April 7 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Hickenlooper calls CDPHE refocusing away from CPP a ’shell game’, unloads on EPA ozone rule; ‘carbon tax’ defeated in Carbondale

Less than two weeks after Gov. John Hickenlooper told Colorado Public Radio “we don’t care what the Supreme Court says about the Clean Power Plan”, calling for continued planning for the Environmental Protection Agency’s embattled rule currently under a stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Democrat initially appeared to be walking back his initial disregard for the country’s highest judicial body:

Gov. John Hickenlooper said he’s willing to temporarily halt state work on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan if that would defuse an effort to strip funding from the agency developing the plan.

“I’m happy to have them stop working on it if that’s a problem, if that becomes a partisan issue,” Hickenlooper told a CPR reporter after a lunch hosted by the American Petroleum Institute.

But the easing on Hickenlooper’s view of the work being done by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment–dismissive of any SCOTUS intervention via a stay–was itself walked back, as he at first acknowledged that the state could work on its already existing regulatory mandates to achieve similar goals to the Clean Power Plan, but said that any such maneuver would be nothing more than a “shell game”:

“We’re doing the same work anyway,” said Hickenlooper. “I don’t think it would hurt our efforts if we were to reallocate some of that time in other directions. I mean, in the end, we’re going to get to the same place.”

Hickenlooper said state policy and laws, including the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act passed in 2010, already require Colorado to reduce carbon emissions from coal fired power plants.

“Our goals were very aggressive goals, and they are not the same, but they are very similar to what the Clean Power Plan wants,” he said at the gathering.

The governor clarified his comments Wednesday, dismissing the idea that suspending work on the Clean Power Plan would have much real world impact on the state’s clean air efforts.

“I look at the whole thing as ridiculous, to be perfectly blunt,” Hickenlooper told reporters at a regular press gathering. “It’s like a shell game of who’s doing which work. We’re working toward clean air, that’s what the state’s doing, that’s what people want us to do. We can get into … semantical battles over this thing, but it’s pretty straightforward.”

When it comes to Hickenlooper’s pronouncements on any number of issues, including this one, it’s usually never “pretty straightforward.”

Hickenlooper, just days ago, attempted to cast a non-partisan tenor to the debate over the Clean Power Plan:

Gov. John Hickenlooper also defended the new air quality rules at an event hosted by the Colorado Petroleum Institute.

“Clean air is too important to Colorado to become a partisan issue,” he said. “I am convinced as much as I ever have been that this is in the self-interest of the state.”

Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, disagreed with Hickenlooper’s assessment.

“We look at the Clean Power Plan as it’s unnecessary to regulate as trying to pick favorite energy forums,” Gerard said.

Hickenlooper’s soft spot for the Clean Power Plan did not hold him back from being critical of the EPA’s ozone rule, which he said risked the “possibility that there will be penalties eventually that will come from lack of compliance.” He also blasted a Democrat bill that would allow for more lawsuits over damage caused by earthquakes that allege a connection to oil and gas development, as well as a ballot measure that would create a 2500 foot setback, saying that it would deprive mineral rights owners of their property–a taking that could cost billions.

***

Energy in Depth has more on Hickenlooper’s statement on the ballot initiative that would create 2500 foot setbacks:

Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, is speaking out against an initiative backed by ‘ban-fracking’ activists to dramatically increase oil and gas setback distances in the state. The comments came at an event yesterday sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Colorado Petroleum Council (CPC) featuring the governor and API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

When asked about the ballot initiative pushed by activists with strong ties to national ban fracking organizations, that would increase oil and gas setback distances to 2500 feet, Hickenlooper strongly denounced the effort. As reported by CBS Denver:

“That would be considered a taking, and I think the state would probably be judged responsible, and I think the cost could be in the many billions of dollars. I think that’s a risk that most Coloradans — if it was laid out for them in a sense they could clearly understand — would not support it.”

Hickenlooper’s assertion that the initiative could cost the state billions is backed up by a recent economic assessment from the Business Research Division at University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. Economists found that a 2,000 foot setback distance could cost the state up to $11 billion in lost GDP a year and 62,000 jobs. The 2,000 foot setback economists looked at is more modest than the 2,500 foot distance that activists are attempting to put before state voters this year.

Those mineral rights are worth billions of dollars to Coloradans and fill the coffers of counties and other entities annually to the tune of millions in property and severance taxes.

