- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Coloradoan, June 23, on local oil and gas setbacks:

Compared to other Front Range communities, oil and gas development is limited in Fort Collins. But that doesn’t keep it from being a major concern for many residents who worry about its impacts.

City staff members and the city council have been working on issues related to oil and gas for several years with the goal of protecting the health and safety of the community while staying within the confines of state law. The latest steps in that delicate dance come with proposed changes to how close residential and commercial properties can be built to existing oil and gas wells.

If approved by city council, mandatory setbacks for new development would be increased from 350 feet to 500 feet from any active well, and the buffer for high-occupancy buildings, such as schools and hospitals, would be set at 1,000 feet.

Proposed changes to the land use code also would allow the city to grant a minimum 150-foot setback from residential development for permanently plugged and abandoned wells. Another provision would allow the city to require notification of would-be homebuyers if the property they are interested in is within 1,000 feet of a well.

The Coloradoan editorial board supports the proposed changes to the land use code. The regulations appear reasonable and unlikely to be problematic for the state, which jealously guards its authority over oil and gas regulation, or industry.

The revised setback limits match recently updated state regulations. If the state’s mandatory setbacks change again, the city’s rules would automatically align with those regulations.

The most intriguing aspect of these rule changes is the 150-foot setback variance on abandoned wells. It’s meant to give developers an incentive to shut down and seal wells in exchange for having more developable land. It’s a clever way to discourage oil and gas operations by appealing to a developer’s bottom line.

Understand, these rule changes are not about regulating oil and gas development: They are about new residential and commercial development and finding a way for it to occur safely without infringing on property and mineral rights.

The notification provision is common sense and fair to would-be property owners, who have a right to know what oil and gas facilities are in the neighborhood.

These changes won’t be good enough for Fort Collins residents who would prefer to see oil and gas operations completely shut down and driven out of city limits. They will cite studies on the harmful impacts oil and gas wells have on air and water quality.

They have legitimate concerns. But remember, unlike parts of Weld County, Fort Collins is located above geological formations that do not lend themselves to oil and gas development.

Well-drillers aren’t likely to start coming here. Plus, setting restrictions on oil and gas development that would not stand up in court, as happened a few years ago after city voters approved a moratorium on oil and gas development, would be impractical.

Editorial: https://noconow.co/2lEUMev


The Pueblo Chieftain, June 26, on the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo:

Court-ordered mental competency evaluations and restorations have increased over the years to the point where the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo is in dire need of rescue by the state. The competency exams are critical to determining whether defendants are fit to stand trial and, if they aren’t, what treatment is necessary to restore them to mental fitness.

The courts referred 327 jail inmates for mental competency exams and 711 for restoration services in the fiscal year ending last June 30.

In May, more than 200 prisoners were in county jails awaiting space for mental competency tests or restoration services at the state hospital. The biggest increases have been court-ordered restoration referrals, which are more than double the number of court-ordered competency exams.

The irony is that the orders are issued by state judges to be carried out by the state. The trouble is, CMHIP lacks the staff and space capacity to keep up with the increasing load.

The backlog is the subject of a lawsuit by Disability Law Colorado, which has petitioned a federal magistrate to reopen the case. The issue is over state officials declaring “special circumstances” for not taking the prisoners within 28 days as provided by a previous settlement of the dispute.

“The department does not have the bed capacity to keep up with the extraordinary demand for competency evaluations and restoration, which have continued to increase at exponential rates,” said Dr. Robert Werthwein, director of behavioral health for the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Human Services have tried to help. They asked the Legislature to allow mental competency evaluators to conduct the exams in the jails where the criminal suspects are in custody. The bill died, in part, because of the disability group’s opposition.

“Jails are not places to restore someone’s competency,” said Mark Ivandick, lawyer for Disability Law Colorado. “This time, there won’t be a settlement.”

Yet Disability Law Colorado continues to press the lawsuit to force the state to take the mental competency evaluations within 28 days of a court order.

Something’s got to give. Given the legal power of the federal courts, the state soon may have no better alternative than to supply CMHIP with the additional staff and space needed to reduce the backlog.

The Legislature should approve having either mental competency evaluations where the criminal defendants are in custody or funding CMHIP for additional staff and beds to handle the ever-increasing number of court-ordered competency exams.

The state hospital and staff are caught in the middle of conflicting government interests.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2KqJC7K


The Cortez Journal, June 25, on promoting Four Corners tourism:

When a large portion of your economy is based on tourism, there are a lot of terrifying scenarios of how it can get knocked off course.

A devastating wildfire is one. But there are others that we have weathered in Southwest Colorado - lack of winter snow, mountain passes closed by slides and roads washed out by flash floods.

Nature has a lot of control over the towns of our region - that’s one of the reasons we love it here. The flip side is that it can bring turmoil.

The drought and the 416 and Burro fires have done just that, and they may continue to impact the region for years. We won’t know the full scope of that until the fires are contained and extinguished, of course, but history does provide some insight.

Foremost, our communities will be OK. Consider this example from Durango: Two months after nearly 3 million gallons of toxic waste spilled into the Animas River, sales tax revenues, including the city’s lodger’s tax, were rising dramatically.

Tourists were still coming in October, despite international coverage of the mustard-yellow river. Sure, they were calling and asking months and years after the August 2015 spill if the river was still yellow. But when assured things had returned to normal, they booked their rafting or fishing trips.

This is not meant to minimize the losses some businesses suffer during and after a disaster. It can be tough for a small business to hold on when no one is walking through the door.

The recent multi-day closure of the San Juan National Forest was no doubt a blow to local business. And the suspension of train service between Durango and Silverton likely led to cancellation of plans by some summer visitors to visit Mesa Verde as well.

The communities of the region are trying to help - residents from all parts of our region are suggesting day trips to Silverton, for example.

Across the Four Corners, there’s also a loud drumbeat for supporting local businesses in all our communities. Now that the San Juan National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands are open, it is likely to get louder.

And that might be the best thing that can happen, according to tourism experts. At the recent SoCo Tourism Summit, held in Pueblo, state and local tourism experts repeatedly sent the message: Promoting each other helps everyone, because we’re all in this together.

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


Vail Daily, June 19, on reporting on suicide:

Reporting on suicide is one of the toughest jobs for a small-town newspaper.

There’s a real need to balance sensitivity to those who grieve with providing information to readers. There’s also the danger that reporting on suicide - especially when a young person is involved - might lead to copycat attempts.

Given that we live in a region with a higher-than-average suicide rate, and that rate has been rising, news outlets also have a responsibility to help in any way possible.

To provide some guidance, public health officials in Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties recently hosted a training session about reporting on suicide. Newsroom staff members from the Vail Daily, as well as other papers in the Colorado Mountain News Media network, including The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, attended that session.

There was a lot of information presented, of course, but the session’s main topics included suggestions of how to write about suicide - and, more important, how not to write about it.

Reporters were advised to avoid sensational headlines, quoting from notes left behind and publishing photos of the scene or writing about how someone died by suicide - which is the phrase this newspaper will use in the future.

Reporters instead were encouraged to report on suicide as a public health issue, seeking advice from suicide prevention experts and, perhaps most important, providing information about suicide’s warning signs and resources for those seeking help.

In a better world, this and other newspapers wouldn’t have to worry about reporting on the suicide of your - and our - friends and loved ones.

But we live in this world, and this newspaper will try to help. One way to do that is to abide by the sensible guidelines provided in that seminar. To learn more about this nationwide effort, and to read the media recommendations for reporting on suicide, visit http://reportingonsuicide.org

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

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide