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Climate in Colorado


Happy New Year. This is go west. Young podcast your show show about America's parks and public lands. I'm Aaron Weiss at the Center for Western priorities. Coming to you this week from the Great North West is I take a few days to enjoy Seattle in January. They say it's beautiful this time of year something coming up but Colorado is doing about climate change and how it could serve as a model for the rest of the West and the the country plus we will look back at a murder and execution. That got the attention of everyone from Norman mailer to Saturday. Night live this week in Western history but but first let's do the news a quick update on William Perry penalty the guy who is running the bureau of land management. Even though he hasn't been nominated for the job it looks like that is going to be the status quo for the time being interior secretary. David Bernhardt signed an order renewing penalties authority to perform the duties of the B. M. Director which has has been without a Senate confirmed director for the entire length of the trump administration penalty. Showed up at the first day of work new BLM quote unquote headquarters in in Grand Junction Colorado. But there's still no word on exactly how many people from the DC office accepted that move. It doesn't sound like many if any at all all did the big public land's news though is the trump administration finally unveiling. Its plan to overhaul and by that I mean undermine Nipah Ah the National Environmental Policy Act. Nipah is one of America's bedrock conservation laws that affects just about every major infrastructure project in the country when you hear about projects that are subject to environmental reviews that is usually Nipah in play. Now we have seen the trump administration take aim at laws. They didn't like before. Using rule changes to make an end run around them but this proposed Nipah Hall is probably the biggest and most egregious example of it yet. The rule change would declare that projects that are privately. Funded don't need environmental reviews. It would make it much easier. To do do things like build oil pipelines. It would rush most environmental reviews through in two years even if necessary studies would take longer than that it would set page limits. This is essentially saying science. Can't be longer than a certain number of pages which is of course not how science works but perhaps most I significantly this would stop the government from considering the climate impacts of projects now. The Interior Department is opening a sixty day public comment period on the changes. But don't count on that doing anything. My colleague at Center for Western Priorities Andre Miller just released an analysis just looking at ten major rule changes at the Interior Department under the trump administration more than ninety five percent of public comments submitted in all ten of those his rule changes opposed what the trump administration was trying to do but the interior department moved ahead. Anyway in eight of those ten rulemakings in the other to the rules that interior did change after public pushback. Those were the rules that weren't pushed by oil gas and mining industries so so back to the Nipah changes. Now all of this means the new nipple rules are certainly going to head to the courts. And that's where things are going to get interesting getting because federal judges have already ruled multiple times that the government does need to consider the long-term climate impacts when doing environmental reviews news and the trump administration has a terrible track record in court when it comes to environmental issues. So that is what's coming next. I guarantee that we will be talking about. These proposed Nipah changes a whole lot over the next few months. This is our first episode of the New Year of the new decade Gade It is more apparent than ever that there is now a huge gap a crevasse a gaping maw between Westerners owners and the trump administration when it comes to climate change and what to do about it now. Last year we talked to a number of elected officials in New Mexico about that. But nowhere is is that gap more visible I think than in Colorado so joining us to talk about that and how all of this could shake out this year we've got Garrett Garner Wells. He's the communications director at Conservation Colorado here in Denver Garrett. Welcome to the POD. Thanks for having me on air so conservation Colorado just this week hosted a telephone town hall hall with the Governor Jared Polis. How did that go win? Great I always wonderful for Colorado staff an opportunity here directly from the governor honor especially when it's centered on climate policy public lands and what to expect this legislative session at the top of that. Call your executive director killing nor Dini. She he noted that David Roberts of vox was calling Colorado quote an island of sanity on climate policy before. We're here from the governor just to explain why that is why why is Colorado looking different than the rest of the country right now. What my favorite part of that quote actually is the the beginning which says the world may be a dumpster fire? And we've seen that within that dumpster fire Colorado is really stepping up to lead. We set economy-wide carbon reduction targets last legislative session. We're working to put those into practice across not just our utilities looking at transportation looking at the built environment in really thinking about what it means for Colorado to lead. We can get into that more more. But I I think that's a critical opportunity As you said at the top the West is really set up to lead and we will get into what