The (Greeley) Tribune, June 1, on “rolling coal:”
We’re delighted the Colorado Legislature passed a bill this year - and Gov. John Hickenlooper says he will eagerly sign - that gives police the authority to smack $100 fines on vehicles that “roll coal.”
Say what, you say?
Rolling coal is urban slang for diesel truck drivers who tweak their engines to emit sooty black smoke when they step on the accelerator pedal. We’ve seen them around Greeley, and we believe they are obnoxious and unhealthy.
“Coal rolling is a cruel cut to people with asthma or other respiratory issues,” Hickenlooper told The Denver Post. “We are well to be rid of it.”
The bill finally passed late in this year’s Legislature after a similar attempt failed this past year.
In a state that already struggles with population growth, traffic snarls and air pollution concerns, we’re glad this piece of legislation finally made it through the Colorado House and Senate.
The rolling coal trucks often are used to make a statement when they target people walking down the streets, motorcyclists or Prius drivers.
“It is mean. It is more young people who are doing this,” said Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins. “They think it is funny.”
We don’t think it’s funny, and we hope Greeley and Weld County law enforcement aren’t shy about enforcing the new law.
Aurora Sentinel, May 31, on Colorado’s economy:
Despite the hoopla over making state roads passable again with compromise state legislation and a new federal administration that promises to make America great again, serious trouble is brewing for Colorado.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law this week a hard-fought measure that gives a temporary reprieve to rural hospitals on the verge of failure. The measure also raises some cash for the state’s crappy roads and deteriorating bridges.
No need to celebrate, Colorado. The effort was too little, too late to begin with, and news coming from the White House is even more foreboding for Colorado: President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will back out of the critical Paris global climate change accord.
Both problems loom large in Colorado.
The measure Hickenlooper signed this week allows for the state to finally begin utilizing hospital provider fee cash, a system to help offset increasing Medicaid costs that Republicans have held hostage for years. But the fix is only temporary as potential changes to insurance, drug regulations, Medicaid and Medicare threaten to swamp the nation’s sinking health-care system.
And the deficient $1.8 billion dollars that this new measure puts toward the state’s growing $9 billion in critical transportation needs? The money is borrowed by mortgaging state buildings, without providing any serious way to pay the inadequate money back, other than unwisely raising pot taxes, which helps grow the black market.
Both problems have many more far-reaching consequences besides making our lives unpleasant here, stuck in traffic on deplorable roads or creating inconvenient lawn-water restrictions as roving droughts become a way of life.
The state’s premier economic engine is in danger here: tourism.
About 80 million tourists visit Colorado each year, bringing with them about $20 billion a year and leaving it behind. It’s Colorado’s life-blood that directly provides for more than 110,000 jobs, officials estimate.
But climate and transportation problems are real and serious threats to Colorado’s economic foundation.
Part of Colorado’s economic link to climate change is obvious: skiing. No snow or shortened seasons mean real dollars lost. Consecutive years of snow-droughts will move the industry to other states or Canada. Less obvious, however, is the connection between climate change and the loss of the state’s most valuable tourist resource: its mountains. Global warming and beetle kill are causing substantial visible and ecological damage to massive swaths of Colorado forest. And the changing climate is certain to bring more and larger forest fires to the state, experts report.
Colorado has recently seen what “a state on fire” in the media can do to its tourism business. Repeated years like that will be a spiraling death knell.
Similarly, it’s not just word of mouth about Colorado’s shabby roads that will hurt state tourism. It’s gridlock.
Much of Colorado’s most valuable tourism real estate is along or dependent on the I-70 corridor, which has already become a very real deterrent to regional tourism. Visitors who lose days on Colorado roads, just trying to get there, won’t come back. Traveling in Colorado, especially to ski resorts, is too expensive to spend it inside an expensive rental car parked for hours on I-70.
Colorado must act.
Abandoning the only global effort able to address the grave problem of climate change only guarantees Colorado will have to find ways to address an environmental problem that risks not just state economics, but our lives as well.
And pretending that Colorado is all better now that legislators finally approved a Band-Aid solution is nearly as dangerous as having done nothing.
The state must not only cut spending, it must raise more revenue through taxes, tolls or fees to pay for the gargantuan list of needed transportation expansion and repairs. Colorado must have a workable, economically sound, long-term transportation plan in place.
Congress must find a way to join world governments in combating the effects of global climate change.
While there are some choices here, none are good, but others are much worse. Choose wisely and act now.
