already experienced loss and damage to what we love about Colorado. And the continued burning of fossil fuels will only give us more of the same: toxic air pollution, droughts, wildfires like the Marshall Fire, shortened ski seasons, beetle-killed forests, overheated trout streams, etc. We don’t want that for ourselves, and certainly not for our children. And it’s not good for our economic future.

Fortunately, cleaner, safer, healthier, more abundant energy alternatives are available from wind and solar. There is, of course, work to be done in navigating the energy transition and incorporating new technologies into our economy while honoring and supporting the fossil fuel veterans who have fueled our economy for so long. This work takes time. So we should be moving now, with dispatch.

I commend the legislators who introduced and supported this bill. I am dismayed by the oil and gas industry’s radical pro-pollution agenda in the face of the clear evidence of harm from ongoing production. It’s time for an upgrade. Together we need to develop a glide path from dirty and expensive to clean, abundant and socially just. 

Later is too late.

Chris Hoffman, Boulder

Action Alert: Brave Sponsors of the Oil and Gas Phase Out and Clean-Up Bill Need to Feel the Love!

Senator Jaquez Lewis and Senator Priola need to be buoyed up after SB 159 (the Oil and Gas Phase Out and Clean Up Bill) was voted down in committee on March 28th. They are taking a lot of heat from this, both from constituents and colleagues who were against the bill. One Senator said during the hearing that sponsoring this bill was a career-ending move and other committee members tried to paint them as ignorant and foolish. They are getting harshly critical messages for running this bill from some of their constituents.

Now is the time to thank them. They are truly heroes for running this bill. It’s sad that it takes so much political courage to propose science-based policies to protect people and planet but that’s where we are. We need to show them again what strong public support there is for this bill. We need to outnumber the industry voices again. We need to have their back because they had ours, and we need to ensure other legislators won’t be scared off from running bold bills.

We outnumbered industry in the hearing and now we need to outnumber them in the post-hearing feedback. We can turn this setback into a future success, but only if legislators know there is massive support for it.

Please write to them and thank them, especially if you are their constituent, but even if you are not. Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, District 17 (Boulder, Broomfield, Weld, email sonya.jaquez.lewis.senate@coleg.gov), and Senator Kevin Priola, District 13 (Adams, Weld, email kevin.priola.senate@coleg.gov). Tell them you support the bill and appreciate their leadership in running it.

Thanks for supporting strong climate legislation!

Action Alert: Testify for the Oil and Gas Phase Out and Clean Up Bill!

This bill is being heard on Thursday, March 28th at 1:30 p.m. in its crucial first committee hearing, where it will either be killed or get sent to be debated by the whole Senate. RSVP here to receive support and updates. Register for zoom or in person testimony here, and/or submit written comment through this link, following these instructions:

1. Choose in-person, zoom or written (tip – if you want to do both, submit written testimony and log in again to sign up for oral comment by zoom or in-person)
2. Select “By Committee and Hearing Item”
3. Select Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources
4. Select 3/28 1:30 pm
5. Select SB24-159 Mod to Energy & Carbon Management Processes
6. Fill out this form, indicating you are commenting on behalf of yourself – or if you are a designated representative of a business or organization, you can indicate that. If you select written, you will be able to type your comment in or upload a file.

Action Alert: Provide Comments to the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners on Coal Mine Royalty Rate Reduction and Proposed Oil and Gas Leasing

At State Land Board’s March 13 meeting, the Board will consider two fossil fuel-related resolutions, both of which should be opposed. See https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wLDK6gQleOgUA2upUZzTCWqgTGTZ9ezw/view

At Tab 8 (PDF 164), the Board will consider a resolution to auction 5000+ acres for oil and gas. Four of the leases are in the Denver/Weld non-attainment area. CPW includes numerous recommendations for NSO for certain parts of the parcels, given the presence of important habitat for numerous species (pronghorn, burrowing owls, prairie chickens). See PDF 175-180.

In addition, the proposal at Tab 10 (PDF 192) states: In April 2019, the Board approved a 5-year reduction of the royalty rate on surface coal mining Lease SM-102407 held by Trapper Mining Inc (Trapper Mining) from 12.5% to 8%. The royalty reduction aligned the Board’s lease royalty rate with the royalty rate for surface coal mining on nearby federal lands. Staff is recommending that the Board extend the reduced royalty rate for an additional 5-years.

