Colorado forges clean energy future

Propelled by Southwest Colorado lawmakers, Colorado has taken a bold step toward a cleaner energy future. This week, Gov. Bill Ritter introduced the Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. It is hoped that the law will serve as a national model for reducing air pollution, increasing the use of cleaner energy sources and strengthening the economy. Two of its lead sponsors were Sen. Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus) and Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango),

“The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act will dramatically reduce air pollution and support the growth of homegrown energy, ensuring that cleaner-burning Colorado natural gas works together with renewable energy to keep building our nationally recognized New Energy Economy,” Ritter said.

A broad coalition including power companies, natural gas producers and conservationists helped craft the law. The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act requires Xcel Energy to sharply reduce air pollutants by retiring, retrofitting or repowering northern Front Range coal-fired power plants. The utility has until the end of 2017 to replace the plants with facilities fueled by natural gas and other low- or non-emitting energy sources, including increased energy efficiency measures.

“I’m honored to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill,” Whitehead said. “This shows that when we work together, we can accomplish great things. On both sides of the aisle we believe in job creation, clean air, and a diverse energy portfolio, and this bill get us there.”

The law also requires Colorado to submit a plan to address regional haze by early next year or the EPA will write its own plan for Colorado. The act allows utilities to craft their own plans for how to meet new regional haze guidelines, as well as new mandates for ozone, mercury and carbon dioxide. It will also focus on economic development of Colorado’s homegrown resources, such as natural gas, wind and solar.

“As a legislator from Southwestern Colorado, I’ve had significant experience with the challenging issue of meeting federal air emissions standards while protecting our economy along with environmental and public health concerns,” Roberts said. “This bill presents a proactive and common sense approach to the same challenges now facing the Front Range. It’s only common sense that we better utilize Colorado’s own natural gas reserves to help the state meet the federal regulatory goals for cleaner air.”

As Roberts suggested, the law will do nothing to enhance Southwest Colorado’s airshed, which is dirtied by coal-fired power plants in New Mexico and Arizona. However, there is hope that the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act will echo throughout the nation and encourage other states to follow suit.

“When it comes to tackling the tough questions, it is crystal clear that Colorado has become the state that is supplying the solutions,” said Pam Kiely, program director with Environment Colorado. “With strong leadership and pragmatic partnerships, we are forging ahead at breakneck speed to keep Colorado well ahead of the curve.”

Denali climb benefits local school

Todd Rutledge is bagging peaks to help his son’s school, the Piedra Learning Community (PLC) in Bayfield. Rutledge is the co-owner of Mountain Trip, which guides climbing trips all over the world, and is dedicating the proceeds from his Denali climb this month to the alternative school.

PLC is a program of Skills for Living & Learning and serves children ages 5 - 9 with diverse learning styles and needs. Some students have a “diagnosis” such as ADD/ADHD, sensory processing disorder or autism spectrum disorder. Others just need a smaller class and more individual attention to strengthen academic, physical and social skills so they can continue on to public school successfully.

Rutledge and his family make their home in Ophir and have made an extraordinary commitment to send their son Logan to PLC. Todd’s wife, Lisa, teaches middle school in Telluride and takes care of their 3-year-old son, Dalton, while Todd and Logan stay in Bayfield Monday - Thursday.    

PLC is housed in the old middle school in Bayfield, where a growing public school population has made it necessary for Skills for Living & Learning to find another facility for its programs. The families, staff and board members have been working on fund-raising, grant writing and searching for new a facility. Rutledge, who is also the board president of Skills for Living & Learning, stated, “Mountain Trip is basically in the dream business, and I am committed to using our good fortune of having permits to guide on Denali to help kids and their families fulfill their dreams.”        

See  and click on “Denali Benefit Climb” for more information.

Durango police nab local bank robber

The Durango Police Department closed the case on several local bank robberies this week. Along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Durango police arrested Chase B. Gardner, a 19-year-old Fort Lewis College student, on Tuesday. Gardner was charged for a series of local bank robberies and attempted bank robberies that have occurred since last December.  

Gardner is suspected of holding up the main branch of the First National Bank of Durango on Dec. 7, 2009; Vectra Bank on March 4; Alpine Bank on April 1; and then walking down the street to hold up the Bank of Colorado on the same day.

A multi-agency investigation culminated in the search of Gardner’s home and the recovery of evidence linking Gardner to the robberies. He was taken into custody by the FBI and is being held in La Plata County Jail.


LPEA Board elections under way

Southwest Colorado residents can weigh in on the local energy future in coming weeks. Elections are now being held for two seats on the La Plata Electric Association Board of Directors, and votes will be tallied at the cooperative’s annual meeting May 8.

In District 3, which encompasses the City of Durango, Harry Riegle is challenging incumbent Harry Goff for the seat. In District 1, which covers Archuleta County, incumbent Terry Alley faces challenger J.B. Smith.

Candidate profiles are included in election packets, which were mailed to member-owners on April 16. Returned ballots will be tallied at the annual meeting, which will be held at the FLC Student Union Ballroom beginning at 9 a.m.

LPEA provides electricity to nearly 30,000 member-owners. For additional information, visit

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows