Soap Box

Trump is a threat to our security
08/09/2018

To the editor,

Trump is a threat to our security because he continues to befriend Putin, who is an adversary of the U.S. and the Western world; and Trump continues to condemn our intelligence agencies.

Trump refuses to condemn Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, and he demeans Special Counsel Mueller, while trying to weaken the investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Trump fired FBI Director Comey and had Attorney General Sessions fire Deputy Director McCabe. They were heavily involved in investigating the Russian interference in the election.

Trump refuses to condemn Putin for incursions into Ukraine and Georgia and poisoning the former Russian intelligence official in England.

Against the advice of his advisers, Trump called Putin and congratulated him on the Russian election victory, which was a sham election.

It appears Trump trusts and admires Putin, and he is willing to overlook Russian transgressions. Will this affect Trump’s strategic decisions impacting Russia? Trump has control over the launch of retaliatory weapons against Russia if it attacks the U.S. Our national security is in jeopardy. As a former holder of a top secret cryptographic security clearance, I question whether Trump qualifies for a top secret security clearance.

– Donald Moskowitz, Londonderry, N.H., via email

Paying the Durango love forward
08/09/2018

To the editor,

Sometimes just the blessing of living in Durango can’t help but make my heart almost burst with gratitude. The natural beauty speaks for itself, with the mountains melting into amazing mesas and the Animas sexily winding through town seducing our souls into trusting the natural flow of life.

So many reasons to love this town. And the people are every bit of an asset as our rivers, mountains and mesas. 

Old timers and newbies. Having been here 40 years, it is a delight to witness how Durango’s been able to retain its charm and open heart in spite of growth. Everyone seems to realize we share something very unique here.

Just recently we have all been in awe of our amazing firefighters (also thank you, visiting firefighters!) Our law enforcement is friendly without being overly intrusive. And the generosity and creativity of our businesses and citizens continues to blow my mind for four decades now!

A few weeks ago, I needed some work from the Durango Motor Co. Jonathon and his staff went way out of their way to help me when there was an additional snag. They were wonderfully helpful. Truly the “relatively” new owners of this old business are an added asset to our community. (And what a beautiful waiting area!)

So, I am not exaggerating when I say that sometimes my heart nearly bursts with gratitude and love for such a community as this. Thank you Mother Earth and fellow pilgrims in this suspended state of grace here in Southwest Colorado!

– Susan Urban, Durango

A corporate assault on democracy
08/09/2018

To the editor,

Political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica boasted of obtaining vast amounts of online information to psychographically profile individual voters and target each to favor or disfavor candidates or issues. Subsequently, they took credit for the Republican win of the Colorado Senate in 2014. In a secretly recorded meeting (“Behind closed doors,” Joel Dyer, Boulder Weekly, 7-28-16) Colorado Oil and Gas Association boasted of using the same techniques of psychoprofiling. They used the data to manipulate targeted voters, building a statewide database (using digital polling, mailings and phoning) of 3.9 million Colorado voters based on each’s opinion of fracking.

Employing similar techniques, industry boasts of electing industry-friendly city councils throughout Colorado – thus, they took credit for a 9-4 industry-favorable Denver City Council. Corporate dominance of our state and city governments represent direct assaults on democracy – oil and gas controlling our state, and investors/developers controlling Denver.

– Michele Swenson, Denver

All the troublesome NGS scenarios
08/02/2018

To the editor,

Word is a deal is in the works to keep the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station open past 2019.

It’s not an impossible task, but it would come at a high cost, and it would require the owners to pull off two near- Herculean feats.

First, production costs would have to be severely slashed. Tucson Electric Power, one of the current owners, has projected it would cost an average of $56-$57 per megawatt hour (MWh) to operate and maintain the plant from 2020-30. It is extremely unlikely power from the NGS can be sold at anywhere near that price, except, perhaps, for a limited number of peak hours during the summer.

A buyout proposal by Chicago-based Middle River Power assumes NGS could sell electricity at $26.84 per MWh, less than one-half of what Tucson Electric has projected it would cost to produce NGS power. Such a price is achievable and sustainable only if production costs are curtailed drastically.

To get where it needs to be profit-wise, Middle River or any other owner would have to lay off workers and cut wages and benefits for remaining employees at the plant. Miners at Kayenta Coal Mine, which supplies the plant, likely would be similarly affected. Running the plant on a mostly seasonal basis, during peak-demand summer months, as the prospective owners apparently have discussed, could push many current full-time workers into part-time positions.

The second trick to keeping NGS financially viable after 2019 is that the new owners will have to achieve “revenue certainty.” That is, they will want to have an ironclad agreement in place to ensure they will get high enough prices for their electricity to turn a profit.

There’s actually a third way to keep the plant going – but it would require a huge government bailout, something that does not seem likely given the pushback from coal rivals like natural gas and renewable energy suppliers.

Beyond the near future, it’s doubtful that: 1.) production costs can be cut enough to make the plant profitable for more than a few years; 2.) customers can be found who are willing to tie themselves to a purchase agreement for power from NGS. Remember, natural gas prices are low and expected to remain low for a long time. Solar and wind prices are dropping, and renewable-generated electricity is on the rise.

The bottom line is that Middle River has little chance of generating a profit on NGS without a big bailout from the government or the Arizona Corporation Commission, which would require Arizona Public Service (the biggest utility in the state) or Tucson Electric to buy expensive power from NGS. The latter seems improbable, if only because such a move would drive electric rates up statewide.

Barring all that, one other troublesome scenario that could occur is a Navajo Nation takeover of plant operations, or a Navajo Nation move to hire someone else to run the plant on its behalf. This would require the Navajo Nation to absorb the difference between the cost of producing power at NGS and the prices at which it can be sold. It would very likely be a fiscal disaster.

Say the Navajo government were to take over the plant and was able to cut production costs to $45 per MWh from the $56-$57 range that Tucson Electric forecasts (a 20 percent reduction, which would be possible only if severe cuts were made). And say that average peak period energy prices will be $35 per MWh in 2020. That still would mean a $10 loss on every MWh sold and a $100 million loss every year given the plant generates and sells 10 million MWh of power.

Market conditions suggest an economic disaster any way you cut it, and one that would cause pain for workers, miners and other members of the Nation.

There are sensible ways to invest in a region in need of federal attention on many levels. This is not one of them. – David Schlissel, Institute for Energy Economic

and Financial Analysis, via email

Four lanes are better than two
08/02/2018

To the editor,

What must the citizens of Durango and Bayfield, and points in-between, do to get CDOT to four lane Hwy 160 between these two cities? It’s way overdue.

– Wade Nelson, Durango