Much of the political discussion this week in Colorado revolved around impending elections of school board members and ballot measures. With far more attention going to school board races in Douglas County and Denver.
We will drill down into many of the most reported stories of the last week including:
One Colorado legislative story did out shine any upcoming election coverage. Reporters and media outlets couldn’t get enough of the story of the cub scout and the Colorado legislator. More on that in a moment but first safe energy drilling in Colorado.
Colorado Oil and Gas
Colorado energy regulators on Monday proposed tighter rules for shutting down oil and gas pipelines after a fatal explosion blamed on natural gas leaking from a line that was thought to be out of service but was still connected to a well.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules govern flow lines, which carry oil, gas and wastewater from wells to tanks and other gathering equipment. A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11-12, and the commissioners could vote to approve the rules after that.
The 14-page draft of new regulations says flow lines that are permanently taken out of service must be disconnected, drained and sealed at both ends, and any above-ground portion must be removed. The rules also allow energy companies to simply remove the lines, according to the reporting of the Boulder Times Call.
VIDEO: Broomfield Councilmember Martha Derda Copy
VIDEO: Broomfield Councilmember Mike Shelton
VIDEO: Broomfield Councilmember Elizabeth Law Evans
The proposals – according to Colorado Public Radio - also require energy companies to provide information on the location of flow lines to the Call 811 program, which marks the site of underground utilities at a property owner's request. That's meant to help homeowners and construction companies avoid inadvertently severing a line.
The new rules also revise or add requirements for designing, installing, testing and documenting flow lines.
Other stories this week focusing on Colorado oil and gas include:
The Cub Scout and the Colorado Legislator
A Cub Scout in Broomfield has been kicked out of his den, allegedly for asking pointed questions of a Colorado state senator at meeting organized by the Boy Scouts.
Eleven-year-old Ames Mayfield, a fifth-grader at Prospect Ridge Academy and a Scout for five years asked Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, questions about gun control, and about comments Marble made at a 2013 concerning poverty and mortality among African-Americans.
Ames’ questions, and other Scouts’ questions, were recorded and posted on YouTube by Mayfield in a video titled “Vicki Marble denies chicken-gate.”
In 2013 – according to the reporting of the Denver Post - Marble said: “When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can’t help it.
“Although I’ve got to say,” she continued at the time. “I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you, I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it.”
Following the cub scout’s ouster, the Denver Post Editorial Board weighed in on his removal from the club:
“State senators get those kinds of questions all the time. And officials should have expected trouble given their choice of speakers. What’s more likely is that officials were upset by the fact Lori Mayfield posted videos of the exchange on YouTube, including one with the headline: “Vicki Marble denies chicken-gate.”
“We stand with Ames Mayfield on this one, and hope he’s able to find a new home with the Scouts.”
A spokesperson for the Cub Scouts told Denver7 the council is helping to find Ames another den, "so that he may continue to participate in the scouting program."
Other stories this week focusing on the cub scouts questioning of the state senator include:
Colorado and the EPA
Environmental Protection Agency crews conducting Superfund cleanup-prep investigations along Animas River headwaters revealed this week that they’ve found contamination at century-old mine sites at levels 100 times higher than danger thresholds for wildlife.
According to the Denver Post, his lead and dozens of other contaminants are spreading beyond waste-rock piles into surrounding “halos” where they are absorbed by plants and then can be ingested by bugs and transferred from the insects to birds to, ultimately, mammals. EPA officials said tissue samples from deer will be tested to assess ecological harm.
The lead, measured at concentrations up to 5,000 parts per million, surfaced in the latest round of sampling and study that were spurred by a federal declaration last year of a Superfund environmental disaster linked to the 2015 Gold King Mine spill that turned the Animas River mustard-yellow through three states, according to the reporting of the Gazette.
At a briefing this week, EPA officials shared their data on lead and water quality with locals, who listened intently and impressed EPA experts with knowledge that rivals their own.
Other stories this week focusing on EPA in Colorado include:
Colorado Health Care Reform
Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper leads a group of 10 governors asking Congress to vote on a bipartisan healthcare plan they say will calm the troubled waters of the private health insurance market.
The support a bipartisan deal led by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., for a two-year extension of federal subsidies to insurers for low-income people. According to Colorado Politics, President Trump has moved to blocked them.
“We urge Congress to quickly pass legislation to stabilize our private health insurance markets and make quality health insurance more available and affordable,” states the letter to top Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.
The full letter is available here.
With his own plan - U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced legislation Tuesday with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia that would allow people to buy into Medicare, starting in rural counties with just one insurance provider before expanding to the rest of the country and to the small business health exchange.
There are 14 Colorado counties with just one provider, and residents who buy plans on the individual market there pay very high premiums for high deductible plans.