***

A thinly disguised attempt to ban fracking under the ruse of “local control” failed in the Colorado House on Monday:

Activist groups have not been shy about the fact that they see “local control” as a de facto ban on fracking. On a recent call with supporters, Tricia Olson of Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED), the group behind a series of ballot initiatives targeting energy development, even told the group that their “local control” measure is basically a “full-fledged” fracking ban:

“This version however has one significant difference, what we would call a floor, not a ceiling language. To lift its points, it authorizes local governments to pass regulations — prohibit, limit or impose moratoriums on oil and gas development. Of course the word prohibit means ban. This allows for a broad range of local government options within their jurisdictions from local actions to a full-fledged ban.” (23:14-23:44)

EID detailed the “local control” proponents’ misinformation campaign to push the measure. Two Democrats joined with Republicans to kill the bill on the floor of the Colorado House.

***

Speaking of fracking–a non-partisan study “found no definitive evidence” that hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas development has negatively affected property values in Colorado.

And former Gov. Bill Ritter–you know–of the “New Energy Economy” and a paragon of all things green (dubbed the “Greenest Governor”), rejected a national ban on fracking:

“If you passed a national ban, this industry would go away and it would be harder for us to get to our place of transition on clean energy and climate.”

“I believe that with a good set of regulations, with good enforcement, with good compliance on the part of the industry, it [fracking for natural gas] can be a part of a clean energy future,” Ritter said.

Ritter and Hickenlooper, both Democrats, face opposition from their far-left counterparts when it comes to these types of calls for bans on responsible oil and gas development:

“We won’t transform the energy supplies of our nation overnight; there’s been rapid growth in solar and wind, but we’re a long way from saying we can walk away from hydrocarbons and not do significant damage to our economy,” Hickenlooper said.

“The number of people in Colorado who want to ban hydrocarbons is probably a small minority,” he said.

Gerard said the oil and gas sector will continue to play a significant role going forward, even through energy efficiency efforts focused on the automotive sector.

“When you look to make cars more energy efficient, you make them lighter with plastics brought to you by petroleum, you make the windows more efficient [with films] brought to you by petroleum, the gadgets you play with in your hand every day also come from petroleum,” he said.

As we can see, it’s not just about fracking, or burning oil and gas for electricity, as API’s president pointed out.

***

Hickenlooper continues to express deep concern about the EPA’s ozone rule, reducing the target for acceptable ground level ozone from 75 ppb to 70 ppb, saying a suspension of the rule “would be a great idea”:

Transcript of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone rule delivered to the Colorado Petroleum Council and the American Petroleum Institute on March 31, 2016 via the Center for Regulatory Solutions:

So I think it would be a great idea if they suspended the standard. I mean, just with the background [ozone], if you’re not going to be able to conform to a standard like this, you are leaving the risk or the possibility that there will be penalties of one sort or another that come from your lack of compliance. Obviously, no different than any business, states want to have as much predictability as possible, and I think if they suspend the standards, it’s not going to slow us down from continuing to try and make our air cleaner. …

You know, we’re a mile high. Air quality issues affect us more directly than they do at lower elevations. So we’re going to keep pushing it, we’re not going to back off, we’re going to continue to improve the air quality in the state every year if I have anything to say about it, but at the same time, those standards, you know, to be punitive when you’re working as hard as you can … to get cleaner air as rapidly as you can, it seems like it’s not the most constructive stance.

A bi-partisan chorus of opposition to the ozone rule has emerged, and Independence Institute energy policy analyst Simon Lomax notes that the rhetoric surrounding the ozone rule, and in particular, its potential impact on public health, is filled with fearmongering from the “bad-air chorus.”

Lomax testified before CDPHE last month on the ozone rule:

The nature of the problem is clear. The EPA’s new ozone standard goes too far. It will throw large areas of the state into long-term violation of federal law. Violation will impose new restrictions on economic growth and jeopardize badly needed investments in transportation infrastructure.

And because the stringent new standard approaches background ozone levels, which state regulators are powerless to control, there will be little, if any, environmental benefit in return. For months, stakeholders from across government, across the political spectrum and across the economy have stated and restated the problem. But admiring the complexity of the problem won’t solve it.

Notably, the ozone rule would attack the “bridge” fuel, namely natural gas, that the earlier versions of the Clean Power Plan envisaged would get the nation from a fossil fuel fleet to one primarily composed of renewables. Between the attempts to ban fracking, the leap made by the final Clean Power Plan that pushes almost exclusively for renewables, and the ozone rule’s affect on oil and gas development (emissions are a key component to create ground level ozone), the stage has been set for an onslaught of anti-oil and gas regulation that would devastate Colorado’s economy.

