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Selected tag(s): Colorado

Clean Air Report Card: CO, WY Counties Get F’s Due To Oil And Gas Pollution

Source: Washington Business Journal

As a parent, I would not be pleased if my kids brought home F’s on their report cards.  Stern talks with my children, frantic phone calls and scheduled meetings with teachers and administrators would ensue.  Plans of action would be crafted.  It would be an urgent wake-up call.

This week, several counties in Colorado and Wyoming brought home poor grades on their clean air report cards.  The American Lung Association examined the levels of damaging ozone pollution in counties in these two western states and several of them are simply not making the grade.

High ozone levels are not new to Colorado.  Like many large metropolitan areas, Denver has struggled with ozone pollution (commonly known as smog) for many years. But historically, such problems have been limited to the summertime and to the Denver metropolitan area. Now unhealthy levels of ozone are becoming a common occurrence year-round and are emerging in rural parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

The culprit?  Air pollution from oil and gas development, which is just one of the environmental risks associated with a booming natural gas industry. Read More »

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Colorado: A Case Study In Clean Tech Planning And Execution

In a recent posts, we revisited the recent trio of reports of the clean energy clusters in Ohio, Iowa and Colorado and shared some insights on lessons learned from Iowa and Ohio.  In this post, we'll take a look at Colorado.

Colorado is the 12th windiest state in the U.S. and is currently 9th in installed wind capacity. It's one of only six states that have exceeded 10% of state generated electricity coming from wind.  For more than a decade, Colorado has been atop most lists for states vying for leadership in the clean energy economy.  It has research labs, a proactive state government, universities and active economic development efforts.  All of these have combined to help Colorado excel in the new energy landscape.

Consider that Golden, CO is home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the only federal lab dedicated to research, development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technology.  For more than 30 years, NREL has been working on advancements in solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources.  NREL, Colorado universities and private companies have leveraged the hometown lab to establish specialized research centers in several of these areas and contribute more than $700 million in the economic activity of Colorado each year.

The Denver-metro area, where our report focuses, has become a particularly popular place for cleantech startups and more mature companies.  In 2011, the region had about 1,500 companies and 18,000 employees in the cleantech industry, a 35% increase in direct employment growth from 2006. In terms of the entire Colorado workforce, cleantech employees account for 1%.  But that's twice the national average and generates more than a billion dollars in annual wages. Read More »

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“Promised Land”: A Love Letter To Longmont

Source: The Daily Digger

Promised Land is not a movie about “fracking.” You will be sorely disappointed if you go to the theatre expecting to see lurid visuals of sinister-looking waste water ponds, plumes of diesel soot and road dust, or bucolic landscapes scarred by roads and pipes. You will see none of that.

Promised Land is a movie about what happens before the drilling rigs and man camps rumble into town. It is the story of a rural community, proud but poor, struggling to reconcile itself with an enormous economic opportunity that comes at an enormous cost.

And, despite what you may have read in the blogosphere, it is not reflexively anti-natural gas. The movie actually does a fairly decent job of presenting all sides of the shale gas development debate. I was intrigued to read a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article from this past June where John Krasinski, a star in the film and co-author of the screenplay, revealed that he originally conceived the story as a community facing major wind farm development. Krasinski made the switch because natural gas development is more topical, and more visceral, than wind development.  His primary point in making the film was to explore what happens when money and power come to a rural community that has neither.

I suspect the reason why the natural gas industry is so on edge about this movie is because the plot device which propels the story forward is a community referendum on whether development will be allowed within its borders. This is exactly the situation the industry faces in Longmont, Colorado, and to the same or similar degree in many other communities around the country.

The central question the movie poses is whether any amount of potential future prosperity is worth sacrificing a pastoral way of life that has defined a community for generations. Worry over polluted water is part of what fuels the townspeople’s anxiety over what to do, but it is far from their only concern.

Does a community have the right to regulate or prohibit industrial development in its borders?  It’s a tricky legal question currently playing out in Colorado and elsewhere around the country, and there is no simple answer.

One thing is certain: the natural gas industry must be forthcoming and honest about the risks that unconventional oil and gas development create, proactive in taking the steps necessary to minimize those risks, and willing to collect and publicly disclose the data necessary to enable communities to evaluate for themselves whether their health and environment are being fully protected. Many people distrust whether industry can develop shale gas safely, and it’s understandable why they are concerned – especially given recent media reports about industry hiding many of the chemicals they use behind questionable “trade secret” claims.  It appears that even the most basic steps toward greater transparency are grudging and incomplete.

In Promised Land, citizens are repeatedly lied to with predictable results. In real life, the natural gas industry has the ability to write a different story through the actions it takes to address community concerns, measure performance and disclose results. That’s a story I want to see.

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