Printed letters, March 21, 2010

Shell’s water decision

helps West Slope ag

Sparking a collective sigh of relief, good news came recently to farmers and ranchers on the Western Slope when Shell officials announced they would withdraw their application for a 15 billion gallon water right in the Yampa River for oil shale development.

For many generations, ranchers and farmers on the Western Slope have lived and worked with an inherent understanding of the importance of water to our livelihoods. Along with this understanding comes the responsibility to make sure there is enough water to sustain agriculture and communities in the region.

Signaling the level of contention and concern over Shell’s enormous water application, some 27 local and state agencies, neighboring counties, businesses and diverse interest groups all filed protests to this water filing.

As a rancher and member of the Northwest Colorado Chapter of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, I believe it is important to protect traditional uses like agriculture when considering how best to use our limited supply. The Shell application was a wake-up call that allocating significant portions of a strained water supply could have serious consequences.  Before we set aside large portions of water for any use, we should know the potential impacts to our water quality and supply.

Agriculture has long been a vital part of our economy in the West and we have long fought to preserve our water, natural resources and way of life. Farmers and ranchers understand that preserving the quality of our land, air and water is critical to our way of life. Keeping this water in the Yampa is a relief for those of us who depend on this precious resource. We commend Shell for pulling its water-right application.


Steamboat Springs

We bought the farm regarding wind energy

What is the cost to the taxpayers for wind-turbine farms? The information regarding grants, tax credits and other subsidies is hard to find. I was able, however, to find the numbers on a wind-turbine farm just constructed in Milford, Utah.

The details are as follows:

The Milford Wind Corridor Project will supply power to communities in Southern California. It will consist of 97 turbine towers standing 262 feet tall on more than 40 square miles. It will provide 203.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 40,000 homes. It will create 225 jobs for construction and 15 permanent jobs for operation and maintenance. The cost will be over $400 million.

The cost to taxpayers will include a 30 percent government grant that totals approximately $120 million. Also, for the next 10 years, owners of the wind turbines will receive a production tax credit of 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour generated. The current cost from conventional sources ranges from 11 to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Assuming the plant operates at 60 percent of capacity, the taxpayers’ annual bill for this subsidy of 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour will be approximately $22.5 million.

Therefore, the total cost to taxpayers over 10 years will be approximately $365 million ($140 million grant and $225 million in annual subsidies).

This deal is so good the Chinese are getting involved. A proposed $1.5 billion wind farm is going forward in Texas with three partners. The Chinese partner would provide 240 of the project’s 2.5 megawatt wind turbines, creating jobs in China with taxpayer stimulus money from the United States. Don’t worry, it is only costing us a $450 million down-payment for 30 permanent Texas jobs. People can do the math on the subsidy of 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour.

The old saying, “We bought the farm,” certainly applies in this case.


Protecting sage grouse is critical for the West

I am glad that Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar was willing to listen to science and not politics when he announced that the sage grouse needs Endangered Species Act protection. Protecting the sage grouse is important for the land here in the West, and the federal government needs to follow up on its commitment and bring some real balance back.

For too long, our decision-makers lacked the fortitude to make tough decisions, which is why we now have a fraction of sage grouse left from historical population levels.

The sage grouse is just one indicator that the Western landscape is in trouble. We need to work together — ranchers, farmers, oil and gas companies, and local, state and federal government — to find common-sense solutions so we don’t lose the plants and wildlife that make this area a source of pride.

There is no place I would rather be living and working than western Colorado. I’ve been fortunate to spend time in the sagebrush sea of Moffat County, and I know that I have a responsibility to leave it to future generations in the condition that I found it, or better. We all do.

Good sage grouse habitat makes for good wildlife habitat, beautiful open spaces and even wild places, and I intend to leave plenty of them all for the next generation.


Grand Junction

Health care bill won’t be death knell for America

The argument goes that President Obama and the Democrats will pass their unpopular health care bill by hook or crook, with the idea in mind that once an entitlement takes root it becomes impossible to repeal. Not so many years from now it will be appreciated.

Certainly that was the case with Social Security and Medicare, but you have to keep in mind that there was initial popular and bipartisan support for those bills. Creating another entitlement by raiding an existing beloved entitlement (Medicare) is quite another matter.

Some say this means the end of private insurers, that government will strangle them. Actually, there is law to protect those companies. The parallel is electric utilities. The insurance providers will seek that protection and insurance costs will continue to rise.

The plan is to then call for the public option, but by then Democrats will have lost control of at least the House. I predict that eventually this monstrosity will be reformed with lean and focused solutions. My only question is whether it will take three years and a new president.

This legislation will not be the end of America as we know it. I have more faith in the majority of Americans, who love their liberty and have no interest in bigger government.

The time it takes to implement this plan gives us time to pull the plug.



Republicans’ tricks won’t halt health reform

My, how clever it was of Gary Harmon to print as a news article in the March 5 edition of The Daily Sentinel a free ad for the National Republican Congressional Committee that repeated the instructions that organization was giving in robo calls to voters in John Salazar’s congressional district. The article said to phone Salazar to tell him to vote against the impending health care bill before Congress and conveniently supplied the phone number for them to call.

It never ceases to amaze me the sneaky tricks some members of today’s Republican Party will use to try to destroy anything the Democratic Party is trying to accomplish. Especially if it is anything that will be beneficial to the average citizen, because if such things become law, the Republicans might have a hard time regaining absolute control over our country, and that’s what they are all about — power, power and more power. Their handmaidens, like Harmon, are always willing to help them out.

But this time, I, a Democrat, want to thank Harmon for his assistance. After seeing his column, I immediately followed the instructions and called Salazar’s office to tell him to vote for the health care bill. I contacted everyone I know who would benefit by the passage of the bill and told them to do likewise. And I didn’t even have to robo call. I said who I was up front.

Maybe some Republicans would do better in accomplishing their goals if they tried honesty once in a while and quit trying to pretend they are for every man, which Republicans have never been.




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