The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, May 30, on oil and gas regulation:
The fatal house explosion involving an abandoned gas flowline in the Front Range town of Firestone has raised some unsettling questions about the dangers posed by rural farm taps.
These are gas lines running from wells directly to rural homes under agreements between property/mineral owners and energy companies. State regulators refer to them as domestic taps.
The Sentinel’s Dennis Webb spoke to several regulators and energy company representatives following a recent meeting of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board. Tom VonDette, a Rifle-area rancher and citizen representative on the board, is concerned that they fall into a regulatory gray area.
Following up on those concerns, Webb noted a troubling inconsistency. The statewide review of flowlines ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper in the wake of the fatal April blast includes domestic taps. But it appears to raise questions of who’s responsible for complying with the regulations.
VonDette does utility locator work. When he’s done jobs for energy producers, he’s been told not to locate and mark farm taps for them because they are private lines that aren’t the companies’ responsibility.
Webb asked Todd Hartman, the spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, who is responsible for following the oil and gas commission’s rules on farm taps. “Generally, COGCC believes it is the company that is responsible,” Hartman said.
That would obligate companies to participate in the state’s One Call program, which directs pipeline operators to locate and mark their lines when people intend to do excavation work. But that runs counter to VonDette’s experience.
As Webb noted, the state’s pipeline rules address aspects of a line’s design, installation and testing, but they don’t include requirements addressing concerns specific to farm taps, such as the lack of mercaptan (a sulfur-containing odorant to help detect leaks and the accumulation of gas) and the failure to remove liquids from raw gas.
Don Simpson, vice president of Ursa Resources, said that the state’s flowline rules have some applicability to farm taps, but he sees the responsibility of regulating such taps falling somewhere between the COGCC and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
Hartman said there’s no formal count of the number of domestic taps in the state. Companies have moved away from the practice of providing them, although they remain legal.
VonDette’s persistence at establishing accountability has exposed a chink in the regulatory armor. The COGCC should re-examine its flowline rules to make sure that domestic taps are subject to the same mapping and testing as public lines.
Rural farmhouses with gas lines that may date back to the 1960s shouldn’t be falling through the cracks of a statewide review.
Steamboat Pilot & Today, May 30, on opioid epidemic:
The opioid epidemic is real, and as the Steamboat Pilot & Today has reported and continues to report, its hit Steamboat Springs and Routt County hard. One overdose death is too many, and from 2014 to 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths in Routt County increased six-fold, with more than 65 percent of those deaths attributed to the abuse of prescription opioids.
Thanks to the efforts of the Rx Task Force, a group of concerned community leaders who began meeting in late 2015 to work toward educating the public about the growing problem, the issue of prescription drug abuse in our area is not going unnoticed, nor will the problem go away without a fight.
That’s why we were encouraged when it was announced this month that Routt County and Yampa Valley Medical Center will be part of two different statewide initiatives aimed at fighting opioid abuse.
Senate Bill 74 allocates $1 million in state marijuana tax revenues to help fight the opioid epidemic in Routt and Pueblo counties, which have been identified as two of the counties hit hardest by the problem. The funds would go toward establishing a local medication-assisted treatment program for opioid addicts. Right now, there is only one doctor in Routt County providing this type of treatment, and often, people living here have to travel out of town to get the help they need.
In addition to this initiative, Yampa Valley Medical Center will be one of eight Colorado health care facilities participating in the Colorado Opioid Safety Program - a pilot project aimed at reducing the use of opioids prescribed by Colorado emergency departments through the implementation of new guidelines that will explore different medications and alternative remedies to treat pain at its source, rather than relying on a systemic opioid, which is highly addictive. The goal of this program, if successful, is to eventually use the model in emergency rooms across the state.
We think our communities’ involvement in these two programs signals that we’re moving the needle in the right direction when it comes to trying to combat this widespread epidemic. One of the programs addresses the source of the problem, and the other helps people get help on the other side of their addiction.
It’s encouraging to see Routt County among the state’s leaders when it comes to addressing the issue, but there’s still work to be done. It’s imperative that community members remain engaged. It is always better to try to stop a problem before it begins, and that happens through education and awareness about the issues of addiction and recovery.
Drug addiction, especially when it comes to the abuse of prescribed opioids, knows no economic or social boundaries. And for those who still think Steamboat Springs and Routt County don’t have a problem with prescription drug abuse and who think it couldn’t happen to them, wake up and pay attention.
Opioid addiction has already claimed the lives of too many community members, including teenagers, college students and business owners, and as a community, we need to continue to pull our collective heads out of the sand and work together to fight this battle and seek solutions.
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