The Home Front: Inside the $80M fight by oil-and-gas interests to win you over in Colorado

The Greeley Tribune fronts a story from Sunday’s Denver Post about the big-money influence of the oil-and-gas industry on Colorado. “The oil and gas industry in the past four years has poured more than $80 million into Colorado to shape public opinion and influence campaigns and ballot initiatives, creating a political force that has had broad implications throughout the state,” the paper reports. “Environmentalists and industry officials alike call the effort one of the best-financed operations advocating for drilling in any state. Just two months ago, that political muscle came into play when the industry successfully lobbied Republican legislators to kill legislation tightening regulation in the wake of a fatal home explosion in Firestone that investigators have blamed on a severed gas pipeline. Energy interests also have helped elect local city council candidates more favorable to allowing drilling near housing and blunted efforts across the Front Range to restrict drilling rights. Last year, industry forces played a role in keeping the state Senate in Republican hands. They spent heavily last year to convince voters across the state to make it harder to amend the state constitution, dealing a blow to anti-fracking activists’ hopes to curtail drilling through a statewide ballot initiative.”

“Looking every bit as comfortable in hiking gear as he might be in courtroom attire, attorney Ted Zukoski of the conservation group Earthjustice led a group of environmentalists deep into the Gunnison National Forest east of Paonia on a sunny late-June day,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “With Matt Reed of High County Conservation Advocates helping lead the way, the hikers passed a no-motor-vehicles sign as they forayed into the Sunset Roadless Area abutting the edge of the West Elk Wilderness at the base of 12,700-foot Mount Gunnison. They passed below a beaver pond, observed bear scat and trees marked by bear claws, enjoyed abundant wildflowers, and braved a banner crop of mosquitoes thanks to plentiful breeding waters after a bountiful winter snowmelt. They strode below giant aspens and conifers that David Inouye, a retired University of Maryland biology professor along for the outing, guesstimated might respectively be about 100 and 300 years old.”

“Firefighters expected to have the Mill Creek Fire burning northeast of Hayden fully contained by Sunday night,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “The wildland blaze, which started when a bulldozer caught fire July 1, has burned 482 acres on mostly private land.”

“The Grand Avenue bridge construction contractor has a pretty good incentive to get the new bridge open before a 95-day period that commences on Aug. 14 is up, and every reason not to go beyond that time,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “Built into the contract after the $125 million project was awarded to the joint venture of Granite/RL Wadsworth was a bonus of $25,000 per day for up to 10 days if the bridge can be opened to one lane of traffic in each direction before the end of those 95 calendar days.”

“Eagle County Schools won’t pursue purchase of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters’ union building in Eagle as a new home for Red Canyon High School,” reports Vail Daily. “The district respects the feedback of the business owners and (Eagle Town Board) trustees and will honor their requests to find a different option,” said Sandra Mutchler, Eagle County Schools chief operations officer. That decision was welcome news to the owners of the existing and planned marijuana businesses located adjacent to the carpenters’ union building. Both Eagle and Colorado regulations say that marijuana business cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school building, and even if the town and the state grandfathered the businesses, then the threat of federal enforcement would likely doom continued business operations.”

“Since 1994, Rocky Mountain Adventures — the Fort Collins rafting company Barwick purchased eight years ago — has employed around a dozen pigeons each year,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “The unlikely answer to a pre-digital age problem, homing pigeons allowed the rafting, rental and adventure guide business to get rolls of 35mm film down the Cache la Poudre River during its summer raft trips.”

“Pedestrians walking east on Boston Avenue from the intersection with Sunset Street may be reminded of a Shel Silverstein poem — it’s where the sidewalk ends,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Granted, the sidewalk resumes on the eastern side of the bridge, but Longmont resident Paul Tiger says it’s unsafe. “It’s a high traffic area and it’s a high industrial traffic area,” said Tiger, who rides his bike along the stretch with his dog running beside him. “When I go through there, I put on her a leash and I walk her and I’m not a leash guy. I walk her up to that corner.” Tim Swope, the Boulder County transportation department capital project coordinator, said that Boulder County is applying for a grant that would be just under $2 million and close the sidewalk gap on Boston Avenue.”

“Police are seeking help from the public to locate and identify a man who allegedly attempted to kidnap a child on Saturday in Florence,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “According to a news release, a man “attempted to lure a 4-year-old male child into his truck.” Florence Police Chief Mike DeLaurentis said the driver was unsuccessful and the child is home and safe. He said that extra officers from surrounding agencies are all helping to locate the man and truck, but they now are asking the public for help.”

Today’s Durango Herald features a piece from The Washington Post about Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner as a swing-state case study for the GOP healthcare bill. “The Coloradan, a rising star who defeated a Democratic incumbent in 2014, leads the campaign committee responsible for protecting and expanding the GOP majority. That makes him a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is pressing every Republican to support an unpopular proposal barreling toward a vote by the end of next week. Gardner, 42, holds a leadership post that normally comes with an expectation of loyalty. But he has remained below the radar, both back home and inside the Capitol, declining to take a position on legislation that would replace portions of the Affordable Care Act.”

“The Boulder teenagers hoping to lower the local voting age from 18 to 16 say they’re putting their push off until next year’s election,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Members of the city’s Youth Opportunities Advisory Board appear to have succeeded, however, in winning support of local officials who intend to help advance the cause. “It’s just too late to try to get it on the ballot this year, especially for us to have time to do any campaigning,” said Leo Greer, who recently graduated from Boulder High School. “We basically felt that to have another year to work on this would be a positive thing.” After affiliating with the national group Vote16 USA, Greer and other members of the youth board made their appeal to the city’s Human Relations Commission in May.”

“Despite concerns this year that the new Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies would lead to labor shortages across Colorado’s agricultural sector, growers and their advocates are breathing a sigh of relief as the harvest approaches,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “They are confident they’ll have the hands to pick and package what could be a bumper crop. But even though one component of the country’s sprawling immigration system appears to be working this summer, industry experts and a newly formed state coalition of business and civic leaders say that doesn’t mean the system is any less broken.”

The Denver Post reports on an “Old West-style land war in Colorado Rockies pits ranch widow against oil company.” This clash between “oilmen and ranchers could have been torn from the pages of a Zane Grey novel, but it reflects the present-day conflicts between commerce and tradition as oil and gas operations expand across Colorado. It pits a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips Co., headquartered in Texas, against Robinson, a softspoken, 69-year-old widow and grandmother who stands 5-feet-2 and — when she remembers — carries the pistol one of her four adult children gave her for protection on the sprawling ranch.”