Colorado faces geographical and topographical challenges with any ground-level ozone measurements due to elevated background ozone levels, as Hickenlooper pointed out. Anthropogenic emissions in other states and Mexico and as far away as Asia (China), wildfires, atmospheric intrusions, and our elevation combine to bring levels of background ozone to the state that can’t simply be regulated away.

***

From the “excellent news” category–carbon tax gets shot down in Carbondale, 61 to 39 percent:

For the so called “carbon tax,” 1,022 voters cast ballots against, while only 637 Carbondale residents voted in favor.

And with more than $3,000 in contributions, the committee supporting the carbon tax raised and spent more money than any single candidate for the board of trustees.

The climate action tax proposed to increase residents’ gas and electric bills in an attempt to promote clean energy projects and reduce energy usage in keeping with the town’s 2020 energy goals.

The climate tax would have been applied uniformly across town, with one set of rates for residents and another for business owners.

Supporters of the carbon tax had estimated that the average household’s utility bills would go up $5 to $7, and the average business would see a $10 to $30 increase.

This carbon/climate action tax would have just added more misery to Colorado’s already skyrocketing electricity rates.

Huisman: CDPHE plows ahead; implementation model ignores cost of Clean Power Plan

On Monday February 22nd, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) held a public meeting to discuss the status of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which the U.S. Supreme Court officially stayed on February 9th.

The agenda for this previously scheduled meeting was modified in order to address the recent developments of both the CPP stay, and the CDHPE’s statement in response, which was posted the very next day.  In short, Colorado will essentially pursue CPP goals as if the stay never happened, while the states surrounding Colorado have put it on hold while the legal process plays out.

The 90-minute meeting consisted of a brief presentation by APCD deputy director, Chris Colclasure, followed by a Q & A and public testimony.  Mr. Colclasure began by discussing public comments already received by his office, which were overwhelmingly in support of the CPP, including over 500 form-emails from nationally organized campaigns.

Colclasure defended CDPHE’s position to move forward on CPP emission goals, stating that his department will “take actions that have benefits regardless of the litigation,” because despite the legal process, “climate change remains a critical issue.”  However, these purported benefits remain subjective, and are disputed by many stakeholders.

What analytical use is it to know a presumed benefit without knowing about its life-partner, cost?  The CDPHE is conducting, a benefit analysis (and acting on it), rather than conducting a cost-benefit analysis.  Colclasure stated in his presentation that they “hope” to model potential costs.  The private sector metaphor here is a borrower going to a lender and saying, “lend me money for a house, because I hope to be able to afford my mortgage.”  But in this case, the taxpayers are the ones being recklessly put at risk.

That isn’t a stretch.  Energy Strategies and the Center for the New Energy Economy produced a model used by APCD to evaluate the CPP, but this model was never built to consider costs.  During Monday’s public meeting, Mr. Colclasure admitted that the above companies have the ability to build a cost-inclusive model, but they were specifically contracted to not include costs in their modeling.

About 15 people spoke during the public testimony period, the majority of which supported the CPP, proving that the extreme environmental movement is well funded and well organized.  Local, state, and national groups were represented, some even claiming the CPP doesn’t go far enough, and that environmental racism and injustice is not adequately addressed.

The testimony that did not support the CPP was moderate by comparison.  Representatives from the Colorado Energy Consumers and the Colorado Mining Association requested that given the gift of time resulting from the stay, cost modeling, including probable job losses and ratepayer increases, be a priority in the coming months.

The CDPHE has demonstrated that it is unlikely to model the almost certainly heavy costs of the CPP, let alone reconsider implementing it.  Colclasure spoke with certainty about the inevitability of carbon dioxide regulations, be they from the CPP or some other avenue.  By all appearances, extreme and economically unsound environmental regulations are a runaway train in Colorado.

Sarah Huisman is an Independence Institute Future Leader, and Master’s student at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government.

Abound Solar’s connections to $400 million

September 25, 2011 by Amy · Comments Off
Filed under: Archive, New Energy Economy 

This column appeared originally on Townhall Finance.