that means and and how Colorado will do that. I obviously in order to get there. Whatever those goals are Colorado's economy is still still very closely in time? Entwined with the oil and gas industry Especially the eastern part of the State Weld County but also On the West Slope. So what does a transition away from fossil fuels look like in Colorado. And how do you do that without taking a good chunk of the existing economy here. Well I think there's two points on that There's the broad one which is that we've seen over and over again that when it comes to Tilles wind and solar the cheapest options here in the state of Colorado that was a central part of the Roberts peace and so as we transition position to a clean electricity. Future ratepayers are releasing savings and that's manifest itself and over again is we think specifically about workers burst though And that's something Colorado's done a lot of we're seeing that just transition is really going to be important so earlier this week. Tri State announced that they would be closing their colorado-based coal plants. By twenty thirty there will have an economic impact which is why last last legislative session. Colorado passed the very first office of just transition policy and so- Colorado's leaders are thinking about what what it means for the coal industry in particular to be phased out on. That's the way the economics are headed and thinking about what that's going to mean for workers. I think we'll start to see that when it comes to oil and gas as well all right. So let's take a listen I to the governor had to say along those lines at the top of the call and then I wanna get it into all right so cole is feeling it now but was that looked like then when oil and gas starts to to feel later here. Here's the governor Our commitment is To one hundred percent renewable energy is really motivated by a number of reasons. It's not just about Protecting our air and our water and our climate I I truly also view it as a huge economic opportunity for Colorado. There's already sixty three thousand Colorado's employ renewable energy and it's growing by nine percent a year one of the fastest growing sectors and so the states and the countries and the counties and the cities that embrace renewable energy will reap the rewards Lower costs for consumers cleaner air positioning themselves for success in the future and doing our our part to make our planet inhabitable for the next generation and the next all right so we are preparing. Colorado's there's a Konami we are creating all of these jobs in manufacturing But at some point if you're going to reach these climate targets The number of jobs being affected by coal is much smaller than the number of jobs right now in the oil and gas world So how do you get from point. A. To point point. B both in terms of the economy and in terms of what the climate targets are sure. It's a step by step process. I think last legislative session. We saw In admission for the first time in decades that health and safety must come first in the state of Colorado Speaking this Senate bill one eighty one and so we're really focused on implementing Senate bill one eighty one and thinking about how to protect communities and how to protect checked workers and how to protect our air and a big piece of that client. Let Me Stop You so for folks who who aren't familiar with what. Sp One eighty one did I. That's a very big big deal. In terms of the overall I the way the state looks at oil and gas and regulates oil and gas. It's not just about promoting emoting production anymore that's right. The Colorado law used to say that it was the job of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission mission to foster industry and protect public health and safety as a secondary mechanism if that was cost feasible. And so what Senate bill. One anyone did is flip. Flip that and say that the most important thing for Colorado's is to put health and safety I for workers for communities and for the environment so you you have this shift happening at the regulatory level How does that then affect or overlap with of climate goals? And how how do you get Colorado to reach emissions targets saying and what are what are those targets has that timeframe look like so. Those targets are important. We're looking at a fifty percent reduction in carbon pollution by twenty thirty and ninety percent reduction in carbon pollution by twenty fifty and so there will be steps that need need to be taken along the way they are. Electrically I think is our best example of how that's worked so far where we have so much wind and solar coming onto the great now because it is so cheap and and were cutting emissions there so next we need to look at transportation. We need to look at the built environment and moving toward electrifying a lot of what's happening happening within the built environment. So let's talk transportation. I assume a large chunk of that then is vehicles gas powered diesel diesel-powered vehicles on the road and if you're talking fifty percent by twenty thirty and you think about the average life of a car that would seem to imply Colorado's got to start selling a whole lot of zero emissions vehicles very soon. That's right and I think that's something. That governor pulses recognized his very first executive order after he was inaugurated happened in our parking lot and we were proud to be there next door electric vehicle charging station as he signed an executive order to bring more types of electric vehicles to the state of Colorado. And as you said that makes a huge difference when it comes to how many of those vehicles on the road since since we need to start sooner instead of later so I want to talk more about the oil