Soap Box

Medicare for All is not radical idea
05/02/2019

To the editor,

Can you really keep your health insurance?

A frequent message in the media is that people don’t want to give up their employer-sponsored health insurance. Is this industry spin or a reality?

Let’s look at the facts. Based on an analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 66 million people lose their job each year through quitting, firing, lay-offs or life circumstances. That is almost half of the population (44 percent of workers).

When they lose their jobs, they often lose their health insurance.

On top of that, this study from the University of Michigan finds that changing insurance each year is common in the United States.

In other words, people “lose” their health insurance commonly. Some end up uninsured. Others scramble to find a job that offers benefits or a plan they can afford. For people with ongoing health conditions, this can be very disruptive to their care.

Would people be willing to “give up” their health insurance for national improved Medicare for All, knowing they would have it for the rest of their lives? The Fox News Town Hall recently provides insight into that answer.

There was a resoundingly positive response from Republicans, Democrats, independents and conservatives. Medicare for All is not a radical idea. Thirty other industrialized countries have been using some form of this for over 60 years. The U.S. is radical in that we have 30 million Americans without any health insurance and 41 million who have insurance but can’t afford their deductibles.

– Cyndi Ortman, Durango

Mannix will work for lower rates
04/25/2019

To the editor,
If you care about rising electric bills and future economic development in our county, you should vote for Jeff Mannix in the LPEA election. Jeff will work for lower rates, local economic development and greater energy independence.

Currently, LPEA is bound by a contract to Tri-State that will not expire for 31 years! Tri-State is a coal-driven power company, and our contract limits the amount of power we can buy from alternate energy sources to 5 percent. That 5 percent is almost maxed out.

As the rest of the world moves away from coal to safer, cleaner, renewable energy sources are we going to spend the next 31 years tied to an archaic, environmentally damaging energy source?

In a county that boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, we shouldn’t live with a contract that restricts individuals and businesses from developing solar energy. Think of the economic development that would be realized without this restriction. Some serious work needs to be done to alter this dead-end direction we are headed in.

The solutions are not simple but they are available. Working toward those solutions are the only reasonable, fiscally responsible actions to take.

I trust Jeff Mannix to study the issues, find solutions and make prudent financial and environmental decisions. Please vote for Jeff Mannix.

– Antonia Clark, Durango

Shedding light on electricity facts
04/25/2019

To the editor,

Lorraine Trenholm appears to be stuck in the past. In her letter to the editor, she asserts that Kit Carson Electric Co-op is “in default and forcing rate increases on its members” due to buying out its contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Actually, KCEC’s “technical default” began in 2014, well before they left Tri-State. This was primarily due to the closure of its largest customer, the Questa molybdenum mine. Based on their 2014 financials, KCEC requested a rate increase from the NM Public Regulatory Commission, which was granted in 2016. This is documented in articles by the Santa Fe New Mexican and the Taos News, published in 2016 and available online.

She also points out that if La Plata Electric Association leaves Tri-State, we will have to pay for usage of their transmission lines. But we already do! As she says, it’s included in our rates; it’s not free. If we pay less for power and the transmission charge remains the same, our overall bills will be lower. The directors who are exploring the possibility of leaving Tri-State are looking to lower rates over the long term and will not lock us into a contract with worse terms than what we’re paying now.

We need directors for LPEA who look to the future, not ones who are stuck in the past. Vote for Jack Turner in District 4, or for Jeff Mannix in District 2.

– Laurie Roberts, Bayfield

Tri-State attacking Clean Air Act
04/25/2019

To the editor,

Press reports have surfaced recently showing that Tri-State and other large coal-burning power companies have funneled large sums – $7.8 million in 2017 and up to $8.8 million in 2018 – to a D.C.-based, “K” Street firm to lobby the EPA to gut the Clean Air Act. Current EPA officials charged with enforcing the act were, in 2017, senior partners in this lobbying firm. Indeed, one of these officials was paid $2.1 million that year for his lobbying  immediately before he left for the EPA to oversee Clean Air Act implementation.

It also bears noting that Tri-State and the others used a secretive group in the hope they could hide from the public their sizable funding and lobbying efforts.

Congress has now gotten involved in this obvious  conflict of interest. On April 11, the House Energy Committee told Tri-State and the other utilities to identify the source of their funding and to “explain how your substantial annual contributions ... are consistent with your obligations to ratepayers.” Tri-State must respond by April 25.

This is an important development. But Congress’ focus understandably is on the allegations of unethical behavior by EPA officials. There is a much more important concern to us locals – namely that Tri-State has been using our money to gut the Clean Air Act. This is not acceptable, and Tri-State’s actions do not reflect LPEA values.

LPEA cannot sit on the sidelines and do nothing. After all, Tri-State is itself a cooperative and must act consistent with the wishes of LPEA and its other member-owners. LPEA should therefore take three steps in response to this development:

1. Its Board should hold a vote to confirm LPEA’s continuing support of the Clean Air Act. I expect this Board vote will be unanimous. After all, how could any Colorado resident vote against the Clean Air Act?

2. With fellow rural coops, LPEA should form a special committee to investigate and audit all the money Tri-State has spent (and continues to spend) for its own political agenda – and then fix Tri-State’s gross misuse of our money.

3. Finally, LPEA should file a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The PUC in the Delta-Montrose complaint case, as recently as April 1, reaffirmed that it has regulatory authority to consider complaints alleging that Tri-State has engaged in an unjust and unreasonable practice. Unquestionably, Tri- State’s use of LPEA’s money (which, in turn, is our money) to gut the Clean Air Act constitutes a clear violation of State law that prohibits Tri-State from engaging in an unjust or unreasonable practice.

– Jeff Bork, Durango (This letter was prepared from the sources cited in two articles written recently by Joe Smyth of the Clean Cooperative, see https://www.cleancooperative.com.)

Sparking a Bears Ears conversation
04/25/2019

To the editor,

This is the time of year, as the saying goes, when license plates in Utah turn green. So many of us in Durango cherish the Bears Ears country just across the state line. There’s something special about that vast landscape of stone and sky. I can only imagine how personal that connection is for native peoples to whom it has always been home.

Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, is coming to the Durango Public Library on Tues., May 7, at 7 p.m. to speak about Bears Ears, her experience on the Intertribal Coalition that helped form the national monument in 2016, and the legal battle to reverse the Trump Administration’s efforts to break that treaty.

Lopez-Whiteskunk says she hopes to spark a conversation with the audience on the nature of tribal sovereignty and the use of public lands. She will be joined by fellow Coalition member Alfred Lomahquahu, of the Hopi Tribe. Indivisible Durango and Great Old Broads for Wilderness are proud to sponsor this event, and we welcome your attendance and questions.

– Clint McKnight, Durango