The Peña Station Next development near Denver International Airport already sports a solar panel-covered parking lot, a huge battery system and other smart technologies — and now it’s aiming for neutrality on carbon dioxide emissions.

Several businesses — including Xcel Energy Inc., Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co., developer LC Fulenwider Inc. and Denver International Airport — are joining with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to study how to turn the area into a “carbon-neutral” energy district, they announced Friday.

The Peña Station Next development is at 61st Avenue and Peña Boulevard. LC Fulenwider is the master real estate developer for the mixed-use community which includes the North American headquarters for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co.

The development is being billed [touted] as a “smart city” that will integrate a variety of technologies into its transportation and operations.

"Net-zero" projects typically cover a building or small area and include enough renewable energy sources, such as solar power panels at the site, to offset electricity consumption from traditional fossil fuels over the course of a year.

The carbon-neutral initiative at the Next station aims higher — to leverage a wider set of technologies, including renewable energy, batteries, and potentially capturing carbon in the air, or credits for carbon capture projects elsewhere. The goal is “to fully offset the district’s climate impact due to electricity generation and consumption,” the partners said in an announcement.

Xcel is considering owning and operating the new infrastructure the development will need to achieve carbon neutrality — with an eye toward offering the test-driven technology to other Colorado communities in the future. Panasonic, in the announcement, said its executives are interested in how the company can replicate carbon-neutral districts on a larger scale elsewhere. NREL has the opportunity to strengthen its partnership with industry and also apply its facilities and expertise to this project as well as others.

Earlier this year, Xcel and Panasonic flipped the switch on a "microgrid system" that incorporated solar power and battery storage at Peña Station Next, a project done with the help of DIA and Fulenwider.

Cathy Proctor covers energy, the environment and transportation for the Denver Business Journal and edits the weekly "Energy Inc." email newsletter.




A mass-email from the Colorado Education Association Wednesday included a play-by-play account of that morning’s protest and rally at the Capitol denouncing Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s visit to Denver. So, even those who weren’t able to attend still got a feel for the event. And one of the feelings that was easy to pick up was that the overwhelmingly Democratic rally participants had little love for members of their own party who had embraced school choice and other education reforms.

A substantial slice of Democrats has done so, of course. There’s even a prominent national group, well represented in Colorado, called Democrats for Education Reform. Like-minded Dems include no less than the two most recent Democratic presidents, who supported charter schools, and closer to home, the current Denver Public Schools board. It has implemented a wide range of reforms including charters and innovation schools.

As we noted earlier this week, that probably explains why one of the Denver school board’s members, prominent Democrat and former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, was turned down when she asked to address Wednesday’s rally.

That privilege evidently was reserved for Democrats more in sync with the CEA — the event’s principal organizer — and its opposition to the reform movement. Democrats like state Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, who didn’t mince words about who he sees as the enemy. As recounted in the CEA press release:

“Once public education is taken from you, you no longer have power and that is what is happening here,” said State Rep. Joe Salazar, who spoke at the rally with State Sens. Andy Kerr and Michael Merrifield. “Betsy DeVos and Democrats for Education Reform and the charter school movement are stripping power from you, and they are doing it knowingly.”

Barbara O’Brien, that means you — among others.

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.




In a decision evoking former President Obama’s environmental agenda, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in March expanded its authority in a way that’s likely to drive up electricity rates.

Every four years, Xcel Energy undergoes a resource planning process that outlines their ability to meet ratepayers’ energy demand. They present portfolios containing cost analyses regarding the utility’s generation, and the PUC selects the “lowest cost resources available to provide the company with enough capacity and energy to in turn be able to provide customers with reliable electricity.”

However, in the 2016 Energy Resource Plan (ERP), the PUC expanded their power by reinterpreting the second clause of a statute based on a 2008 bill, which authorized them to consider the economic damage caused by climate change when determining the energy sources for Colorado. In agreement with Western Resource Advocates (WRA), an environmental organization that only champions wind and solar energy, the PUC concluded they are allowed to consider future societal costs caused by carbon emissions in this ERP.

