Proposed land-use code revisions that would add rules to what landowners can and can't do with their property didn't go over well Tuesday night at the Oxford Grange Hall in eastern La Plata County, where more than 200 residents showed up -- mostly in opposition.

Two county commissioners and staffers were on hand to hear ag concerns after local landowners started reading the first part of the proposed La Plata County Land Use Code, and many said they don't like it. So far, more than 250 comments have been received, and more are expected before the Jan. 26 deadline to comment.

"We need this," Commissioner Brad Blake said of the public input he heard at the meeting.

While Tuesday night's crowd spilled out the doors, past meetings, including those involving the land-use code, have had only three people in attendance, he said.

Part of the uproar is caused by a philosophical opposition to zoning land in ag country.

"When you take uses from that property, you devalue that property," said J. Paul Brown, a former state representative who ranches near Ignacio. "We need to sit down with you and try to come up with a code and land-use plan that we can live with, and you can live with."

Blake said most complaints he receives as a commissioner are about the existing land-use code.

"It does not work," he said. "The county has to do better."

"Our goal is to get the right code," said Commissioner Julie Westendorff, who represents the eastern section of the county.

While the crowd was mostly amicable, at times there were heated comments and open jeers from some in attendance.

Having a predictable code that spells out what is allowed and what isn't provides more uses by right than the existing process, said Jason Meininger, the county's planning director.

"That makes no sense," hollered one woman in the crowd.

"Huh-uh," added another.

The draft code needs more definitions and clarity, said Christi Zeller, director of the La Plata County Energy Council. It also needs to be released simultaneously, not in stages, she said.

Rural residential and suburban residential are not defined in the draft, she said. And a section calling for permits for Class A and Class B events doesn't define the difference between the two.

The proposed code also gets into areas that shouldn't be part of land use, she said, such as housing affordability and economic development.

"I don't understand why a land-use code talks about the interior of a house," Zeller said. That comment brought a round of applause.

Robert Peck, who ranches near Ignacio, said current county regulations are "pretty cumbersome," and he thinks use permits should be kept to a minimum. "Don't let the people in Durango determine the rules," he said.

Another participant said the code "feels like an HOA at the county level" and involves "nitpicking" things the county shouldn't regulate.

Meininger said while that may be the consensus in rural La Plata County, there are other county residents who don't share that point of view.

Sixty to 75 percent of the complaints made to county staff involve aesthetics, said Sheryl Rogers, the county attorney.

"Too bad!" one crowd member responded.

  





Attorney General Jeff Sessions, someone whom many of us consider asleep at the wheel concerning high level corruption at the FBI and DOJ, has woken up. No longer lurking in the weeds while Congressional committees and intrepid bloggers are peeling back the layers of the onion on deep state corruption, Sessions has moved from the weeds to weed itself.

The AG this past week announced very simply that federal law regarding marijuana will be enforced. The left is apoplectic, even distracted a bit from the Trump-Russia collusion narrative and the recent tell-all book about President Trump, which is turning out to be more fiction than fact. Author Michael Wolff should have called his book, “Fifty Shades of Trump”.

Here in Colorado, the liberal Denver Post is predictably outraged over Sessions’ decision, especially since marijuana has replaced skiing, hiking 14ers, and sunny days as what Colorado is now noted for.  The Denver Post editorial board wrote:

“We are unable to see any benefit to disturbing the robust recreational marijuana industry and beneficial medical marijuana care system in Colorado that has for the most part diligently followed state laws aimed at keeping the drug out of the hands of children, inside state borders and off the black market. The industry is paying substantial taxes and licensing fees and creating jobs. Shame on Sessions for trying to destroy what Colorado has built…”

Interesting choice of words, “for the most part”. As in how Hillary Clinton handled classified information properly, “for the most part”? Is that 51-49 or 99-1 “for the most part”.

The problem is that marijuana is illegal under federal law. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper correctly noted, "Federal law supersedes state law.” It was the last White House administration, as National Review’s Kevin Williamson described, “Who put those views into play in the fashion characteristic of the Obama administration: through executive overreach that undermined the rule of law…

Specifically it was, “The Cole memo, which directed the DOJ to forgo prosecuting marijuana providers in states where their businesses are legal, focusing its resources instead on organized crime and international trafficking…

So, the Obama Administration chose to ignore federal law, giving the marijuana industry a pass. Reefer madness and no surprise. Much of Obamacare was dictated via executive order rather than following statutory law passed by Congress.

