Notes from the Plan Boulder County Commissioner Election Forum

Garry and Elise Talking to Lynn

Two of the three Boulder County Commissioner’s seats are up for grab this year, and it’s all but given that whoever secures the Democratic Party’s nomination will end up winning the election.  In District 1 (which includes the city of Boulder as far east as Foothills, see this map) we are losing former Boulder mayor Will Toor, who has served two terms — the maximum allowed.  Vying for his place are Elise Jones and Garry Sanfaçon.  On June 1st, PLAN Boulder County held a lively candidate forum, moderated by Alan Boles.

My notes are necessarily an incomplete record of the exchange.  Unless otherwise indicated by quotation marks, the words below represent my paraphrasing of the candidates statements.

As an introduction, Boles first asked: Who are you, and why are you running?

Elise Jones responded that given the political situation at the state and national level, she felt local politics is where important changes are likely to happen.  She cited her 8 years on the Boulder Planning Board, and more than 20 years working on environmental protection statewide as relevant experience, giving her an intimate understanding of land use issues.  She stated that she is the only candidate with experience working to regulate the oil and gas industry, and that this has been one of her primary focuses over the last decade, “Ever since Dick Cheney declared war on the West.” She was supportive of ending GMO use on county open space, and highlighted climate change as the single largest looming issue facing us (and the world) today, especially given the occurrence this year of some of the warmest, driest spring months on record.

Garry Sanfaçon spoke about his son who just graduated from Nederland High School.  He wants his son to be able to move back to Boulder County some day, and the importance of making sure that we have both jobs and affordable housing to make it possible for regular folks to keep living here.  He highlighted his experience working for the county as the Fourmile Canyon Fire recovery director, as a member of the Boulder County Planning Commission, and as a visioning facilitator for various organizations.  Sanfaçon stated that he’s the candidate taking the “strongest positions” on GMOs and fracking, and said that if elected he “would vote to ban them on day one.”

From the looks exchanged during the introduction, it became clear pretty quickly that fracking was going to be a hot issue, and Boles went directly to it asking: Fracking appears to be a state regulatory issue, and the state is currently dropping the ball.  What can we really do about it, from a legal point of view?

Continue reading Notes from the Plan Boulder County Commissioner Election Forum

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the crisis of the Western welfare state

A great little thought from Nils Gilman on the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union for the Western welfare state.  Broken and horrible though it was, the Soviet Union served western socialism by framing the discussion.  Losing the “hard-left” peg for our Overton Window on social programs has led the entire discussion to slide quite a bit to the right.

Why Urban Farming is an Awful Idea

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Boulder County is looking at some kind of county-wide sustainability program, with an associated tax which will be on the ballot this fall.  The City of Boulder is revising its Climate Action Plan, looking toward a goal of climate neutrality in 2050.  An extension of the tax which supports our climate work will also be on the ballot in the fall.  One thing that none of that money should go toward?  Urban farming.

Continue reading Why Urban Farming is an Awful Idea

Clean energy will unfortunately be political

Conservative thinktanks step up attacks against Obama’s clean energy strategy, as revealed by ALEC bills and other PR documents.  This morning at the World Renewable Energy Forum, in response to a (long winded) question about how we might re-frame the energy discussion in light of the unfortunate hay which was made from Solyndra’s failure, US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu re-iterated that clean energy should not be a political issue — that it’s just common sense.  That may be true, but it doesn’t mean it will remain apolitical.  As Pericles once said… “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, does not mean that politics will not take an interest in you.”  Clean energy is political, as is climate change.  Yes, it’s stupid, but that’s the way it is.  We have to deal with it.  Though, I have to admit, if prices keep dropping like they have been, it will be fun to watch the right-wing culture warriors backpedal, as massive renewable deployments become profitable without subsidies of any kind in the next decade.

Wall Street Isn’t Winning, It’s Cheating

Matt Taibbi blows his stack at a fellow commentator who accuses the OWS protestors of simply being envious of the rich.  He gives a litany of examples of how, in fact, the Wall St. illuminati have gotten to where they are by cheating and gaming the system, or at the very best, by being lucky.  Not through hard work or supernatural skill.  Being pissed off about that isn’t being jealous of someone else’s success.  At what point do the “deviant” and “legitimate” financial sectors simply merge, with little to nothing in the way of externally imposed rules governing what’s acceptable, and what’s not?

Vote for local, transparent regulation: Vote Yes on 2B and 2C

steaming along

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulates Xcel Energy; they have final say over the rates that the company is allowed to charge, and which investments they make in our energy future.  In the past four years, the CPUC has approved 3 rate increases.  The commission also allowed Xcel to build the state’s largest coal-fired power plant — Comanche 3 — at a cost of nearly one billion dollars, waiving their own rule that such large projects be bid out competitively.  By doing so, they handed Xcel a windfall profit.  Now Xcel wants to double down its long-term bets on coal by spending nearly $400 million to refurbish the aging Pawnee and Hayden power plants, tying Colorado to this polluting and climate damaging fuel for decades to come, and making all of us pay for the privilege of burning it.

Trains

The CPUC is allowing Xcel Energy to make choices that are bad for our rates, good for their profits, and which degrade our environment both locally and globally.  Furthermore, the commission has — at Xcel’s request — begun barring citizen participation in their proceedings.  Decisions about our rates, fuel mix, and the huge capital expenditures made on our behalf thus stand to be approved without any direct public participation.  If we stick with Xcel, we will be stuck with this impenetrable regulatory system indefinitely.  In contrast, the governance of a local Boulder utility would be far more accountable, accessible, and transparent.  It would not involve constantly battling a well funded corporate adversary.  It would be able to reflect Boulder’s core values of sustainability and innovation — values unfortunately not universally shared by our fellow Coloradans.  We would also be able to effectively leverage our vibrant community of clean energy entrepreneurs.

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We have vastly more access to our City Council and the commissioners they appoint than we will ever be able to get at state level.  Whatever decisions are made locally, we can be confident that our community will have a voice in the process and truly influence the outcome.  Vote Yes on 2B and 2C and give us the power to control our own energy future!

Wind Turbines and Bicycles

(this post is a slightly longer version of the Letter to the Editor that I wrote with Amy Guinan)

Appalachia faces steep coal decline

Appalachia faces steep coal decline.  Peak Coal is the present day reality in all of the eastern coal basins.  How will it affect eastern energy politics?  The Powder River Basin has enough coal to power us… if we want to pay for it and dig it out of the ground, and we can ship it to the rest of the country.  But at what point does it cease to be even the economically reasonable thing to do, if you don’t care about the future.

The First 2011 PLAN Boulder Council Candidate Forum

The Candidates

Friday September 9th PLAN Boulder County held the first of their City Council candidate fora at the Boulder Public Library. The room was packed, with people standing in the back, listening to Tim Plass, Daniel Ziskin, Jonathan Hondorf, Ken Wilson and Kevin Hotaling define their platforms. John Tayer acted as moderator.  Each candidate was first allowed to introduce themselves for 90 seconds.  This was followed by about an hour’s worth of pre-selected questions from PLAN Boulder, and the last half hour was dedicated to audience questions vetted by Alan Boles

Continue reading The First 2011 PLAN Boulder Council Candidate Forum

Boulder energy watchdog kicked out of Xcel dockets at PUC

Leslie Glustrom is to be barred from intervening in the Colorado Public Utilities Commission dockets.  She’s been doing the kind of discovery and oversight work that the regulatory body and the Office of Consumer Council should be doing on their own, but apparently lack the spine to carry out.  This is bad for our energy system, and bad for our democracy.