To account for those expenses, in a 2-1 decision, the PUC forced Xcel to run an analysis that values each ton of emitted greenhouse gas based on the Federal Social Cost of Carbon (FSCC)—which is a controversial measurement developed by an interagency working group during the Obama era. They believed it could accurately determine a dollar value for economic damage caused by a metric ton of carbon emissions in any given year and following until 2300 A.D.

The PUC’s ruling did not add a line item to bills, but pricing CO2 emissions eliminates market signals by artificially inflating the price of coal and gas generation. Suddenly, cheap, reliable sources become expensive, and the commissioners select portfolios filled predominantly with wind and solar farms.

So much for choosing the lowest cost resource.

Only 22 percent of Xcel’s energy generation in Colorado is carbon free, so their future resource planning will be significantly affected. They will have to acquire more wind and solar assets similar to the Rush Creek Wind Farm, which is already costing ratepayers $1.1 billion.

As of now, the PUC claims this is only an additional sensitivity analysis, meaning regulators will most likely not choose a portfolio adjusted for emission pricing. But coincidentally, the PUC delivered their ruling just days before the Trump Administration revoked President Obama’s social cost of carbon guidance. As the Denver Post’s Aldo Svaldi reported, “the Public Utilities Commission’s vote… represents a political statement as well as an economic one.”

So while the federal government steps toward rational energy and environment policy, Colorado steps away from it.

Possibly foreseeing the renunciation of the FSCC, in a politically charged ruling, the PUC applied it to an energy resource plan. However, Commissioner Wendy Moser was correct that the PUC should not use the FSCC when choosing what powers Colorado.

The reason? It’s completely inappropriate.

The FSCC considers multiple carbon producing entities including cars and cows. It would be understandable if the models only measured social costs associated with power plant CO2 emissions. But they do not. As a result, cattle in Nebraska or cars in India could affect the modeling, which ultimately could impact the PUC’s decision.

Moreover, the FSCC data represents a “‘comprehensive’ estimate of global climate change.” In other words, it punishes Colorado ratepayers for all global impact related to carbon emissions. The lawyers for Xcel captured this best when they revealed customers’ utility bills would compensate for the impact of sea-level change—something Colorado citizens rarely consider since they live in a landlocked state—if a portfolio is chosen that accounts for the FSCC.

Customers of both Xcel Energy and Black Hills Corporation should be concerned about higher energy bills. The PUC sidestepped their financial responsibility and in a seemingly politically charged move, ruled in favor of implementing a “crude and highly flawed measurement” that punishes ratepayers for possible climate change over one hundred years from now and thousands of miles away.

It is time the legislature reigns in the PUC and politics are taken out of their rulings. Because if they are not, Xcel customers will see rate hikes in the near future and Black Hills will not be far behind.

Brit Naas is an intern with the Independence Institute’s Future Leaders Project in Energy and Environmental Policy, and is a student at Concordia University Irvine.

  




Red State, Blue State, Independent State, Moocher State: I don’t know if Dr. Seuss would appreciate my borrowing from his children’s classic but given how I enjoy comparative rankings, I couldn’t help myself after perusing a new study from WalletHub that ranks states on their independence (or lack thereof).

Ranking the States

Being a policy wonk, what really caught my attention was the section on government dependency, which is based on four criteria.

As you can see, the four factors are not weighted equally. The “federally dependent states” variable is considered four times as important as any of the other variables.

That’s important, to be sure, but is it really more important (or that much more important) than the other categories?

Moreover, I’m not sure the “tax freedom day” variable is a measure of dependency. What’s really captured by this variable, given the way the tax code doesn’t tax low-income people and over-taxes high-income people, is the degree to which states have lots of rich people or poor people. But that’s not a measure of dependence (particularly if the rich people stole money instead of earning it).

  




DENVER Colo. (June 12, 2017) – Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that will take a big step toward closing a federal asset forfeiture loophole.

A bipartisan coalition of two representatives and two senators introduced House Bill 1313 (HB1313) on April 3. The legislation primarily creates an extensive reporting system related to asset forfeiture that law enforcement agencies will have to follow.