Crony capitalism Abound: anatomy of a taxpayer-guaranteed loan

By Amy Oliver Cooke

By now it’s obvious that the Solyndra scandal never should have happened.  It’s not even a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. A number of people involved could see the disaster coming.

There is a larger principle here. Government should not use taxpayer money to socialize risk while privatizing profits. Examples such as Colorado-based Abound Solar, which received a $400 million loan guarantee, prove that crony capitalism simply rewards the well connected at taxpayer expense.

Abound Solar

Abound Solar, according to its Web site, “produces next-generation thin-film cadmium telluride solar modules” and “is committed to reducing the cost of solar electricity to levels competitive with fossil fuels.”

It is the brainchild of former Colorado State University (CSU) Professor W.S. Sampath and two former students Kurt Barth and Al Enzenroth.  It began as AVA Solar and then incorporated into Abound in 2007.

The Web site says it employs 350 people in three Colorado locations.  Its Colorado manufacturing plant is located in Weld County, which granted Abound up to $100,000 per year for the next ten years in business property tax rebates.  According to sources, the reason for the rebate was job creation intended to benefit Weld County residents. Yet when officials and interested parties ask how many of the 350 jobs have gone to Weld County residents, the solar company does not answer.

Currently Abound has a manufacturing capacity of 65 megawatts expanding to 850 megawatts – at some point. However, in 2010 it manufactured only 30 megawatts. One wonders, if Abound can produce more, why doesn’t it?

The Web site does say it is “growing,” and news reports claim the company plans to add anywhere from 850 to 1,000 employees thanks to a $400 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan Abound received in July 2010.  The taxpayer cash is so it can expand its manufacturing capabilities to a facility in Tipton, Indiana. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation “extended up to $11.85 million in tax credits and $250,000 in training grants” as well.

Abound Solar further claims $260 million in private investments, part of which came from billionaire medical heiress Pat Stryker’s Bohemian Companies.  This is where the story gets interesting.

Thanks to Independence Institute investigative reporter Todd Shepherd, we still have access to the Web page that lists Bohemian as an investor even though it does not appear on the company’s current Web site. The exact amount that Stryker has given is not public at this time. Also, CSU and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are listed as funding resources.

Total public and private monies equal $673,100,000. Assuming Abound can “create” some 1,350 jobs, that is $498,593 per job, of which $360,000 comes from public coffers.

However, Abound’s Indiana manufacturing facility is not scheduled to open until 2013 or 2014, which seems like a long time to wait to “create” jobs and turn a profit.

As a comparison, the Denver Bronco’s stadium cost $364 million to build of which 68 percent was publicly financed.  With a yes vote from taxpayers in November 1998, construction began in August 1999 and was completed in September 2001.

This is not an endorsement of publicly funded professional sports facilities but rather an assumption that the Broncos management didn’t want a disruption in cash flow that could come from the inconvenience of a lengthy construction project.

I asked Abound if the company is still on track for a 2013 expansion and received no response. For most companies, time means money except in solar panels.

Pat Stryker

Forbes lists medical heiress and founder of Bohemian Companies/Foundation Pat Stryker as number 331 of its top “400 Richest People in America.” Worth $1.3 billion, the Fort Collins resident could single-handedly fund Abound Solar and still be well above the poverty line.

While some of her fortune has gone to Abound Solar, she also has chosen to donate more than $2.2 million (probably a low figure) to Democrats and their causes over the last several election cycles. Beneficiaries include Barack Obama, one-term Congresswoman and Fort Collins resident Betsy Markey, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar when he successfully ran for U.S. Senate in Colorado.

Stryker is also a charter member of the notorious “gang of four” which changed the political landscape in Colorado through an organization called the Colorado Democracy Alliance (CoDA).  Their success was titled the “Colorado Miracle” and is being replicated in other states.

Congresswoman Betsy Markey

With the help from Stryker in 2008, Markey beat incumbent republican Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado’s conservative 4th Congressional District.  Abound Solar, Pat Stryker, and Colorado State University are all in the 4th CD. Between 2008 and 2010 election cycles, CSU employees also donated nearly $27,000 to Markey’s campaigns.

When the Waxman-Markey (named for Congressmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey) cap and trade bill, which included a national renewable energy standard, came up for a vote, Congresswoman Markey danced around the issue for weeks because it wasn’t a popular bill in the 4th CD. Ultimately she voted “yes.”

