Newsletter of the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter
Message from the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter Director, Joshua Ruschhaupt:
"Opposition to blind progress"
|What happened under
the Capitol Dome
I'm happy to share this space with the Legislative Committee, who bring you a special perspective on the progress we've made and the battles we have fought in the 2012 legislative session. This year's Legislative Committee was ready for the session, energetic and focused, and worked hard. Mary, the Committee Chair, did a superb job in her first session in this role!
By the RMC Legislative Committee
Colorado’s 2012 legislative session finished May 9. With a Republican-dominated House, a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Democratic governor sympathetic to the fossil fuel industry, we knew it was going to be a bumpy ride full of not-so-pleasant surprises.
Back in November 2011, working in conjunction with the environmental community and the Chapter’s lobbyist, Chuck Malick, the Legislative Committee determined its offensive and defensive priorities for the 2012 session. Offensive bills included those promoting electronic waste recycling and those requiring uranium mining operators to clean up ground water supplies and soil contaminated with radioactive materials and heavy metals; we would oppose bills that would undermine the mission of the recently combined DOW-Parks Agency and that attacked the Water Quality Control Commission’s (WQCC) rules limiting phosphorus and nitrogen pollutants in Colorado’s waterways.
We left lobbying time and energy for other defensive issues, as rumors had it that Colorado’s flagship Renewable Energy Standard (RES) would come under attack, and while Sierra Club members see holiness when spending time in Colorado’s public wilderness areas, the fossil fuel industry sees dollars.
Shortly after the session began, the administration made a deal with mining giant Cotter, a primary offender in the uranium sector, and legislation relevant to uranium issues was put on hold indefinitely.
A Club priority and a major victory for Colorado is SB 133, The Electronic Recycling Jobs Act, which bans electronic waste from landfills and creates 2,500 jobs in the process. It passed with bipartisan support and was signed by the Governor into law.
The RES did come under attack, with special interest groups submitting bills HB 1102, HB 1121, HB 1160 and HB 1351. But good news! They all failed, including HB 1351 which was introduced and defeated at the 11th hour. It had been amended to include elements from the other three bills, adding such things as coal methane and burning trash to its vile list of items to be included as “renewable energy sources”. Again – targeted Action Alert responses from you to your legislators, as well as intense lobbying, helped keep Colorado on the right track!
Another important victory was the defeat of HB 1161. The bill’s sponsors wanted yet again another advisory board to study the issue of phosphorus and nitrogen pollutant standards for water quality, thus delaying the implementation of WQCC’s above-noted rules indefinitely. This was a nonpartisan bill, as legislators from both parties had districts opposing these rules. It was defeated due to our lobbyist’s efforts and you - thanks to all who responded to our Action Alert! Senators received more than 1,400 comments from their Club constituents. Special thanks to Club members Ross Vincent and Steve Glazer who wrote letters to newspapers, lobbied their water districts and provided analyses to LegCom on what this bill would do to Colorado’s water resources.
After experiencing defeat last year, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) dealers were back again in 2012 with HB 1066 – and defeated yet again. Through HB 1066, ATV dealers sought to license ATVs for public road use. This victory, protecting limited and legal public lands access, was because of all of you who responded to our Action Alerts, strong lobbying efforts and a strong coalition with other groups.
Also of major importance to the environmental community was HB 1315, on the reorganization of the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO). Governor Hickenlooper wanted one energy office where not only could he walk in the door and hear about the latest solar technology, he could also be told where the state’s coal reserves stood. Combining fossil fuels with renewables is anathema to the Club – as if the fossil fuel industry requires any help from taxpayers! But our coalition partners in the solar and wind energies needed the office. Without it, the message Colorado would send to alternative technology investors was “Colorado’s closed for business; take your investment dollars elsewhere.” At the end of the day, the GEO was changed to CEO - Colorado’s Energy Office. The bill was successfully amended to meet the environmental community’s bottom lines: Two funding streams were established – one exclusively for clean energy and renewables, the other for “innovative” energy sources coming from traditional energy sources. And, difficult to obtain in these days of financial insecurity, funding for the renewable stream was secured for five years. Passed on May 9, it has yet to be signed by the Governor into law.
Sierra Club broke with the environmental community on HB 1317, legislation which would set the makeup of the powerful commission for the newly merged Park and Wildlife Divisions. We had an “amend” position on this bill for most of the session, asking legislators to return to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission's recommended composition, one better able to manage Colorado’s state parks and wildlife ecosystems. When it became clear that the bill was not going to be amended successfully, we opposed it. Although we were hoping for a dead bill, on the last day of the session an amended version of HB 1317 did pass, with most of the community taking a neutral position. It was disappointing to the Club, as a minority of special interest groups now have a majority of the decision-making power to fundamentally alter the health of Colorado’s parks and wildlife for the benefit of their user groups, rather than by a plurality of experts who have the broader public, parks and wildlife interests in mind. This, too, has yet to be signed into law.