Colorado’s Republican NeverTrump Senator, Cory Gardner, ran to the microphone even faster than Chuck Schumer, denouncing the decision that, “Has trampled on the will” of Colorado voters. In other words, Senator Gardner is upset that the AG is doing his job enforcing laws that the Senator and his colleagues voted on and passed. I would think he would be more upset if the AG ignored laws passed by Congress as AG Holder did, but silly me for thinking so foolishly of my representative in “the world’s greatest deliberative body”.

Here it is, in the US Code, spelling it all out. Even the US Supreme Court agreed in the 2005 Gonzales v Raich case, ruling that, “Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown cannabis even if states approve its use for medicinal purposes…

I’m not arguing for or against legalized marijuana or the politics of AG Sessions’ decision as that is entirely separate issue. It is, however, interesting to briefly observe some of the consequences of legalizing marijuana here in Colorado beginning in 2014.

Traffic collisions are up. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found a 14 percent increase in collision claims in Colorado. Another study published in the American Journal of Public Health found no increase in vehicular fatalities. Just because a crash is not fatal doesn’t mean there wasn’t injury, property damage, and cost.

During a similar time period, heroin deaths in Colorado have doubled. Related to marijuana? Or the prevalence of prescription opioids? Or both? And now it’s legal to defecate and urinate on Denver sidewalks. From the Mile High City to the Poop City. I’m not blaming this on marijuana legalization, instead noting how a declining cultural tide lowers all boats.

  





Good power quality can be defined as a steady supply voltage that stays within the prescribed range, steady a.c. frequency close to the rated value, and smooth voltage curve waveform (resembles a sine wave). In general, it is useful to consider power quality as the compatibility between what comes out of an electric outlet and the load that is plugged into it. The term is used to describe electric power that drives an electrical load and the load’s ability to function properly. Without the proper power, an electrical device (or load) may malfunction, fail prematurely or not operate at all.

Unfortunately for these small business owners, they don’t enjoy “good power quality” even though Xcel Energy, the state’s largest monopoly utility, has been promising to fix the problem within two years. But the promise was made four years ago.

Poor power quality costs these businesses money in lost time and damage to their equipment. They have no choice but to continue paying their monthly power bills because there is only one service provider – Xcel.

One business owner is so frustrated with Xcel’s poor power quality, inability to deliver sufficient power, and the monopoly’s lack of concern that he is seriously considering investing nearly $1 million in his own two megawatt generator.

Bills for “poor quality” on the rise

How much do these businesses pay? Quite a lot. One of them allowed us to review a recent bill, which we cannot show it in order to protect the business’s privacy. This business paid close to $55,000 in one month for poor power quality that is often insufficient to meet its demand.

Besides the amount, there are a few other things we noticed on the bill. For instance, Xcel provides “Daily Averages” of how much power is being used per day and the cost versus the previous year. Despite using nearly 5.4 percent less electricity in November 2017 versus November 2016, the cost per day is 13.2 percent higher – for insufficient and poor power quality. Xcel is charging them more but not providing them what they need.

According to the business owner, he has asked Xcel to provide them with additional power. He’s willing to pay for it, but Xcel won’t deliver. Why should the monopoly? The business owner can’t just go to another provider, and retail electric sales are not where Xcel makes its profits anyway. Profits come from building.

Another point of interest on the bill is the so-called cost savings program Demand Side Management (DSM), which costs this company an additional 2.4 percent. If DSM actually worked, this business, which is using less electricity, would be paying less. Instead it’s paying more based on its Daily Averages. When researching DSM last spring, we found that the goal of DSM is more about reducing fossil fuel usage and increasing Xcel’s profits then it is about saving ratepayers money.

Also, I reviewed the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act (CACJA) and Renewable Energy Standard Adjustment (30 percent predominantly industrial wind mandate) riders. Together they are more than 10 percent of the bill.

In total, charges meant to save the planet are 12.5 percent to this business’s monthly bill. It’s easily enough for another employee. Instead, the owner pays Xcel for poor power quality that doesn’t meet its power demand, which is an additional financial burden. As Xcel lobbies to raise rates and build more for its asset base, it fails to properly service the customers and infrastructure it has currently.





