LPEA ahead of green curve

La Plata County is getting ahead of the green wave. In the wake of proposed renewable energy legislation, La Plata Electric Association is already making strong strides in terms of green power.

House Bill 1281 was recently introduced into the Colorado Legislature, and if passed, it will require Colorado electric cooperatives to meet a renewable energy standard of “1 percent by 2008; 3 percent by 2011; 6 percent by 2015; and 10 percent by 2020.” In other words, the cooperative must generate or cause to be generated the specified percentage of its electricity from eligible renewable resources as outlined in the schedule.

Due to support of cooperative member-customers, LPEA is already on its way to meeting the requirements. Currently, approximately one-half of 1 percent of electricity purchased by LPEA is from renewable resources – mostly wind power. This figure includes the number of individuals and businesses generating their own electricity through renewable resources, such as solar panels – generation that would also figure into the state’s requirement should HB 1281 pass. This figure does not include the renewable energy that is already being provided by such facilities as Vallecito Reservoir.

“Promoting green power is and has been a high priority for LPEA’s Board of Directors,” said Greg Munro, LPEA chief executive officer. “The board had set a goal for 3 percent of our customers to be purchasing green power, and we will need to at least double that to meet the standard set by the bill for 2008. We are also now focusing not only on the number of customers purchasing green power, but the actual amount of renewable energy generated.”

Munro then added that community support will be essential to meeting the goals of HB1281. “If community members continue to embrace the renewable effort as they have thus far, we believe we can meet the 10 percent by 2020 requirement, and hopefully exceed that,” he said. “The devil is in the details of the proposed bill, but we have some very sharp and talented engineers and consultants that are already thinking of ways we can accomplish this task without more than a 1 percent impact on rates.”

In 1998, Tri-State – LPEA’s power supplier – responded to requests by its member systems to include a green-power option as part of its available resources to end-use consumers. Because of this program, LPEA customers who request green power receive it at LPEA’s cost from Tri-State, which beginning in January 2007 was $1.25 per 100 kilowatt-hour block per month, down from $2.50 per 100 kilowatt-hour block in 2006. To date, LPEA is among the leading purchasers of green power in Tri-State’s 44-member cooperative system, supplying more than 600,000 kilowatt hours of green power generation each month.

“Our community should be proud. The government can mandate, and we can create the incentives and programs, but for them to succeed, our member-customers need to take an active role – and we’re seeing that commitment growing daily,” said Munro.

For additional information on LPEA’s green-power offerings, visit www.lpea.com or call 247-5786.


City council race off and running

There is going to be a race for Durango City Council after all. At least six candidates are officially in the running for three vacancies on the board. The six will take their first stab at the issues during a candidate forum Feb. 15, and other prospective local leaders have until Feb. 27 to file nominating petitions.

Three City Council seats are up for election this April 3, with the terms of Dale Garland, Tom Howley and Sidny Zink all expiring in April. As of last week, Zink, Howley and planning commissioner Linda Geer had all declared their candidacy. Garland announced he would not seek a second term. “For now, I am choosing to redirect my professional energies toward my role as a teacher and my interest in educating youth and leadership that will lead us into the future,” Garland wrote. “I will take much of what I have learned these last four years and apply it to that part of my life.”

Early this week, three additional candidates threw their hats into the ring. Planning Commission member Peter Tregillus and attorneys Leigh Meigs and Tom Dugan have also declared their candidacies and all six will square off in a formal debate sponsored by the Homebuilders Association of Southwest Colorado. The event takes place at 7 p.m. in the DoubleTree Hotel banquet room.

In the meantime, prospective candidates have until Feb. 27 to return a nominating petition and score a place on the ballot. The April 3 election will be conducted by mail, ballots will be mailed to registered voters between March 9-19.


Durango trail closures go into effect

In a cruel twist, trail closures have come to several popular Durango trails just as they were beginning to dry out. Bureau of Land Management lands in the Animas Mountain and Grandview Ridge areas were closed last Monday to provide safe havens for deer and elk herds. The temporary closures apply to all public entry and will remain in effect at least until March 1 and possibly as late as April 15 depending on weather and wildlife conditions.

“Despite significant early snowfall, these areas remained open for public recreation earlier this winter because deer and elk remained at higher elevations,” said Pauline Ellis, Columbine District Ranger. “However, the Division of Wildlife has recently reported significant numbers of deer and elk in the Grandview and Animas Mountain areas.”

On Animas Mountain, a 1½-mile trail loop on the lower portion of the mountain will remain open. This loop can be accessed by either the Birkett or Animas City trailheads. Signs have been posted at the top of the loop indicating the closure.

On Grandview Ridge, the Sale Barn and Big Canyon trails have been closed at their trailheads. In addition, the Carbon Junction Trail will be closed at its intersection with the Sidewinder and Crites Connect trails. In Horse Gulch, the Telegraph Trail will be closed at its top end.

Signs have been posted at all of the closures, and the areas will be policed for compliance.


Latino coalition announces changes

The Durango Latino Education Coalition is changing with the times. Because of growth and expanded student population, DLEC is now known as Del Alma, short for Durango Educational Alliance for Multicultural Achievement.

DLEC was founded in 1995 to address the high dropout rates and academic underachievement among the area’s Latino students. Twelve years later, DLEC is still targeting academic underachievement, but only 60 percent of its students are Latinos.

“When our organization started, it was geared toward serving Latino students and reversing high drop-out rates,” said LeeAnn Vallejos, the group’s executive director. “We’re still serving minority kids, but only 60 percent are Latinos. We realized that our name no longer reflected our population.”

Last December, the group’s board voted unanimously to change the name to Del Alma. Vallejos explained that the name honors the group’s Latino roots but reflects a broader population of students.

“We’ve grown so much that we’ve had to change with the times,” she said. “We also don’t want to prohibit any students from attending.”

– compiled by Will Sands