The Home Front: An oil and gas proposal would ‘allow for drilling up to 31 wells on land near the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant’

Your morning roundup of stories from the front pages of newspapers across Colorado

“An oil and gas company’s foray across Superior town limits has propelled the town reluctantly into the latest Front Range drilling debate,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Highlands Natural Resources Corp., registered in the United Kingdom, last month applied to the state for a spacing plan for wells on a 2,560-acre site where records suggest it has leased minerals in the area of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The proposal in question would allow for drilling up to 31 wells on land near the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant — a small undeveloped portion of Superior situated within Jefferson County at the intersection of McCaslin Boulevard and Colo. 128 — and eventually usher horizontal extraction deep across the site’s boundaries, town officials say.”

“Before crews started working along Greeley’s 71st Avenue in April, the city installed cameras on both ends of the street so Dave Wells, the manager of the massive project, could monitor the progress from his office in real time,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “Shortly after the road finally opened this month, Wells glanced over at live footage and saw a car slow down in hesitation as it approached the street, which had been closed since April. ‘And you could tell exactly what they were thinking,’ Wells said with a laugh. ‘And they did kind of a little veer, which was strange, and then they went on.'”

“Marilyn Scarborough and Jon Lockert were horrified to watch the Skipper Island Fire from a high point in Fruita last spring,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “They saw the flames race sky high and watched as a helicopter dumped Colorado River water on the raging blaze. While the moisture helped temporarily, the fire seemed to move all around the wet spots, the couple said.”

“Recreation center staff applied a pesticide to deck drains during open pool time the evening of Nov. 5, according to Joel Reich, who said he was in the pool at the time and swims there almost nightly,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “He said he saw barefoot lifeguards spraying the pesticide, and alerted the Colorado Department of Agriculture about his concern the next day. An email from Longmont Recreation Area Supervisor Karen Charles to Reich, shared with the Times-Call by Reich, shows the city in the future will use the services of a pest control company to eradicate insects living within the pool deck drains.”

“The Loveland City Council will convene a study session Tuesday evening to discuss the history of the city’s food sales tax rebate program, the city’s authority to collect an occupation tax on liquor license holders, and the city’s progress on its downtown strategic plan as well as the Loveland Downtown Partnership’s annual contract,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “The council will have an opportunity to informally weigh in on city policy and could direct staff to bring topics back for a vote at future regular meetings.”

“Like much of the West, Northwest Colorado saw one of its most expensive wildfire seasons in 2018,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “This year’s extreme heat and drought resulted in more volatile fires that consumed more acres than in years past. “It was the busiest year we’ve had in the last 10 years, by far,” said Colt Mortenson, fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management’s northwest region. “Usually, you get a fire, you get a rest, and then another comes up. It pulses. But this year, it didn’t pulse. It began about the 20th of June and lasted straight through until October.'”

“Garfield County commissioners are looking to move forward with revisions to habitat mapping for the greater sage-grouse that they believe better reflects the bird species’ habitat in a remote northern part of the county where there’s active natural gas production,” reports The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. “‘As commissioners, we are elected to preserve and protect the public health, welfare and safety of our citizens,” a letter from the commissioners to the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado reads.”

“In his victory speech Tuesday night, Democratic Gov.-Elect Jared Polis stopped to thank Marlon Reis, his partner and fellow father to their two children,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Heavy applause from the energized crowd gave Polis — the first openly gay governor elected in the U.S. — time to break away from the dais to hug Reis, Colorado’s first ‘first man.’ In the days since, Polis’ election has made national headlines, and his office has been flooded with interview requests, many to discuss the landmark moment in Colorado and the nation’s history. For gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders across the land, his victory brings hope where once there was none.”

“Summit County’s fire protection districts are breathing a little easier this week after the county’s voters overwhelmingly chose to support new revenue stabilization measures for the departments, helping to solidify budgets for the foreseeable future and maintain levels of service in the community,” reports Summit Daily. “‘We’re gratified and blown away by the support from our community,” said Steve Lipsher, public information officer with Summit Fire & EMS. “It’s not something that we take for granted. We endeavor to be great stewards of the taxes they pay to us. Its important to maintain the faith they’ve shown in us to do a good job and to provide the services to help keep our community safe.”

“The clergyman, Kent Drotar, lost permission to work as a priest less than two months later and was removed from his post at Notre Dame Catholic Church in southwest Denver after a disciplinary team found the allegations against him credible, as first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday and confirmed by The Denver Post,” reports The Denver Post. “Stephen Szutenbach, now 37, studied at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver from 2001 to 2004, and said Drotar — then the vice rector at the seminary — repeatedly made unwanted sexual contact with him. The abuse began in the summer of 2000 when Szutenbach was 18 and worked as a groundskeeper at the seminary after graduating from Conifer High School, Szutenbach told the Post in an interview Monday. The archdiocese’s handling of the abuse reports has more deeply affected Szutenbach than the abuse itself, he said. He feels betrayed by an institution that he once considered committing his life to and lied to by those he knows in church leadership. He is angered by the church’s failure to pursue the lengthy process to officially remove Drotar from the priesthood.”

“Local waste haulers told the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners and the landfill manager that a recycling program and steep increase in disposal fees will be a challenge for their businesses,” reports The Cortez Journal. “In October, landfill manager Shak Powers increased fees to haulers dropping off waste by either 29 percent or 59 percent. The higher fees were approved by the commissioners and favor haulers who implement robust recycling programs for customers.”

“As 13 giant television screens monitor every movement, a Sun Country Boeing 737 barrels down the runway at Northern Colorado Regional Airport, whisking the Colorado State University football team to Reno, Nevada, for a Mountain West showdown,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “Behind three workstations, controllers zoom in and out on their screens — keeping one eye on the sky, the other on the aircraft as it accelerates, lifting its nose toward the heavens. This is Northern Colorado Regional Airport’s new remote tower, a first-of-its-kind air traffic control tower with all the standard monitoring equipment. Instead of air traffic controllers sitting in a tower high above the airport, these controllers keep their eyes on the bank of monitors as three cameras around the airport capture a panoramic view of air and ground traffic.”

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.