and gas industry Specifically the American Petroleum Institute. Api It's the the big the oil and Gas Trade Association obviously very active in Colorado and they just launched a new nationwide PR campaign this week. That sounded to me more more like an onion headline. But it's real so I instead of their old. I'm an energy voter campaign that they've apparently given up on or at least finally recognizing that Ah gas energy voters were not really a thing. API is now positioning themselves as climate champions and part of the climate solution because I guess natural gas and oil is less bad than coal when it comes to co two emissions. So how how does it announcement like that. Go over in your office over with laughter. It's less than ad is still bad address and from an industry that has been dragged kicking and screaming into modernity who said each and every time that a new the law has proposed to protect health and safety protect our environment. That it can't be done that it's too expensive. Going to cost too many jobs going to be the end of the economy on and on and on always with the end of the world and mind to see them. Spend this much money on a PR campaign shows why the whole thing is laughable. Ease it also. I'm nick knowledge that everything they've been saying before about the dire end of the world predictions perhaps not going to come true. If if if we're we're transitioning and and some oil and gas is part of the solution. It's never come true. They've they've said this over and over would but I think it's an admission that they are reading the same polling that everyone else is that climate is a leading issue in Colorado. It's a leading issue in the West. And they they know that they should be talking about it. In terms of oil and gas particularly natural gas being less bad than coal and it certainly is true that a whole lot of Kohl's demise is financially because there is so much cheap natural gas out there are they just conveniently leniently ignoring methane in all of this and how much less bad is. Co Two is a natural gas fired. Power Plant then say coal-fired power plant Colorado has a methane problem. And we've been a leader in terms of methane regulations. In the past. There was a suite. Tweet of new methane regulations passed as part of Senate bill one eighty one at the end of twenty nineteen but we need to step up and be a leader on that front again because it is a potent greenhouse gas. Let's talk about wildlife and switch away from oil and gas for a minute. Oh we keep hearing about wildlife corridors. We we heard about that in several of in New Mexico episodes last year before we get to what the governor has has to say about that remind us of why wildlife corridors are important and and and what is being done what can be done at the state level versus the federal level. When you look at larger species they need room to roam and so when you protect wildlife corridors? Not only do you protect the large animals that live there but small ones as well and you protect the land and water on which they live in. So connectivity is a huge piece of that and one that the governor has rightly pointed out protects wildlife protects land protects water and Dan protects motorists driving down the highway so in case of Colorado. You're talking about deer elk pronghorns any other top top level species. We should be thinking about when we think wildlife migration in Colorado. This is the big one so let. Let's take a listen then to the governor said on that call this week also I was also excited to sign an executive order to protect our wildlife quarters to keep people's an animal safer all the work being done at the Colorado Department of Transportation in an apartment who natural resources align to protecting habitats and less casualties of animals Hit by cars. We are establishing Colorado's newest state park mark in Trinidad officiers peak We're going to be hopefully opening it. By the end of this year We are also working on expanding capacity or other state park certainly getting people of all all ages to enjoy. Our great outdoors is critical. I should also point out that fishers. Peak will connect with other protected habitat on both sides of the New Mexico and Colorado border are to create a huge continuous own Protected areas for Wildlife Habitat. So we've got a lot happening then on the policy level here the governor's signing executive orders. The legislature is back in session now. What's on their plate that you hope? They're they're going to get to the session. There is Senate bill. Three one of the very first bills to be introduced this legislative session that looks at state parks funding and so our state parks have a the problem. They have a very good problem. And that's that they're popular and so it missions up my son and I've been going around the state trying to visit all the state parks. Get him checked off often pay for it and it's been a great experience and so we are bringing a new one on board fishers peak state park as the governor mentioned. They're down down by Trinidad absolutely down south and so that's going to provide wildlife connectivity even into New Mexico but we need some funding to get that state park open and not only to open that state park but to open others that have been so popular with Colorado. So there's a funding part of this Is there anything else on the policy level that needs to happen in terms of parks in terms of the differences between state park land and state trust land which a lot of folks don't necessarily think about but in Colorado state trust land is not generally speaking open to the public. Sure it is. How else can the state or can legislators address that or is it simply a throw money at it kind of problem? Well