- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Denver Post, April 3, on not rolling back U.S. auto emissions standards:

Scott Pruitt, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has a lot on his mind these days. Even with questions swirling about the ethics of his $50-a-night condo in otherwise pricey D.C., and his taxpayer-funded first-class flights, he has managed to carve out a few minutes to roll back emissions standards. The man is a climate change-denying machine.

The emissions standards were developed during President Barack Obama’s first term. Back then, oil prices had spiked, Americans were less enamored with SUVs and big cars, and automakers were feeling a little sheepish having just accepted a huge bailout paid for by the American people. The interests and the policy makers came to the table and hashed out a deal to increase average fleet fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.


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Almost everyone was happy. Even the auto industry was on board. “Customers want higher fuel efficiency in their cars and trucks, and GM is going to give it to them,” a company spokesperson said in 2012. “We expect the rules to be tough, but we have a strong history of innovation, and we’ll do our best to meet them.”

If the auto industry and consumers hit the targets in the agreement, they would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2 billion tons, oil consumption by 2.2. million barrels per day from 2010 levels and fuel costs by $1.7 trillion.



The industry also liked that there was finally a national standard. For years, the EPA had given California a waiver to set higher standards. A dozen other states were allowed to lock onto California. That effectively created two U.S. car and truck markets, complicating things for manufacturers.

To recap, the standards that everyone agreed to work really hard to meet would lead to cleaner air, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, less oil burned, less money spent and uniformity in the market.

Compromise seems to have lasted only until a Republican landed in the White House. Automakers now wouldn’t mind changing the deal, and Donald Trump’s EPA is happy to oblige. They are kicking around new 2025 fleet targets of only 44 miles per gallon for cars and 31 for pickups and SUVs.

In fairness, the standards were always supposed to be reviewed. The Obama administration had started that process. When it found out Hillary Clinton would not complete it, it rushed the analysis to conclusion before turning the keys to the EPA over to Trump. That was a bit underhanded, but no worse than the sorts of things most administrations do in their final weeks.

California’s waiver remains a roadblock, though, and Pruitt is talking about rescinding it. If he does, California officials say they will file a lawsuit. They shouldn’t have to. The state received a waiver in part because it had cities with transcendent smog problems. That it also helps push the needle in the right direction for everyone else is a bonus. The auto industry manages to meet different standards in many markets around the world. Surely it can handle two domestically if Pruitt follows through on his threat to roll back emissions standards.

Perhaps the best hope now is that Pruitt’s scandals catch up to him quickly and Trump grows tired of defending him. A successor might not be so ready to undermine a good deal for cleaner air. It’s a long shot, but probably the best shot America and the future have.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/2H9XNNP

___

Greeley Tribune, April 3, on key resources in suicide prevention:

If the recent tragic suicide deaths of three Greeley high school students serve as a stark reminder of anything, it’s of the sometimes fragile balance that makes up ones mental health, as well as the very real and dire consequences that result from that balance being upset.

Suicides leave a wake of devastation for the family and friends affected, in part because so often it comes as a complete shock to them. Though middle-aged white men tend to be most at risk for suicide, it afflicts all demographics, including children. The signs can be hard to recognize, sometimes because those with suicidal thoughts work to keep them hidden.

According to Suicide Prevention Line, some warning signs of suicide are pretty direct - like talking about wanting to commit suicide or about not having a reason to live, or actually seeking a way to commit suicide.

Others, however, aren’t so clear. Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain or about being a burden to others, increased use of alcohol or drugs, and anxious, agitated or reckless behavior are all warning signs. So are sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or isolating oneself, a fixation on rage or revenge and extreme mood swings.

If you see these signs in someone you care about, or suspect for any reason someone might be considering suicide, it’s of vital importance to speak up and take steps to get them help. Just one interaction like that often makes a huge difference for the person having suicidal thoughts.

As hard as it can be to talk to a friend or family member you suspect is having suicidal thoughts, sometimes the hardest person to have that conversation with is yourself.

It can be hard to admit to having these thoughts. For a long time there was a stigma attached to them, like they represented a weakness or defect of some kind. Fortunately, that perception has changed for the better in recent years, and most people now recognize that mental health is every bit as important as physical health when it comes to a person’s wellbeing.

So, if you feel like you’re going through a rough patch and suicide starts seeming like a good option, please know you are not alone reach out for help.

AVAILABLE RESOURCES

Fortunately, northern Colorado residents have several options when it comes to getting help.

