Bassett, Erb earn spots on LPEA Board
La Plata Electric Association received a green light from local co-op members. Last week, voters in LPEA’s District 3 and 4 elected two new members to the co-op’s Board of Directors, both of whom are renewable energy advocates.

Challengers Britt Bassett (District 3) and Heather Erb (District 4) unseated incumbents Bobby Lieb and Herb Brodsky, respectively, in results which were announced May 12 at LPEA’s annual meeting in Ignacio.

Incumbent board members Bob Formwalt (District 1, which overs Archuleta county) and Jerry McCaw (District 2, which covers south and western La Plata County) retained their seats. In accordance with LPEA’s bylaws, annually one of the three seats in each of LPEA’s four districts comes up for election.

Approximately 26 percent of LPEA’s 30,000-plus members returned ballots. It was a higher than typical percentage likely because incumbents in all four districts were challenged, plus a slate of renewable energy proponents mounted a concerted election effort.

“Typically, LPEA receives an average 20 percent return during elections,” said Greg Munro, LPEA CEO, noting that in 2011 only 14 percent of member cast ballots. “Because we are a cooperative we truly want our members to vote, so we were glad to see the higher turnout.”
In District 3, the City of Durango, Bassett, a nuclear engineer, received 1,390 votes over Lieb’s 700. District 3 includes approximately 7,300 eligible voters, and 2,090 voted.

Erb, a Realtor, was elected as the director for District 4, encompassing the northern part of the county, earning 827 votes over challenger Ann McCoy Harold, who received 335 votes, and incumbent Herb Brodsky, who received 772. Of the approximate 7,500 eligible voters in District 4, 1,934 voted.

“As a company, LPEA exists to serve its members. Everyone has an economic interest and voice in LPEA’s future,” said Munro. “We thank those who cast their votes and took time to participate.”

Durango grabs gold in bike friendliness
When it comes to bikes, Durango really shines.

This week, the League of American Bicyclists bestowed upon Durango the Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community award, its second highest honor. The announcement came just in time for the kick off to National Bike to Work Week and even made it into the headlines of USA Today.
“The entire community helped us achieve the Gold,” said Mary Oswald, chairwoman of Bicycle Friendly Durango. “We look forward to learning about the recommendations from the League that will continue to keep our community vibrant for biking.”

The City’s Bicycle Friendly Task launched its “Go for the Gold” campaign last February to one up the silver designation it earned in 2008. Communities are rated on a scale of bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Recipients must seek redesignation every four years.

“Considering the improvements we’ve made in the last four years, we felt Durango has stepped up to the plate,” said Oswald.

Among those improvements are the creation of City Multi-Modal Department; the completion of key links and segments of the Animas River Trail; the on-street bike parking program on Main Avenue; and the completion of an expanded and safer bike lane on Florida Road. The community was also awarded three Safe Routes to School grants and was selected as the opening stage of the USA Pro cycling Challenge in August.

“Durango recognizes that simple steps to make bicycling safe and comfortable pay huge dividends in civic, community and economic development,” said League President Andy Clarke.

The level of designation is based on the “Five Es:” engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation. The program is revolutionizing the way communities evaluate their quality of life, sustainability and transportation networks, while allowing them to benchmark their progress toward improving their bicycle-friendliness, Clarke said. The Gold award recognizes Durango’s commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.

It was a record year for applications, with 214 communities in 47 states earning Bicycle Friendly Status. “We are not surprised that this was the largest number of new and renewing applicants that we’ve ever had,” said Clarke. “The popularity of this program is clear evidence that investment in bicycling is a major catalyst in creating the kind of vibrant communities people want to live, work and visit.”

Missoula, Mont., was the only other town to be awarded gold status in this latest round, bringing the total number of communities claiming gold status to 16, including Breckenridge, Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs, Colo. Boulder has the elite platinum level.

Since its inception, more then 500 communities have applied for one of the four levels of the award. The Bicycle Friendly Community program is sponsored by Bikes Belong and Trek Bicycles. The League of American Bicyclists advocates for an estimated 57 million bicyclists, including 300,000 members and affiliates. For more information of a complete list of award communities, visit

Protest planned for Utah nuke plant
The planned Piñon Ridge Uranium mill near Nucla is not the only sign of the uranium resurgence to raise the ire of Four Corners residents. This Sat., May 19, protestors plan to demonstrate against a proposed nuclear reactor and storage facility near Green River, Utah.

The plan has come under fire by opponents who say not only would it store radioactive fuel rods just 4 miles from the Green River, but gobble up the West’s most precious resource: water. As the Green River flows directly into the Colorado River, the proposed nuclear plant threatens drinking and agricultural water for tens of millions of people in the Southwest.

“It’s foolish to build thirsty nuclear reactors in a desert like this,” says John Weisheit, Conservation Director of Moab-based Living Rivers. “The Green River is unreliable and over-appropriated. Even the State Engineer, when granting the project rights to nearly 48 million gallons of water a day, recognize there will not always be enough water to operate the plant.”

More than a dozen organizations and Indian tribes plan to assemble in Green River to march in protest of the plan and launch a national campaign to save the Green and Colorado rivers from nuclear contamination. The march will be set against the backdrop of the Book Cliffs and the proposed site for the reactors.

Those organizing the protest also cite concerns over the shaky finances and troubled track record of Blue Castle Holdings LLC, which is behind the project. There are also secondary impacts of mining and milling radioactive minerals, and potential threats to regional safety.

“This issue affects more than just southern Utah residents,” said Sarah Fields, director of the citizen group Uranium Watch. “That’s why we’re seeing involvement from downriver residents like the Fort Mojave and Colorado River Indian tribes, along with those who live downwind in Colorado and points beyond. The effects of nuclear power are farther reaching than the reactor site, and stretch decades, if not centuries, into the future.”

Blue Castle Holdings is currently seeking permits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulator Commission to site and build the 3,000-megawatt reactors, a process expected to take several years. Meanwhile, a coalition of groups, small businesses and individuals opposed to the reactor proposal – many of whom are involved in the protest – has filed a suit in Utah District Court to overturn the decision to grant the project water rights.

“Granting so much precious water to a company with no experience or credibility in the energy business, for use in the riskiest form of power production, is an enormous mistake,” said Barbara Galler, a Moab resident and spokeswoman for No Green River Nukes. “That’s why I’m marching.”

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– Missy Votel