Soap Box

Carbon dividends gain momentum

To the editor,

Earth Day, April 22, is a reminder of the power inherent in grassroots movements to make dramatic changes that improve our lives.

Young or old, Americans across the country are facing the existential threat of climate change. Their message: We want major climate action, we want both parties on board, and now is the time. Solutions must come in the form of policy, given the scope of the problem. As Congress understands that regular Americans are clamoring for climate action, more and more members are getting on board with a bipartisan climate solution in the House: The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which has gained the support of 27 co-sponsors. The bill is effective at reducing emissions, good for people and good for the economy.

And the grassroots momentum hasn’t only moved Congress. It has moved major institutions in American life. The Presbyterian Church, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Evangelical Environmental Network have all issued supportive statements about this climate legislation. More than a dozen newspapers across the country have written editorials endorsing the legislation. Groups like Trout Unlimited and Protect Our Winters, which understand the vital role outdoor recreation plays in Americans’ lives, have vocally supported the bill.

I invite our three congressmen to support The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act: Sen. Cory Gardner, Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Scott Tipton. I invite the public to a free Earth Day Celebration to learn more on Sun., April 28, 5 p.m. at the Durango Arts Center.

– Adele Riffe, Hesperus

Sending tax dollars out of state?

To the editor,

There is a rumor that the La Plata County commissioners are getting ready to ask the taxpayers to vote in November for a tax increase. Well, before they will get my vote, they must answer this question: Why are they paying more than $100,000 of our tax dollars plus very expensive tax benefits for her family for a La Plata County financial officer, Diane Sorensen, who now lives full-time in Minnesota? She does not spend our tax dollars here in our county. Those tax dollars and benefits are spent in Minnesota – Diane is costing taxpayers money. Do we actually need this job if this person being paid for doing it lives hundreds of miles away? Why are the county commissioners allowing this outrageous waste of our tax money?

I will not support a tax increase when I know the county commissioners have not done their best to look out for the best interests of La Plata County taxpayers.

Is anyone investigating this situation?

– Susan Troen, Durango

Editor’s note: We contacted Megan Graham, La Plata County public affairs officer. According to Graham, Sorensen, the county’s finance director, moved to Minnesota in late October for family reasons. The county made the decision to allow Sorenson to work remotely in order to ensure continuity during a time of transition, including the departure of County Manager Joanne Spina, and the fact that it was the beginning of the county’s budget season. Graham said she is not sure what the long-term plan will be – that’s a decision to be made by Spina’s newly appointed replacement, Chuck Stevens.

KCEC: lower prices & better future

To the editor,

La Plata Electric Association candidates Jack Turner, Jeff Mannix and Holly Metzler are proposing that we pursue cheaper electricity prices; read on, then please vote for them. Those of us whose electricity bills soared this past winter are open to information and options, because we can’t afford to keep paying more.

According to John Adams (our second president) “facts are stubborn things.” Here are a few facts (see online version for footnotes), but please do your own research about the important issue of energy use.

Blended wholesale rates from LPEA’s current electricity provider Tri-State have doubled since 2000 (an increase 2.5 times the rate of inflation) from $35.40/MWh (megawatt-hour) to roughly $74/MWh1.

“Tri-State G&T is now charging up to 212 percent more for electricity than nearby wholesale competitors in the same region,” according to a study2 by The Western Way, which notes that “even higher electricity rate increases for rural consumers appear inevitable.” Tri-State’s primary fuel source – coal – increasingly cannot compete with cheaper technologies3. Unfortunately, the contract the LPEA Board signed with Tri-State allows unlimited rate increases until the year 2050. On the open market, far less expensive fixed-rate contracts are available – like the one signed by Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) in Taos with Guzman Energy.

After many years of accepting increases to our electric bills, in 2018 our LPEA Board finally stepped up to its obligation to provide us co-op members with the cheapest rates by studying alternative vendor options. But amazingly, there’s pushback: some folks claim that our rates will somehow skyrocket if we change to a cheaper vendor. Others insist that our change model, KCEC, is racked with rate increases and pending bankruptcy after their switch to open market vendor Guzman Energy. Are these facts, or falsehoods? Well, let’s have a look.