Other bills of concern to the Club included HB 1036 - Open Records Act Clarification. Due to litigation issues, this bill was going to pass in some form or another. While the purpose of the bill was to clarify the use of the open records act during criminal investigations, there were unintended consequences that could keep the public from records regarding environmental investigations. Reviewed by the RMC’s Legal Committee, the amended bill passed in a form acceptable to the Legal Committee and the environmental community. The infamous HB 1322 requiring the Federal Government to sell agricultural lands (meaning most federal), also died – and none too soon.
Last but not least were attempts by the oil and gas industries to force their will upon local communities opposed to, in particular, hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This is an ongoing struggle; expect to hear more through the Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Oil and Gas Campaign. Victories this session include: 1) the defeat of SB 88, which would have kept local municipalities and counties from regulating oil and gas operations within their own boundaries, claiming that only the state and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) had the right to regulate oil and gas; and 2) the defeat of late bill HB 1356, which would have penalized local governments by denying them severance tax money if they restricted or delayed oil and gas extraction. Losses include the defeat of SB 107, supported by the Club, which would have protected water from pollution due to oil and gas operations.
As you all know, the Governor has called for a special session. We’re looking at the bills for relevancy to Club issues and will let you know if your help is needed to preserve Colorado’s natural capital.
Battles won this past session depended upon our members – you – writing and calling your legislators, as well as strong lobbying efforts from Chuck Malick and Sol Malick. The Legislative Committee members include Kirk Cunningham, Myrna Poticha and Becky English – all of whom provide valuable leadership and expert bill analyses – with Mary Edwards serving as Chair. And as Ross Vincent says below, in “Featured Volunteer”, to win battles – especially major ones – the SC needs a lot of help from other organizations. These are coalition victories – sometimes with strange bedfellows.
For a list of the bills the RMC took a position on, see our Legislative Tracker at http://rmc.sierraclub.org/tracker.shtml
And so we conclude this session with a reminder from John Muir: “Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress.”
| Oil & Gas Mythbusters
By Lauren Swain, RMC Oil & Gas Communications Specialist
[This is the first in a new series of articles to bust the myths of the oil & gas industry.]
Oil & Gas Industry Myth Number One:
The oil and gas industry must comply with strict federal environmental laws
Congress has exempted the oil and gas industry from many major environmental provisions that govern other industries nationwide.
For many years, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act have provided regulatory control of toxic pollution and protected human health from serious environmental hazards. Americans have come to expect that the federal government will take action to keep our air safe to breathe and our water safe to drink.
But due to the influence of millions of dollars of industry lobbying and Dick Cheney’s 2001 Energy Task Force, special exemptions from these laws were passed by Congress in the 2005 Energy Policy Act.
And be part of the
Last year, the Sierra Club created a pilot project in California for installing solar on residential rooftops that became so successful, we're now heading into phase two: take it to scale! We're going to be part of that scale-up, here in Colorado, and the RMC is excited to participate.
Soon we'll have a website for you to go to, but for now you're hearing the inside line: if you're thinking about saving money, protecting the planet, and creating clean energy jobs for our economy by installing solar at your home, or if you're just curious and want more information, we'll soon let you know how.
For now, take a look at this exciting video about one of the pilot project homes in California, and get ready to sign-up!
Featured Volunteer: Ross Vincent Executive Committee Chair, Sangre de Christo Group, Rocky Mountain Chapter
By Mary Coday Edwards
“The reason the Club is as influential as it is is because we win a lot
of battles and that’s because we choose our battles, we fight them well
and we engage a whole lot of other people in the conversation and
ultimately persuade them that what we want to do is the right thing even
if they want the right thing for different reasons than us."
"It means we
have to put ourselves in a position to be heard and we have to express
ourselves in ways that make people want to listen,” said Ross, who along
with his wife, a physician, moved to Pueblo 25 years ago from New
Watch this space! We will feature inspiring stories from a different Sierra Club volunteer each month!
Updated: Volunteer Leadership Openings!
The RMC Runs on People-Power!
Would you believe that the Sierra Club runs more from volunteer leadership than staff leadership? It's true -- there are literally thousands of volunteer leaders in different leadership capacities in 63 chapters and over 400 groups nationwide! Believe it or not, there's only one RMC chapter staff person right now, the Director, working with over 150 great volunteer leaders in the chapter and groups. So it's critical that you contact us right away, even if you're only remotely thinking about spending a few hours or more per week helping out the environmental movement in Colorado.
Colorado's environment needs your activism and advocacy -- the writing's on the wall! You show up, and we'll train you. There's even a lot of stuff you can do right from home. Doesn't matter where you are in Colorado -- we're recruiting for the Chapter, and that covers the entire state! If you're interested, we've got a volunteer role to fit your interests, skills, experience, and knowledge.
If after reading through the roles below you're still unsure of where you might fit in, that's no problem. Just fill out the volunteer interest form on our website at http://rmc.sierraclub.org/volunteer.shtml.
Together as an organized movement we will win!
Read the full list of volunteer opportunities...
|In this issue:
- Director's Message
- Oil & Gas Mythbusters
- Go Solar!