In an interview on my radio show following the vote, Markey cited “green jobs” as one of her reasons.  What she didn’t cite was her relationship to Pat Stryker and Abound Solar or the $2,000 campaign contribution she received from Henry Waxman the night before the vote.

Shortly after the vote, Abound Solar was part of a group that helped pay for TV ads thanking Markey for saying yes to Waxman’s bill. Todd Shepherd exposed the politically incestuous relationship and suggested:

[T]he connections between Representative Betsy Markey (D, CO-4), billionaire heiress Pat Stryker, and Abound Solar, appear to have all of the fingerprints of the kind of pay-to-play agenda that has left many Americans wondering how they got stuck with unpopular bills such as cap and trade, formally known as Waxman-Markey (named after a different Markey).

Markey also urged the approval of Abound’s $400 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan. The Denver Business Journal reported, “Abound applied for the loan guarantee more than a year ago, and Markey and other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation pushed for approval.”

Colorado State University

Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, CSU fancies itself the “green” university:

“Colorado State University is internationally known for its green initiatives and clean-energy research including alternative fuels, clean engines, photovoltaics, “smart” grid technology, wind engineering, water resources, and satellite-based atmospheric monitoring and tracking systems. It’s also known as a “green” university for its sustainability efforts on campus and abroad.

Abound Solar founders got their start at CSU as the university bragged in a 2007 press release.

Stryker also has a connection to CSU, having donated millions to the university.  Furthermore, former CSU president Al Yates became Stryker’s mouthpiece and representative on CoDA. The Blueprint, a must-read book from Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer, details the Yates-Stryker relationship along with how democrats won control in Colorado.

Finally, CSU is home to the Center for the New Energy Economy headed by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, a renewable energy activist, and funded by private donations, a third of which came from Stryker’s Bohemian Foundation. Ritter now makes $300,000 to promote renewable energy throughout the country.

Governor Bill Ritter

With the help of CoDA and Pat Stryker, Democrat Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter won the 2006 Governor’s race. His one term legacy is the state’s New Energy Economy, 57 pieces of legislation to move the state from reliance on less costly on fossil fuels to renewables. Ritter is a true believer, an eco-evangelical, who signed laws mandating 30 percent renewable energy standards and fuel switching.

In April 2009, Governor Ritter hand-delivered two letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu who was touring NREL. One letter urged the Department of Energy to grant a $300 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan to Abound Solar:

This request for $300 million would allow [Abound Solar] to triple production capacity within 12 months, develop a second manufacturing facility within 18 months and hire an additional 1,000 employees.

Abound received $400 million in July 2010. By all accounts, the solar panel company will not meet Ritter’s original promise of triple capacity in a year and a new facility within 18 months. Just won’t happen that fast.

When Ritter left office in January 2011, he became the Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU and one of the highest paid administrators on campus, thanks to Stryker.

President Barack Obama

President Obama received $11,700 directly from Stryker and Joseph Zimlich, who is a director at Abound Solar and is also associated with Stryker’s Bohemian Foundation. No doubt Obama benefitted as well from Stryker’s donations to other democrat causes including Campaign Money Watch and Democrat White House Victory Fund.

In Obama’s weekly radio address on July 3, 2010, he announced an acceleration of “the transition to a clean energy economy and doubling our use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power – steps that have the potential to create whole new industries and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America.”

He said that Abound Solar:

will manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs.  A Colorado plant is already underway, and an Indiana plant will be built in what’s now an empty Chrysler factory.  When fully operational, these plants will produce millions of state-of-the-art solar panels each year.

That radio address was the formal announcement that Abound Solar received a $400 million loan guarantee courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. Taxpayers get the risk while individuals get the profit.

To recap, Abound Solar receives support from Pat Stryker and Colorado State University both of which fund and promote Congresswoman Betsy Markey. She in turn votes yes on Cap and Trade and urges the federal government to approve the Abound loan.

Abound Solar then contributes to TV ads thanking Markey for her yes vote on Cap and Trade.

Governor Bill Ritter hand delivers letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging the DOE to grant the loan guarantee.  When he decides not to run for a second term, he is offered a job at CSU, which is funded in part by Pat Stryker.

President Barack Obama benefitted from Pat Stryker’s political donations.  In July 2010, he announces a $400 million loan guarantee to Abound.

Can’t get a $400 million loan? Apparently you don’t know and fund the right people.

Amy Oliver Cooke is the director of the Colorado Transparency Project for the Independence Institute and writes on energy policy.  She can be reached at amy@i2i.org