Contact North Range Behavioral Health at (970) 347-2120 or the statewide crisis hotline, (844) 493-TALK (8255), or walk into 928 12th Street in Greeley, which is always open. You may also text TALK to 83255. You can also call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). For information on suicide education programs and for those whose lives are touched by suicide, call North Range at (970) 347-2120.

Other resources include:

- suicidepreventionlifeline.org

- sptsusa.org

- nimh.nih.gov

We know it can be uncomfortable to talk about a subject like suicide, but talk is the most immediate effective tool we have.

So we hope, whether it concerns someone else or yourself, an effort is made to have that conversation.

It could be the difference between life and death.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2JfJ6sZ

___

Daily Camera, March 31, on climate and clean air goals being in danger:

The Trump administration has launched such a dizzying array of attacks on environmental quality in its first year that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them all. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have been carrying water for the oil and gas industry since taking office and making little attempt to disguise it. President Trump has announced plans to dismantle or dilute important initiatives of the Obama administration, including the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule, not to mention walking away from the Paris climate accord.

But perhaps the most direct assault on environmental quality yet is expected this week, when Pruitt plans to announce the administration will revoke auto emission standards set in 2012, which mandate that the fuel efficiency of cars, sport-utility vehicles and light trucks continue to improve on an annual basis through 2025.

Obama won auto industry concessions on emissions in return for the federal government’s $80 billion bailout of the industry coming out of the Great Recession. As soon as Trump was elected, the industry began to lobby for a loosening of these clean-car standards.

But after making substantial investments since 2012 to meet the standards for 2018, 2019 and 2020 models, even the industry knows there is no going back. While it has lobbied for more “flexibility” in meeting the standards for 2021-25 without explaining publicly just what that means, it faces another problem: California and 12 other states, representing about one-third of the nation’s population, subscribe to California’s emission rules, which were tougher than the federal standards until Obama brought the national rules up to roughly the same level in 2012. California earned its carve-out a half-century ago, when lawmakers recognized its unique air quality issues - and early attempts to deal with them - while writing the Clean Air Act of 1963.

Those issues persist today. In its “State of the Air 2017” report, the American Lung Association rated three California regions - Los Angeles-Long Beach, Bakersfield and Fresno-Madera - worst in the country for smog. Ozone pollution, which attacks the human ability to breathe, continues to be a major problem in the western U.S. California has 11 of the 25 most ozone-polluted regions in the country, according to the ALA. Colorado has two - Denver and Fort Collins. Greater Denver was the sixth-worst area in the country for bad air days in 2015, according to Environment Colorado.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown, California has been moving to accelerate its clean air programs, including initiatives to subsidize the replacement of diesel-powered heavy-duty trucks. Trump has indicated a desire to revoke California’s waiver, but Brown has made it clear he will resist any attempt by the federal government to weaken its standards, setting up a potential legal battle.

The New York Times reported last week that Pruitt has submitted a 16-page draft to the White House which will be framed as reducing the regulatory burden on automakers. The effects of a rollback on Boulder’s and Colorado’s emission reduction goals could be devastating. Former Boulder mayor Will Toor, now director of the transportation program at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, estimates that if Pruitt succeeds in rolling back mandated improvements after 2021, it will negate the entire improvement in emissions expected from the Colorado Energy Plan announced by Xcel Energy last year, which calls for retiring 660 megawatts of coal-fired electric capacity and replacing it with wind, solar and natural gas.

“There is simply no way that Boulder can achieve its climate goals without the clean-car standards,” Toor said. “If you look at projections for greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in Boulder, the biggest single reduction comes from federal standards forcing cars to get cleaner. From a metro area perspective, cars are one of the two big sources of ozone precursors contributing to smog and violations of federal air quality standards. The other big source is oil and gas production, a not-unrelated source. Rolling back the standards will increase emissions of ozone precursors, making it harder to clean the air here.”

Last summer, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order declaring the state’s objective to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide by more than 26 percent by 2025, as compared to 2005 levels.” Like Boulder’s goals, the state goal relies on gains in the transportation sector based on existing clean-car rules. The Colorado Climate Plan, issued in 2015 and updated earlier this year, calls for “Encouraging the adoption of more fuel-efficient vehicles in line with advancing CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards,” a reference to 2011-2025 CAFE standards for each of four types of vehicles established by Obama’s clean-car rules.

As in so many other areas of environmental science, the Trump initiative would have negative long-term effects on U.S. leadership in clean energy technology. Faced with the possibility of two different standards for new vehicles - federal rules for two-thirds of the country and California’s rules for the other third - even some auto executives are calling for a meeting of the minds.

“We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback,” Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett wrote last week in a Medium post. “We want one set of standards nationally, along with additional flexibility to help us provide more affordable options for our customers. We believe that working together with EPA, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and California, we can deliver on this standard.”