In 1924, voters created the publicly-owned Colorado Springs Utilities enterprise (CSU), which provides electricity, natural gas, water and wastewater services to the Pikes Peak region.  On Monday, the Utilities Board will vote on whether to prematurely close CSU’s coal-fired Martin-Drake power plant so it can be replaced with renewable energy sources.

Such a move could cost ratepayers up to $200 million, since no matter what is decided, ratepayers will continue to pay for the bonds that funded the pollution-control improvements at Drake. If it’s shut down they won’t see any savings on their utility bills. Instead they will have to pay even more to replace the lost generating capacity one way or another.

While the Utilities Board, which is comprised of the members of the Colorado Springs City Council, has taken public comment on the decommissioning several times it’s questionable how much credence or respect it gives the opinions of either its citizen advisors or its customers.

CSU admits that decommissioning Drake is not the most economical plan. According to its 2016 Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP), “Among the 10 portfolios considered, three included the full Drake plant decommissioning. While still more costly than keeping the units online, the most economical option was a phased decommissioning schedule with Drake 5 in 2018, Drake 6 in 2023 and Drake 7 in 2029.”

What CSU means by this is that their preferred alternative is the most economical option of the three decommissioning options, all three of which would result in electric bills higher than some of the other options available that would lower utility bills.

The preferred alternative presented to the Utilities Board by the EIRP did not call for decommissioning the Drake power plant at all. The Utilities Board decided to close the coal-fired plant against the recommendation of its own EIRP, a move that City Council member Andy Pico characterizes as an anti-coal “war on the poor.”

  





Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jared Polis and Mike Johnston want to take Colorado where no state has gone before – 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. And it won’t be cheap. $44,880,000,000, according to our newly released study titled, “The Cost & Impact of a 100 Percent Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard for the State of Colorado.”

The figure represents what Coloradans would have to pay to add the necessary wind and solar capacity, utility scale battery storage, and retire the state’s entire coal and natural gas fleet. Not included within the scope of the study are transmission costs, land acquisition costs, nor reclamation of retired sites, which are likely to add billions of dollars more.

Not even California dared to do that.  In fact, this fall, Californians were smart enough to kill their 100 percent by 2045 legislation due to concerns over the “speed, pathway, feasibility, and, ultimately, the need for converting to 100 percent,” reported Greentech Media.

Welcome to Colorado’s dystopian energy and environmental policy, where we balance green fantasies on the backs of the working poor and at the expense of economic activity; where we destroy Colorado’s famous view sheds and ecosystems with millions of acres of industrial wind and utility scale solar in the name of climate change.

$44.88 billion is nearly $8,100 for every man, woman, and child currently in Colorado, more than $32,000 for a family of four.  It’s safe to say that the cost would drive up electric rates and drive low-income ratepayers deeper into energy poverty. It’s morally reprehensible to balance green fantasies and fears of climate change on the backs of Colorado working families.

The conversion also would be land intensive. For just the necessary industrial wind, Polis and Johnston would need to build turbines and destroy view sheds on somewhere between 497,596 acres to well in excess of 1.36 million acres – that’s an area the size of Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, and Jefferson counties combined.

The study, done by Energy Ventures Analysis and commissioned by the Independence Institute, examined the Polis and Johnston pledges because no one was asking either candidate how he would implement such a plan, and the candidates themselves haven’t provided many details.

The report also points out that no one even knows if 100 percent renewable generation by 2040 is technologically possible. For instance, attempting to put that much wind on to the grid will challenge operators due to the fact that there is a significant difference between “the time of peak demand and the time of peak wind generation.”

As with other states, Colorado’s wind generation is strongest during “off-peak” times, late at night or early in the morning. According to EVA’s models by the early 2030s, wind generation during off-peak times will exceed demand. The solution will be either massive investments in large scale battery storage, a technology that isn’t fully developed, or curtailment – meaning rolling brown outs and black outs – or a combination of both.

However, at a mere $2.23 billion, the state could go the Aspen and Telluride route and purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), which are a less expensive, but an intellectually dishonest, alternative. Under the REC scenario, Coloradans would pay other states like Oklahoma or Texas to produce electricity from wind and solar but “none of the renewable energy associated with these RECs would actually flow to Colorado” because “the RECs represent merely the environmental attributes of the generation, not the energy itself.”