- Featured Volunteer:
- "True" Tales of Eco-Disaster Comic
- Volunteer Leadership Openings
- P&P Archive
- Be a member!
- Must-See Event
- Featured Outing
- Wish List
- Story Idea?
The Peak and Prairie is the official Chapter newsletter.
You can read the current
and previous issues of our printed and e-newsletter
on the Chapter's
Visit the Chapter's events calendar page to find out about outings, conservation and political activities, and more.
Not a Sierra Club member yet? No problem -- just click on the "Join Now!" button to become a member today at just $15!
Become a fan of the
Rocky Mountain Chapter on Facebook and get our latest updates and relevant news. We just surpassed 480 new Facebook friends!
Rebel with a Cause Gala
Who: Colorado Environmental Coalition
What: Join Honorary Chairs Senator Michael Bennet & Susan Daggett and Colorado Environmental Coalition for the conservation community's signature event of the year: the Rebel with a Cause Gala.
The evening will include a VIP reception, silent and live auctions, an elegant dinner, and a keynote from “Rebel” honoree Peter Metcalf.
Awards will also be presented to the 2012 Conservation Heroes, including Sharyn Cunningham of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, who is also a Sierra Club volunteer leader.
When: Thursday, May 24,
Where: Seawell Grand Ballroom, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
1000 14th Street, Denver, Colorado (map)
Why: This annual gala is a great chance to mingle with high-profile lawmakers, sustainability pioneers and outdoor industry leaders. Be sure to congratulate Sharyn, too!
Get more information...
The Crags - Military Spouses and Caregivers
Saturday, June 23
Located on the west side of Pikes Peak, the Crags are spires of rock formed from pink Pikes Peak granite. Dating from Precambrian times, they are a unique geological treasure in Colorado that few people get to see.
The hike is 5 miles roundtrip with 700 feet of elevation gain: an "easy" hike. Though this hike is open to all Sierra Club members and supporters, it is a special invitation to military service men and women, their families and caregivers to enjoy the outdoors together.
Please bring hiking shoes, rain gear, water, lunch, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Contact Mike Whiteley to sign up (303-776-7396).
Black Mountain Hike with the Ancients
Saturday, June 23
7:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Ringing the crest of 11,654 foot Black Mountain on the edge of South Park are the oldest living trees in Colorado: bristlecone pines, some over 3,000 years old.
Our hike to visit and learn about these beautiful weather-gnarled ancients involves a mostly steady climb of 1,800 feet, rated strenuous, and a roundtrip distance of 7 miles.
About one-third of the hike will be on trail, with varied wildflowers a good possibility in meadow and forest. A camera for tree and landscape photos is highly recommended.
This hike is sponsored by the Pikes Peak Group, Wild Connections, and Central Colorado Wilderness Coalition.
For more information and to register, contact John Stansfield (303-660-5849) 5:00 PM, June 22.
Sunset Hike - Pawnee Buttes
Pawnee National Grassland (Weld County)
Saturday, May 19
Join Denver Metro Outings for this easy evening hike (3 miles roundtrip). Participants should see plenty of wildflowers and maybe even some birds of prey, as
this area is a well known nesting area in the spring for many birds. This will also be a great hike for photography.
Please bring hiking shoes, rain gear, water, and food. You may also want to bring a camera, tripod and binoculars.
Contact Mike Whiteley to sign up (303-776-7396).
THE "TEN ESSENTIALS" -- The Sierra Club recommends the following be carried at all times when hiking in the backcountry:
Navigation (map and compass);
Fire (matches, lighters, and accelerant);
Signaling Device (whistle or mirror);
Sun Protection (sunglasses and sunscreen);
Insulation (extra clothing);
Nutrition (extra food);
Hydration (extra water and tablets);
Illumination (headlamp or flashlight);
First Aid Kit;
Emergency Shelter (tarp, bivy sack, and tent);
Repair Kit (tools, knife, cord, and tape).
OUR RMC WEBSITE HAS OTHER OUTINGS INFO THAT MIGHT BE OF INTEREST -- A Sierra Club Sign-In and Liability Waiver form must be signed before participating in outings -- if you desire to review a copy, please contact your trip leader.
Did your holiday treat you to an upgrade from your old computer? Don't throw it out! The RMC is waiting with open arms to receive your well-loved equipment. As the saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure! If you can offer any of the following in working order, we'd be very grateful! Please do not offer anything that will take more time and/or money to repair than if we spent the money to buy it.
-Working desktop or laptop; PC computers with functional screens and at minimum Windows 2003 as an operating system.
-Flat screen monitors.
-Portable projection screen.
Thanks in advance! Contact Chapter Director Joshua Ruschhaupt right away!
If you have a story idea for the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter Peak and Prairie, just send a quick email to
If you have a penchant for photography, and you want to share, PLEASE post your photos to the Chapter's Facebook page! It's spring in Colorado, and everyone would LOVE to see your visions of a beautiful Colorado (or anywhere you've been sauntering for scenery)! We might feature yours on our cover!
Beautiful Photos to Share?