California shapes area power picture

In a surprising twist, Californians may actually be offering Southwest Colorado a helping hand. A changing energy dynamic in the Golden State is beginning to directly affect power plant development in the Southwest. Californians are beginning to send the message that they want power with the lowest possible emissions.

In late August, the California State Legislature adopted a bill that would impose stringent demands on energy suppliers even outside its borders. The bill awaits Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature. In addition, the Legislature and the governor have also agreed on legislation to reduce industrial carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent by 2020, which affects not only power plants but also other large producers of carbon dioxide, including oil refineries and cement plants.

Power generators are watching their biggest customer closely. “When your biggest customer says, ‘I ain’t buying,’ you rethink,” Hal Harvey, the environment program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, told the New York Times. “When you have 38 million customers you don’t have access to, you rethink. Selling to Phoenix is nice. Las Vegas is nice. But they aren’t California.”

California’s aim is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases produced by burning coal, oil and gas. Other states are moving in some of the same directions, but no state is moving as aggressively on so many levels.

The news is particularly relevant to the Four Corners region. The Desert Rock Project, a $2 billion facility that would be built on the Navajo Nation, recently earned approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. The plant would generate enough energy for 1.5 million homes and it being touted as groundbreaking in terms of cleanliness and pollution controls. Three other coal-fired plants are already operating in the region, and two other new ones are in the works. Regardless of Desert Rock’s technology, it would emit pollution and add to an already bleak air quality picture in the region.

“I still have serious concerns that the cumulative impact of power plants in this region has not been analyzed,” said Roger Clark, air and energy coordinator for watchdog group the Grand Canyon Trust. “There are times in the San Juan Basin when there are unhealthy conditions that people are already breathing.”

Demand will make the ultimate determination on Desert Rock and other plants proposed for the region. If people are not buying, they will not be built. In that respect, California could become Colorado’s new ally.

“There are other fundamental issues that have to fall into place before any plant is built,” Clark said. “Foremost, who is going to buy the power and how is it going to get there?”

Animal Control Code takes effect

Life got a little more demanding for dog owners this week. Revisions to the City of Durango Animal Control Code went into effect Sept. 20, strengthening rules for local canines and increasing fines for violations. The new code was approved by the Durango City Council on Aug. 1 as a way to protect the public from dangerous animals and reduce nuisance interactions with animals.

A significant rule change is the new requirement that dogs and cats over the age of 6 months be spayed or neutered. However, anyone may obtain an exception to this requirement with a $30 “intact permit,” available at the La Plata County Humane Society.

In addition, animals are not allowed at city-authorized public events held on public property at which food is vended or served. Dog owners must be with their animal if it is on their property and unrestrained. The definition of “nuisance barking” has been changed to any animal noise that is a nuisance to another person. Durango Police officers will respond to reports of vicious animals and assist in addressing nuisance complaints during hours not covered by Animal Protection.

New fines also went into effect on Sept. 20. Dog owners can now face charges of $50 for barking dogs and $30 for not removing waste. If a dog is caught on the loose, the fine is $40 if the animal is spayed or neutered and $60 if the dog is intact. The second offense carries an $80 fine for a fixed dog and $200 if it is not.

In order to better enforce these new rules and protect the public from dangerous animals, the City of Durango has also increased its funding to the La Plata County Humane Society in

order to hire two additional officers. Beginning Oct. 1, Animal Protection officers will be on duty between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Benefit Day just around the corner

Opening day is just 60 days away at Durango Mountain Resort, and the ski resort has announced the early selection of the newly formed Durango Winter Sports Foundation as the 2006 Benefit Day recipient. The local nonprofit organization, comprised of the Durango Nordic, Freestyle, and Alpine Skiing Teams, will receive all proceeds from the sale of $10 lift tickets during the annual Benefit Day scheduled for Nov. 22.

“We are very excited to be this year’s beneficiary,” said Kirk Rawles, program coordinator of the Durango Winter Sports Foundation. “Benefit Day funds will help us be able to keep offering cost-effective, entry level skiing programs while supporting our competitive skiers at regional and national competitions.” 

The Durango Winter Sports Foundation is devoted to the introduction, development, training and support of youth interested in Nordic, freestyle and alpine skiing. Money from Benefit Day and other fund-raising events help keep costs down for Durango team members, who currently have the lowest tuition rates in the USSA Rocky Mountain Region. 

“We are thrilled to be able to help the Durango Winter Sports Foundation in its inaugural year,” says Hank Thiess, DMR president of resort operations. “This is a great opportunity for our local skiing population to support young athletes. We are happy to lend a hand in raising money to take young skiers to the next level.”

Durango Mountain Resort made the early selection of the Durango Winter Sports Club in order to help the new organization start on the right foot. Previous Benefit Day recipients include Trails 2000, the Southwest Safehouse and the Durango Discovery Museum. Since Benefit Day began in 1994, the resort has raised more than $200,000 for local nonprofits.

Veterans group endorses local Dems

Colorado Veterans for America went Democratic this week. The group endorsed all three Democratic candidates running for political office in Southwest Colorado.  

The group believes Sen. Jim Isgar has an outstanding record of support for veterans in the State Senate; and that Joe Colgan and Joelle Riddle have the experience and understanding of veterans’ issues to ensure that Colorado veterans are provided the care, treatment, benefits and services they have earned.  

The group is also taking a strong stand on depleted uranium. According to Bill Holen, president of CVA, many troops are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, and from Iraq with dangerous levels of depleted uranium in their systems.  

Consequently, CVA is working with members of the Colorado and U.S. legislatures to pass federal and state depleted-uranium legislation similar to that enacted recently in California. That state passed a bill in August that would mandate access to health screenings to determine California veterans’ and Armed Services members’ exposure to depleted uranium. “We need to do this in Colorado and nationwide,” said Holen.

– compiled by Will Sands