See the following letter – signed on to by the CCLC – for language if you want to provide comments.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ffck0ntO3CDvRViK7gmHVzAp0_MoYKop.

Comments should be provided using this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdHLoANsTkJyomSRsPJm5aNH5EA-2sA8h7RlM8Df_ESURzjSQ/viewform.

Tell Colorado Legislators to Support a Bill to Phase out New Permits for Oil and Gas!

Show our legislators there is a groundswell of support for this bill – requiring phase out of new permits for oil and gas and ensuring operators — not taxpayers — pay for cleanup. To help, please call and write your legislators and attend townhalls. Everything you need to know including talking points are here in the Phase Out & Clean Up Toolkit, linked here.

Contact Heidi Leathwood or Kate Merlin for more information. To receive updates about townhalls, contact Bobbie Moonie.

Pueblo Innovative Energy Solutions Advisory Committee Conclusions are Delusions

Published in the Pueblo Chieftain on January 14th, 2024

The Xcel Energy-established Pueblo Innovative Energy Solutions Advisory Committee (PIESAC) recently released their proposed recommendations for energy generation in Pueblo. Most committee members have no expertise in the electric utility field. They recommend building a nuclear or natural gas plant with carbon capture. The main requirement was to generate a significant tax base and jobs. Neither of these projects is likely to be approved by the Colorado Public Utility Commission (PUC).

The City of Pueblo’s Energy Advisory Commission’s charter is based on a 2017 resolution to make the city’s energy generation 100% renewable by 2035. This commission is all volunteer. I am currently the chairman.

Our commission studied the advanced nuclear small modular reactors (SMR) proposed by PIESAC. As part of this study, we met in 2022 with the director of Idaho’s National Labs in charge of SMR development. She concluded that SMR technology would not be production-worthy until around 2040.

Nuclear energy generation is one of the most expensive ways to generate power. Current nuclear generation has a history of failure because of long delays and cost overruns. Their track record could be better, as most projects never make it to production. Next-generation SMR technology was presented as a solution. It is experimental and expensive. Today, SMR projects are being canceled, and companies involved are having significant layoffs in this field. A commercial SMR has yet to be built. I don’t think Pueblo needs to construct an experimental SMR that would likely be shut down. This is all driven by the poor economics of the technology.

Apart from high costs, there are many other health and safety issues with nuclear fission generators. The biggest is dealing with nuclear materials and spent fuel. There are no long-term storage options for spent nuclear fuel. They stay on site and will require attention for thousands of years. If Pueblo has a nuclear reactor, we will become a nuclear waste site. Other facilities could use Pueblo to store their spent fuel.

The other option endorsed by the PIESAC team was building a combined cycle gas turbine generator (CCGT) with carbon capture. The problem is carbon capture is experimental, expensive, and not 100% effective. You would still have pollution. If built, it would likely become another stranded asset, creating another property tax dilemma for Pueblo.

Xcel Energy is an investor-owned utility (IOU), a for-profit utility regulated by the PUC. They make money for their shareholders by building infrastructure. SMR or CCGT investments would provide them with massive profits. Most of the costs and risks are passed to their customers and local government. Pueblo residents do not use the electric energy made by Xcel. It goes to the Denver area. If they fail or become stranded assets, their customers and our local agencies suffer the most. An example is the Comanche coal generator plant, closing decades earlier than planned. Xcel electric customers are paying the price. Fortunately, the PUC forced Xcel to make up lost tax revenue through 2040 for Pueblo. If they can replace these stranded assets with an SMR or CCGT, their tax burden to Pueblo from the coal plant closure goes away, too.

PIESAC dismissed renewables and storage technologies because they don’t generate massive property taxes and jobs. But solar and batteries work now, providing the lowest-cost electric power. Solar farms with batteries are being built in Pueblo. There is land available to create many more. The taxes and jobs could be substantial if you build many of these facilities in Pueblo. This is the way of the future. And the technology and economics are already proven. We can also add these systems inside our distribution system, lowering Pueblo’s electric costs and improving resilience. By the time 2040 rolls around, renewable energy will make up the vast majority of our energy generation.

Pueblo could become a renewable center for the USA. Let’s build on successes like CS Wind, providing thousands of good jobs. We must get other companies involved in these renewable industries to build their plants in Pueblo. This would help Pueblo to diversify its industries, jobs, and tax base. Jobs that can keep Puebloans and future generations working and living in Pueblo.