“I’ve said from the very beginning that the Affordable Care Act has problems that we need to fix,” Bennet told Denverite this week. “Across the state and in particular with our rural counties, people are tired of having insurance that is too expensive or doesn’t provide the coverage they need.”
The state Division of Insurance expects to release a detailed report on 2018 health insurance plans by each county in coming days, ahead of the Nov. 1 start to enrollment, a spokesman said. The report could become available as early as this week, the spokesman told the Pueblo Chieftain.
About 8 percent of Coloradans buy health insurance on the individual market through the state's ACA exchange, Connect for Health Colorado. Many lower-income residents get a federal tax credit to help defray the cost. Enrollment for 2018 will begin next month and continue until Jan. 12.
Other stories this week focusing on Colorado health care reform include:
The state will kick in about 70 percent of the $350 million needed to widen Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock if the project succeeds in getting a highly competitive federal grant.
The Colorado Transportation Commission on Thursday voted unanimously, with one member absent, to pass a resolution that would tentatively designate about $250 million for the widening. Most of the money would come from a new state law, previously known as Senate Bill 267, which is expected to provide about $1.8 billion for transportation through the sale of state-owned buildings, according to the reporting of the Gazette.
The allocation is contingent upon winning a federal highway grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Infrastructure For Rebuilding American (INFRA) program.
According to the reporting of the Reporter Herald, transportation commissioner Kathy Gilliland said "approval of the provisional funding is another essential step to seeing the complete expansion."
The resolution transportation commissioners OK'd on Thursday included plans for about $530 million of the roughly $880 million that SB267 is expected to generate in its first two years. In addition to the "Gap" project, $200 million was allotted to the expansion of I-25 north from Colorado 402 in Loveland to Colorado 56, north of Longmont, from two to three lanes in each direction. About $80 million was also set aside to help pay for the construction of "peak period" shoulder lanes on westbound Interstate 70 from Twin Tunnels to Empire Junction.
Other stories this week focusing on Colorado’s roads include:
Judicial Stories in the News
Brother accused of fatally stabbing young siblings in Colorado Springs: 'It's like it wasn't me' - A 19-year-old Colorado Springs man accused of fatally stabbing his two young siblings and wounding his father claims responsibility but said he doesn't know why he did it. (READ MORE)
Alamosa Municipal Judge Resigns In Wake Of Rights Violations Allegations - The municipal judge in Alamosa and Monte Vista has resigned after the American Civil Liberties Union alleged he had been violating people’s constitutional rights — including not allowing access to counsel and jailing people for being in debt, which is against state law. (READ MORE)
Sex trafficking sting rescues Colorado infant and 5-year-old sister from predators - A 3-month-old girl and her 5-year-old sister were rescued in Colorado last week from a child predator, who was offering to sell the children for sex, the FBI said Wednesday. A friend who was staying with the girls’ family had made a deal with an undercover officer who was part of the FBI Denver’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force, according to a news release from the FBI. (READ MORE)
Why You Should Order Satan Cakes from Discriminatory Christian Bakers - Jack Phillips of Denver's Masterpiece Cakeshop is reportedly shocked and appalled that someone asked him to bake a birthday cake for Satan. But was his rejection of this entreaty against the law? (READ MORE)
Colorado officials skeptical about new study’s finding that legal marijuana reduced opioid deaths - The start of legal marijuana sales in Colorado may have reversed a rising trend of prescription opioid overdose deaths in the state, a new study set to be published next month concludes. (READ MORE)
Citing thin evidence, prosecutors dismiss case against Maketa co-defendant - Prosecutors pursuing claims of corruption involving ex-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa dismissed all counts against one of his two co-defendants Monday, telling a judge their case had effectively fallen apart days ahead of a trial. (READ MORE)
How to prevent suicides in county jails across the Colorado? Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams has some ideas - Inmate suicide is something county jails experience nationwide. A recent inquiry by the Denver Post found 117 people died in Colorado jails between Jan. 1, 2010 and July 8, 2016. Of those deaths, 48 were suicides. So far this year, suicides in Colorado jails are on track to exceed 2016 numbers. (READ MORE)
Denver can’t find background checks for child welfare caseworkers, auditor finds - Denver Human Services doesn’t have records of background and qualification checks for dozens of employees who investigate child abuse and neglect, according to a city audit. (READ MORE)
Colorado spending more on prison inmate health care, report finds - Colorado is spending more per inmate on health care as the state’s prison population ages, according to a national report released Wednesday. The report, from the Pew Charitable Trusts, found that Colorado spent $6,641 per inmate on health care in the 2015 fiscal year. (READ MORE)
Infamous “underwear bomber” sues feds over treatment at Colorado Supermax - The infamous “underwear bomber,” serving a life sentence in the Supermax federal prison in Florence, is suing the federal government. (READ MORE)