Ironically, under a REC scenario, EVA estimates that 65 percent of Colorado’s electricity generation still would come from fossil fuels. All we’d be doing is sending $2.23 billion to other states so a governor, who won’t even be in office in 2040, could make an intellectually dishonest claim that Colorado is 100 percent renewable.

No other state is matching Polis and Johnston’s irresponsible deadline. Hawaii has a 100 percent by 2045 mandate but Hawaii is different because it must import all of its hydrocarbons, not so with Colorado. Pennsylvania lawmakers have proposed legislation and New Jersey’s recently elected governor has promised 100 percent by 2050. As mentioned earlier, not even California is as foolish as Polis and Johnston.

Colorado voters should consider themselves warned.

If voters elect a candidate who forces them to spend anywhere from $2.23 to $44.5 billion so they can feel environmentally superior to California, so be it. The state also will have to own the morally reprehensible label. At least now they can do it with their eyes wide open.

Amy Oliver Cooke is Executive Vice-President, and Director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Center at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.





Xcel Energy’s explanations of its proposed multiyear hike in electricity rates for Colorado customers have generated sharp criticism from consumer advocates as well as the staff of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

The PUC staff filed a motion on Nov. 17 that concludes the utility’s notices about the rate increase to customers had led to confusion and complaints being leveled on the PUC’s website.

“Sadly, with all its means and capability, the company will not acknowledge the legitimacy of the concern staff has called to its attention regarding the notices,” the PUC staff’s filing states. “Instead, the company will attempt to confuse and cloud the issue in an effort to demonstrate the notices it provided to ratepayers are not misleading.”

In a press release last month, Xcel said the four-year rate request amounts to $244.9 million and would allow the company to better integrate renewable energy into the grid, give ratepayers more control over their energy use, and provide new technology to keep costs low over the long term.

“Our four-year plan supports customer-centered initiatives that allow us to further manage our costs, offer ways to help keep electricity bills low, and deliver reliable service,” Xcel Energy-Colorado’s president, David Eves, said in a prepared statement.

The rate hikes through 2021 amount to 2 percent increases per year on ratepayer bills, according to the company. But Xcel’s year-over-year calculations of the total cost to ratepayers underestimate the true, cumulative amount, the PUC staff filing says. Because the 2 percent hikes are incremental over several years, the company has underestimated what ratepayers will ultimately be paying through 2021 by about $433 million, according to the staff motion.

“Response time to the motion runs through Dec. 1,” Terry Bote, the PUC spokesman, told Watchdog.org in an email. “The commission will rule on the motion at some point after that.”

The PUC will also hold a pre-hearing conference about the Xcel rate hike on Dec. 6, with hearing dates likely to be scheduled in the spring of 2018.

  





“Inherently damaging” is how former Kansas State Representative and Chairman of House Energy and Environment Committee Dennis Hedke (Republican) describes Xcel Energy’s “Colorado Energy Plan” in a letter to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and copied to the Colorado State Senate majority leadership and the Independence Institute.

Hedke sent the letter certified mail and has proof showing that the PUC has received the letter, but we have not been able to locate the letter in the public comments on the PUC Website. Since the Independence Institute was copied, we have uploaded the 4-page Hedke letter including his supporting graph and citations.

Hedke warns the PUC not to massively expand industrial wind, unless Colorado wants to end up like Kansas:

…the State of Kansas, as you are probably aware, has made the very costly and inefficient decision to embrace renewable power as a substantial contributor to its electricity grid. As a result of mandated public policy dating back to the 2009 Kansas legislature, we can now relate directly to the pain of residential rates of electricity skyrocketing more than 50% in less than 8 years.

The geophysicist Hedke also takes Xcel to task for the monopoly’s absurd claim that this plan will “save ratepayers money”:

It’s unconscionable to me that Xcel Energy would make the claim that it will save ratepayers by retiring two very highly reliable and expensively retrofitted coal-fired plants at Comanche 1 and 2 (660 MW generating capacity) and replace them with 49 MW of wind capacity and 400 MW of natural gas combined cycle power, at a staggering cost of $1.4 billion, not to mention the stranded cost of $297 million still owed on the Comanche installations.