We would urge Trump and Pruitt to follow this moderate course if we thought it would have any effect, but based on their past performance, we don’t have much confidence in that. So the question is what can be done at the local and state levels to counteract a regressive move that could threaten air quality and efforts to combat climate change throughout the Denver metropolitan area, including in Boulder.

Back when a dozen other states were signing onto California’s clean-car standards, there was talk of Colorado joining them. The Obama rules, which were harmonized with California’s, appeared to make that unnecessary. Assuming Pruitt announces plans to abandon Obama’s rules this week, we urge Gov. Hickenlooper to pursue adding Colorado to the list of states committed to California’s clean-car standards and to revise the Colorado Climate Plan to reflect adherence to those standards. Hickenlooper’s support for massive fracking operations in and around residential communities along the Front Range has severely damaged his environmental credentials in these parts. We urge him to reclaim a mantle that previous Democratic governors of Colorado wore much more proudly than he has.

Beyond that, we urge all Coloradans committed to clean air and fighting climate change to recognize what a big deal this is. The federal clean-car standards were Obama’s signature environmental achievement. We simply don’t have time, from either a climate or public health perspective, to allow the corporate cronies now running the federal government to stop our progress now.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2Jl5zVt

___

The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, March 30, on budget hawk challenging library spending:

Books, research, and lifelong learning are important to individuals and society. That’s why Americans adore public libraries.

The question arises: What is the primary function today, as disruptive technologies offer readers and researchers a growing array of options?

Politicians constantly talk about government budget woes to justify unfilled potholes, slow emergency response times, and crumbling schools.

Colorado Springs voters raised sales taxes last year to generate money for stormwater infrastructure and free $17 million a year from the general fund to increase staffing in the police and fire departments. Springs voters approved a sales tax in 2015 that generates more than $20 million a year for major, citywide road improvements.

The Gazette’s editorial board supports both new revenue streams.

As the community belabored spending nearly $30 million on essential road and drainage improvements, the Pikes Peak Library District quietly enjoyed revenues of nearly $27 million in property tax revenues. That’s $3.8 million more than city government collects in property taxes to serve various needs of nearly 500,000 residents.

Each and every individual in the Pikes Peak region uses or depends on roads, stormwater drainage, and emergency services. The same cannot be said of the library.

“I’ve asked 50 people over the past two weeks when they last used the library,” said realtor and former Colorado Springs City Councilman Tim Leigh. “I hear ‘I haven’t been there,’ or ‘I can’t remember the last time I was there.’ Or, ‘I was there for a meeting a few years ago.’ One person, my good friend Howard Brooks, said he was there yesterday to check out a book.”

A Pew Research study in 2016 found 44 percent of Americans visited a library or bookmobile in the past year. That number was down from 53 percent from an identical survey in 2013. The Institute of Museum and Library Services reports an 8.2 percent decrease in library visits since 2009.

A 2017 Pew survey gives hope to the future of libraries, finding 53 percent of millennials use them. Young adults use the library more than their elder Gen Xers (45 percent), and baby boomers (36 percent). Time will tell whether millennials continue visiting libraries later in life.

Regardless, technology has dramatically reduced the exclusive value of libraries for even the most voracious of readers and researchers. Books are easily ordered on Amazon.com - or competing sites - and delivered within days. They are available immediately on electronic tablets and computers for less than most would spend in time driving to a library and parking.

Demand for library microfiche and other archival information has largely been disrupted by google.

“I like to read books,” Leigh said. “I prefer paper books, and I don’t go to the library.”

Leigh hopes to petition for a ballot measure in November that would dramatically reduce the library district’s mill levy.

“My measure will establish a sunset provision on the library district’s tax,” Leigh told us. “I want to roll back their budget. If you go into the library, it looks like they’re running a jobs program. It’s like they can hire people because they have the money, not because there is demand for that many employees.”

Our own local Pikes Peak Library District has been a trusted place and partner for many in our community’s history. They were early adopters of digital tools and expanded events at their 21c facility. They even won a major award last year as a Best Workplace in the Gazette’s own Best Workplaces event.

Much of the public wants and needs libraries. But Leigh raises relevant questions about funding levels the community should discuss and discern. What is the modern-day role? How many people are served today versus years past and in what way? Should we spend as much as on roads, bridges and storm water? In this age of digital information and technological disruption, maybe it is time to scrutinize how these questions.

We’d love to hear from you on this and will select a balanced group of responses and publish them all together on the same day in the coming weeks.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2JjkRKp

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