According to the recent report of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis4 “the power purchase agreement with Guzman immediately led to lower annual wholesale electric prices for KCEC: $67.25 per megawatt-hour (MWh), a 15 percent drop from the $79.17/MWh Tri-State had charged the co-op the year before.” This $67.25/MWh rate includes a debt payment KCEC owed Tri-State for exiting their contract. When it’s paid off, their rates with Guzman will fall to a fixed average around $47/MWh from 2022-26. KCEC is not facing bankruptcy nor experiencing rate hikes; quite the reverse. KCEC is paying less, headed down, while LPEA’s $74/MWh is headed up in contract with Tri-State.

Freed from Tri-State’s contract prohibition on community generation, KCEC is busy installing 35MW of solar generation, which will drop their prices even further when equipment is paid off. LPEA enjoys the same premium solar potential, but our Tri-State contract prohibits further community solar.

The U.S. government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has partnered with KCEC to create a template to help co-ops follow KCEC’s path away from unsustainable high-priced contracts (like LPEA’s). The template will assist co-ops in developing their own community-owned generation facilities, create jobs and dramatically lower prices. KCEC is one of just nine teams selected to participate in this “Solar Energy Innovation Network”5.

Thank you, KCEC, for your bold leadership. Reader, do your research, share this please and vote.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango


1source: LPEA staff via email.





Zero suicide: more than just hope

To the editor,

I’ll start out my letter with a question: How many of you who are reading this know someone who has attempted or died by suicide? I suspect there was a lot of head nodding, some anguish, some tears, much grief, constant worry and a whole lot of questioning why this happened. Why did 1,175 Coloradans die from suicide in 2017? A simple question with many complicated answers. The gut-wrenching statistic in our state is that suicide is the leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds, and we have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. It is estimated that up to 50 percent of those who die by suicide have seen a primary care provider within the previous month. Thirty percent have seen a behavior health provider within the previous month.

In 1999, The Henry Ford Medical Group in Detroit implemented a “Zero Suicide Prevention” system of care within their Department of Behavior Health Services, which was named the “Blues Busters.” The plan had lofty goals: screen everyone using an evidence-based screening tool, then determine who is at risk for self-harm or suffering from other behavioral issues, such as depression or anxiety. Their protocols also included an integrated and coordinated system of care that also emphasized evidence-based therapies.

The results were astounding, and within a few years, the system was implemented within their primary care departments. From 1999-2009, they had an 80 percent reduction in suicides including zero suicides in 2009. The North Central Health Care System in Wisconsin, which cares for 10,000 lives, saw zero suicides in 2015 following implementation of a similar system.

In 2016, Colorado Senate Bill 16-147 passed, which allowed for the creation of a Colorado suicide prevention model based on the Zero Suicide model. Regretfully, there were no funds appropriated for this bill.

Zero Suicide is more than just a hope. I urge all of you to call or e-mail our Joint Budget Committee members and ask them to approve funding for this important first step.

– Dr. Jonathan Gordon, Mental Health Colorado Board of Directors

Leaders need to act on climate

To the editor,

In the summer of 2018, we watched as smoke filled the skies, and the San Juan Mountains were scarred by the 416 Fire. As our climate warms and dries, wildfires become more common and more destructive. But not everyone is alarmed; some see aggressive oil and gas development as a priority despite voluminous scientific accounts of it accelerating and exacerbating climate change. In Durango, we rely on tourists coming to enjoy the outdoors, so it is imperative that we put nothing above our health, safety and environmental protections.

Wildfires have become more prevalent and our precipitation is highly variable. It is up to states like Colorado to take action and address the most important issue of our time. We have the opportunity to not only address a changing climate, but improve our quality of life and protect our planet. There is time to act and that time is now.

Thankfully our Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is someone who agrees we need to act. As a conservation champ, she has the chance to act by urging her counterparts Sens. Donovan and Coram, to vote yes on SB 181, so that she will have the opportunity for the same yes vote in the House. This will be a small but important step in the right direction to prioritize our health, safety and environment over the profits of the oil and gas industry. Thank you Rep. McLachlan for starting to tackle the problem of our generation!

– Kara Armaro, Durango