it's not just throw money at a problem But the money is important. I think that in a state like Colorado that has such outdated financial santeuil constraints that putting money towards something like state. Parks is really critical way that we can talk about our priorities recognizes priorities. What else other priorities for conservation? Colorado this year what do you what are you looking at well. We talked about it earlier but next steps and climate are going to be huge. Ah We have been successful when you look at electricity but transportation is already the number one source of emissions nationwide nationwide. It's moving into the number one slot here in Colorado so we need to look at transportation and we need to look at the built environment and so whether that is billing ruling efficiency for commercial buildings whether that is helping homeowners to move to electric heat pumps that really create healthier homes. I think those steps are going to be critical We we talked about electric cars earlier. What else does transportation look like in terms of reducing emissions? Is that transit. Are there other things that were were not thinking about the crazy hyperloop ideas. We we hear tossed around. There are lots of ideas out there but there are some proof and once ya not public transportation as one of them and allowing people to live close to where they work is another one to density and planning absolutely salute as as an environmental concern. Which I think a lot of people may not think of it that way when you talk about about urban planning but it is it's a conservation issue issue absolutely? It's one of the top ways that we can decrease emissions and we we haven't yet talked about one of concentration Colorado's other other big areas of focus. Which is environmental justice? And it's something that on this podcast we touch on particularly as it overlaps with tribal issues. We generally don't talk about that in terms of Urban issues and environmental justice within cities in Denver in particular There are some huge disparities. Thirties you go from neighborhood to neighborhood in terms of health risks. That's absolutely right. And we've seen a number of toxic polluters syrup and down the front range and onto the western slope that are putting these compounds into surrounding neighborhoods. I mean they're they're putting things out like hydrogen cyanide hydrogen. Sulfide these are serious. Toxics that Harm kids they harmed the elderly and we need to do something about in terms of legislative action in terms of policy action action. Is there more that needs to be done. In terms of monitoring is it just cracking down on what we know already What does that look like? I think it's all of the above. And so it's monitoring monitoring at the fence line because so many of these areas are surrounded by neighborhoods. It is looking at caps looking at what is safe for people not not just in the surrounding neighborhood but workers as well and it's looking at what a fine structure is. I mean some of these places. It's a slap on the wrist. It's the cost of doing business and we need to move beyond that. If we're really going to protect Colorado's so that there is an actual you're right now. The the fine finds that these companies face are not necessarily enough of a deterrent relative to the cost of actually cleaning up what they do. That's right Colorado Colorado. Clearly right now is leading as David Roberts with vox mentioned leading across the West across the country. So what can Dan other states learn from what Colorado is doing. What can conservation groups in other states learn from following the conservation Colorado Model? It's about looking economy-wide that is one of the most critical things that Colorado has done. So far is set these targets. Set Them economy-wide armywide once that's on the books to start looking sector-by-sector at how you do reduce pollution and so I think that two step process says something that's critical and something that's ongoing last question. Since you mentioned year checking off state parks with your son. What's your favorite so far? What what what? What do folks need to get out there and and discover your? That's you saved the hardest question. Always we have really enjoyed the Arkansas headwaters area. Because it does stretch for so far great view of the Valley there and Chafee County Aw and takes you just all the way down to two Fremont County area and let you look around all right. Gary Garner Wells is the communications director at that Conservation Colorado Garrett thanks for stopping by. Thanks for having me We always like to wrap up with a look back at this week in Western history. I will warn you upfront. This one gets dark but it's fascinating. It was this week in nineteen seventy seven that the state of Utah executed a man named Gary Gilmore Gilmore a murderer who became a national celebrity. And even a Saturday night live punchline on the way to his death and then inspired a world famous advertising slogan the Punk rock hit and a bunch of folks Pulitzer prizes in Emmy awards as I said dark. Gary Gilmore lead a life of crime Iran car theft ring at age fourteen. By the time he was twenty four he received a fifteen year prison sentence but he got sent to a halfway house after eight years and then he was convicted of armed robbery. He was so violent behind bars he then got sent the maximum security federal prison in Marion Illinois when he was paroled from that at age thirty five in nineteen seventy six he went to Provo Utah to live with a distant cousin that July about three months after his release Gary Gilmore robbed and murdered a gas station attendant in Orem Utah. The next night he robbed and murdered a motel manager in