While there are no free rides, the Pueblo community’s future health and general welfare will be best served by embracing the cleanest, most cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and readily available renewable energy sources. These are solar and wind, backed up by several storage methods, which include batteries.

Ken Danti is a retired engineer living in Pueblo. He is focused on Pueblo’s energy future as a volunteer. Ken is the current chairman of the City of Pueblo Energy Advisory Commission. He is the volunteer President of Renewable Energy Owners Coalition of America, a local non-profit. He has no financial stake in these matters.

Colorado Must Overcome its Share of Climate Delusions

Published in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on December 12th, 2023

In the early 1970’s, I worked on the adolescent ward of a state mental hospital.  One of our patients was a fifteen-year-old – let’s call him Ian – who was smart enough to beat everyone at chess and to speak a bit of several different languages and who was also experiencing a mental condition that gave him distorted views of the world.  These distorted views caused suffering for him and those around him.  I think of him, and a particular incident with him, when I think of our climate situation these days.

 The incident occurred when Ian had been doing well enough that he had earned privileges to be outside when accompanied by an attendant nurse.  He and I were outside playing HORSE in the otherwise deserted basketball court.  At some point he realized that he was going to lose.  A look came over his face that I’ll never forget.  He came up close to me and fired the basketball at my face, breaking my glasses, and then set off running away from the hospital.  But he kept calling back over his shoulder, “I’m coming back, Chris.  Look at me.  See…I’m coming back.”  All the while he kept running farther and farther away.

I think of this when I hear the promises from various governments, and the rosy reports from fossil fuel companies, and the promises from their bought politicians, about how well they are doing.  “I’m cutting my carbon pollution.  See…I’m cutting my carbon pollution.”

 For example, ExxonMobile says it is “advancing climate solutions.”  Yet while making that claim, ExxonMobile purchased Pioneer Natural Resources.  As the Associated Press reports, “Including debt, Exxon is committing about $64.5 billion to the acquisition, leaving no doubt of the Texas energy company’s commitment to fossil fuels.”

Exxon is not alone. The world’s fossil fuel producers are planning expansions that would blow the planet’s carbon budget twice over, a UN report has found. One of the authors of the report, says: “Despite their climate promises, governments plan on ploughing yet more money into a dirty, dying industry, while opportunities abound in a flourishing clean energy sector. On top of economic insanity, it is a climate disaster of our own making.”

Fossil-fuel-driven climate change is already impacting the food we eat, our health and safety, our natural environments, our economic prosperity and it is already too late to prevent many of these harms from worsening. Advocating for more fossil fuel production is radically out-of-touch with reality. The delusions of the radical fossil-fuel agenda are harming us all.

Yet in spite of this, if current projections hold, in 2030 the United States will drill for more oil and gas than at any point in its history. Russia and Saudi Arabia plan to do the same.

Colorado is not doing much better. A new baseline analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute shows that Colorado will fall short of its 2030 carbon dioxide reduction goals by nearly 12 million tons a year.  And this doesn’t count the pollution of all the fossil fuels produced in Colorado and then exported out of state.

Back in 2021 the International Energy Agency (IEA) said, “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas, and coal, from now – from this year.”   Yet, in 2023, Xcel Energy plans to invest $510 million in new methane (“natural gas”) infrastructure, and a total of $2.59 billion by 2027.  And as of 2022, the Colorado Energy and Carbon Management Commission (ECMC), formerly known the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, had approved 13 company projects to drill 195 wells on 20 locations since early 2021.  What part of “no new investments” do they not understand?

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association says, “The oil and natural gas molecules produced in Colorado are among the cleanest in the world.”  True perhaps, but irrelevant. Those produced molecules trap more and more life-disrupting heat every year.   “I’m coming back,” said Ian as he ran farther and farther away.

We can do better.  Most of the technologies we need already exist, and the longer we wait the steeper becomes the glide path to an abundant clean energy economy.  As part of the process, we must ensure a just transition for our fossil-fuel veterans and for fossil-fuel-dependent communities as well as social justice for front-line communities who have suffered the most from both the production and climate impacts of fossil fuels.

Instead of running away from reality we should run toward a cleaner, safer, healthier future.

Chris Hoffman is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor and management consultant with 23 years of experience in the electric utility industry. Since retirement he has been active in advocating for climate action and social justice.

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