But important provisions in the new law prohibit Colorado law enforcement agencies from transferring seized property to a federal agency unless it has a net value of more than $50,000. It also prohibits state and local police from accepting payment or distribution from a federal agency of all, or part of, any forfeiture proceeds resulting from the adoption, a joint task force, or other multijurisdictional collaboration, unless the aggregate net equity value of the property and currency seized in the case is in excess of $50,000, the case is commenced by the federal government, and it relates to a filed criminal case.

In most situations, passage of HB1313 slams closed a federal loophole that allowed state and local police to get around more strict state asset forfeiture laws.

In March, a similar Senate bill sponsored by the same coalition failed to move out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary by a vote of 2-3. The vote was along party lines, with two Democrats in favor and three Republicans opposing. With the setback in the Senate, the same coalition tweaked the language and reintroduced the legislation in the House.

This time, when the bill passed the House and went to the Senate, it was sent to a different committee. In a matter of days, as the legislative session wound down, two committees passed the bill, and the full Senate approved it with a 32-3 vote. Due to technical amendments in the Senate, it needed to go back to the House, where it garnered final approve approval by a vote of 49-16. With Hickenlooper’s signature, the new law will go into effect later this summer.

FEDERAL LOOPHOLE

While Colorado asset forfeiture laws don’t provide the level of protection they should, they are stricter than federal law. The Institute of Justice gives Colorado forfeiture laws a C. They do include a high bar to forfeit property, but they do not require a criminal conviction. They also provide relatively robust protections for innocent third-party property owners, and law enforcement can only keep up to 50 percent of proceeds.

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center.He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of '98 - Kentucky.See his blog archive here and his article archive here.He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at MichaelMaharrey.com and like him on Facebook HERE

  




Today, June 15, a coalition of immigrant-rights organizations debuted the Colorado Rapid Response Network, a 24-hour hotline that people can call to report, track and verify enforcement operations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Organizers say they already have over a hundred volunteers lined up to staff the hotline and go out into communities across Colorado to verify ICE operations firsthand. The number of the hotline: 1-844-UNITE-41 (1-844-864-8341).

“The intention of this network is to ease the fear in the community by being able to confirm or deny activity that is conducted by ICE,” said Carla Castedo, state director of Mi Familia Vota, in a prepared statement. “Our network is also trained to observe operations, ensure that rights are not being trampled, and stand together against injustices in Colorado.”

Another organizer, Celesté Martinez with Together Colorado, says the Colorado Rapid Response Network is modeled after existing networks run by the New Sanctuary Movement, based out of Philadelphia, and the PICO National Network, based out of Oakland.

“Both of those organizations have been doing rapid response network work for years,” Martinez says. “We evaluated what would work best by looking at their best practices, seeing what was missing, and then developing trainings and infrastructure here in Colorado.”

In Colorado, the network will consist of a dispatcher (shifts are twelve hours, either 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.), who will field calls and update an online database, as well as a “confirmer" who will go out into the field to confirm reported ICE activity.

Martinez says that dispatchers can be mobile because calls are routed to their cells phones. “But the expectation is that our dispatchers will always answer their phone during their shifts," she adds.

Chris Walker covers news and music as a staff writer at Westword. Prior to living in Denver, he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic.

  




Gov. Hickenlooper wants Western Slope counties to drop their lawsuit against the government’s sage grouse plan and instead try to talk through the problem.

But isn’t that what prompted the lawsuit? We talked, the government didn’t listen, and now we have this mess.

Hickenlooper aide John Swartout tells the Daily Sentinel that Hick has been meeting with governors from Nevada and Wyoming to find a way to avoid litigation.

“Our message was fix the plans but don’t scrap them. Don’t just jettison them,” Swartout said.

It wasn’t the counties intention to kill the government’s sage grouse plan outright, but what would happen if that occurred?

A new listing process would begin, but this time under a Trump administration that is friendlier towards ranchers and the energy industry.

Somehow, we think that if Clinton were president, Hick wouldn’t be sending out his people to try and talk Western Slope counties out of the lawsuit.

To Garfield, Moffat, Jackson and Rio Blanco Counties, we say, carry on.



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