Provo. Both of his victims were students students at Byu who left behind widows and infant children Gilmore managed to shoot himself in the hand while he was trying to get rid of the gun he used in the murders. His his cousin then turned him in. He was tried for just one of the murders the motel killing because there was a witness who saw him in the registration office that night. The trial lasted just two days and the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty now up until this point nothing would suggest a national story was in the works folks but the death penalty had just been reinstated by the Supreme Court in one thousand nine hundred seventy two. The court had ordered states to commute all death sentences to life in prison and in states started passing new death penalty statutes that were upheld ruling in one thousand nine hundred seventy six so that same year when Gary Gilmore killed old two people there had been no executions in the US for nearly a decade the previous one had been in Colorado in nineteen sixty seven. After Gary Gilmore was sentenced. He didn't appeal the death sentence and he fired his lawyers. Utah's law let Gilmore choose his method of execution either hanging Or firing squad. He picked the firing squad saying he wanted to quote die. Like a man. Gilmore's mother tried to get a stay of execution on his behalf. The Supreme Court refused to hear her claim and it was around that point. That Gilmore's case became a national story. People wrote into the warden volunteering on tearing to join the firing squad all three TV. Networks asked for permission to film The execution and amidst all this that December of nineteen seventy six Saturday night live ran macab skit in which candace Bergen introduced choir that included Gilda radner. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi singing singing a holiday medley titled. Let's kill Gary Gilmore for Christmas. The three told you this one was going to get done against Gilmore's wishes the ACLU won several stays of execution on his behalf. Those finally ran out on January seventeenth nineteen seventy seven one just after eight PM. Gary Gilmore was taken to an abandoned cannery behind the prison and strapped to a chair. The warden had selected five volunteer. Your law enforcement officers as executioners concealed behind a curtain with five small holes when asked for any last words Gilmore simply said Ed. Let's do it. One of the five bullets was supposed to be a blank so the firing squad wouldn't know who fired the fatal shot but Gilmore's brother later wrote that there were five bullet holes in Gary's clothes. Gary Gilmore in effect had become a proxy for the entire debate over capital punishment in the late seventies and early early eighties later that year. Nineteen seventy seven the British punk band. The adverts released a single called Gary Gilmore's eyes reference to Gilmore's Cornelius But she had donated and were transplanted into two recipients within hours of his execution take into. Norman mailer interviewed family and friends of Gary Gilmore and his victims and turned that into a true crime novel the executioners Song Mailer won the Pulitzer Prize for it and the Book Quiz turned into a TV movie. That won an Emmy for Tommy Lee Jones who played Gilmore in one thousand nine hundred eighty four. Gary Gilmore's brother Michael wrote a memoir called shot in the heart art that followed his family from the Mormon settlers all the way through Gary's execution that one also got turned into a movie on HBO. But the most most lasting impact that Gary Gilmore's execution has had on American culture. Maybe the most bizarre and unlikely in one thousand nine hundred eighty eight Dan widen of the legendary Wieden Kennedy Ad Agency needed a slogan that would appeal to everyone regardless of age gender or ethnicity. His client was Nike taking on Reebok which was focused on the aerobics. Craze of the Eighties Nike wanted in widens words a tough take-no-prisoners AD campaign. So Dan Wieden took Gary Gilmore's last words let's do it and turn them into one of the most iconic corporate slogans of all time. That's right just do. It was inspired by the last words of a serial murderer who wanted to be executed by firing squad. I know this sounds like the kind of thing that ought to be an urban legend but here here is Dan Wieden in his own words from documentary called art and copy actually the inspiration for this came from a man that was about to be executed a two for murder in Utah and his final word to the firing squad. Where let's do it and so I thought well I probably do it part of it? None of us really paid that much attention. We thought. Yeah that'd work and I think what happened in. It was sort of like a lot of things in life is sometimes. It's the most inadvertent things that you don't really Z.. That are People started reading things into it much more than sport. The legacy of the execution of Gary Gilmore the first person put to death after after the reintroduction of capital punishment forty three years ago this week in Western history and all matches note. You've made it to the end of another episode of go West Young podcast. If you have the moment in western history you think we should cover or guess we should talk to drop us a line. PODCAST at Western priorities. Dot Org Orion Weiss on twitter. If enjoyed this episode. Please share it with a friend or leave us a review on apple podcasts. That is the best way for new listeners to find us thanks again to Gary Garner Wells from Conservation Association Colorado for joining us this week. I'm Aaron Weiss and on behalf of the whole team center for Western priorities. Thanks for listening Sir.

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