SOS: 600,000 legal businesses in Colorado - Ranchland News not one of them

The Secretary of State of Colorado announced more than 600,000 businesses are registered in Colorado, but it seems the pirates at the Ranchland News are not among them.  Registration is legally required so that the State can assess taxes, and so that business owners can be held responsible for their criminal and civil wrongs.

Legal compliance is not in vogue here in Elbert County.  County Commissioner Kelly Dore was warned for practicing medicine without a license, County Commissioner Robert Rowland was found guilty of elections violations and abuse of public funds (and subsequently paid his fine with public funds)...

Triple counting refugees entering the EU leads to xenophobia

The refugee crisis in Europe is possibly half (or even one-third) as bad as it is being made out to be.  This, according to the officials responsible for counting the number of refugees entering the EU.
Frontex, the border agency charged with European external border management, has released data claiming 710,000 migrants entered the EU between January and September this year.  According to the agency, this represents an “unprecedented inflow of people”, offering as a comparison data from last year, when 282,000 entries were recorded in total.
However, people who arrive in Greece are counted by Frontex as crossing EU external borders. The very same people, however, then leave the EU into countries such as Albania, Macedonia and Serbia, only to reenter via Hungary or Croatia in order to reach their preferred destination (such as Germany). If for any reason an EU country returns the people to a transit country (as Hungary has been doing with neighbour Serbia) and make another crossing into the EU, they appear in Frontex data for the third time.  “Monthly figure includes all detections @ EU external borders. People arriving in Greece would again be counted entering Hungary,” Fontex said in a statement on their twitter page on October 13, 2015.
Fontex then became aware that their double (or triple) counting refugees was resulting in xenophobic policies – and issued a corrective statement.  “a large number of the people who were counted when they arrived in Greece were again counted when entering the EU for the second time through Hungary or Croatia.”

Despite this clarification and its admission that a “large number” of people have been double counted, the headline of the press release remained the same – continuing to imply that 710,000 had entered the EU, and providing false grounds for xenophobic politicians to close borders.


by Aaron Brachfeld, Thornton, CO - - - Drilling for oil and gas development in residential backyards is becoming an increasingly common practice – even in large cities, like Thornton, Colorado.  Neighborhoods affected are organizing politically against the mining.  One of these organizations is the Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability NOW (ACCDAN).
Organized to protect the suburb of Wadley Farms and the middle school that is situated near to the proposed oil and gas development, the group has become frustrated by the lack of response from their efforts to have implemented the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force Recommendation Nos. 17 and 20 issued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) late on October 6. “We are extremely disappointed. After working with the county and the operator to postpone siting negotiations until after the new COGCC rules were implemented, we now discover the draft rules offer those of us in Wadley Farms no protection whatsoever,” ACCDAN Board President Jacky Kowalsky said. “These rules contain no additional minimum setback for oil and gas wells drilled within neighborhoods, they contain no additional required mitigations for wells in neighborhoods and they provide no voice in the process for the people who will have to live with large oil and gas facilities in their backyard.”
In addition, ACCDAN is concerned that the draft rules appear to intentionally exclude counties (such as Adams County) from the new rules that require oil and gas operators to inform cities, but not counties, of their five-year plans for the area. “We are amazed that the COGCC appears to be working to deny counties the ability to do comprehensive planning with the oil and gas industry.” ACCDAN is particularly concerned that Synergy’s 20-well industrial oil and gas well facility proposed for a site at 140th Avenue and Franklin Street in the middle of a residential neighborhood surrounded by Thornton has just been given “the green light” with the new state rulemaking, Kowalsky said. “This site is one of the most egregious examples of a huge oil and gas facility in a neighborhood in Colorado, and these draft rules do nothing to protect us. The potential precedent this location sets for Colorado has long-term ramifications for not only our community, but the entire state.”
“ACCDAN firmly believes that large scale oil and gas facilities such as the one being proposed by Synergy for Wadley Farms do not belong in any neighborhood,” Kowalsky said. “The intention of the Task Force recommendation was to require operators to look for locations away from homes and neighborhoods. These draft rules would essentially allow them to drill anywhere they want – without regard for the needs of the community.”
ACCDAN says that their goal is to prevent the location of oil and gas developments near homes and neighborhoods in Adams County while still allowing for responsible extraction of oil and gas. ACCDAN was established on August 15, 2015, in response to Synergy’s proposal to drill 20 oil and gas wells at 140th Avenue and Franklin Street in the middle of a developed residential neighborhood known as Wadley Farms. In approximately six weeks, ACCDAN grew from a handful of members to more than 400 supporters. Synergy’s proposed 20- well site is located just 15 miles from downtown Denver and is surrounded on all four sides by the City of Thornton and the numerous suburbs, including Hunters Glenn, Quail Valley, Fallbrook Farms, Cherrywood Park, Signal Creek, and York Crossing.
Also, ACCDAN seeks to establish a minimum setback of 1,500 feet between any occupied residential structure and the boundary of large scale oil and gas facilities located within or adjacent to a neighborhood, a requirement for structured public involvement and comment periods and formal comment resolution for all siting and permitting aspects associated with large scale oil and gas facilities within or adjacent to a neighborhood – including the ability to request a hearing before the COGCC on the proposed facility, a clear definition of “large scale oil and gas facility” as any site where 3 or more oil and gas wells or other oil and gas site-related structures are located on one site, and a clear definition of the COGCC’s term “urban mitigation area” as any neighborhood comprised of multiple homes.

I had the opportunity to talk to ACCDAN’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Gamble, a resident of the area.

BRACHFELD - - - Why would you object to oil and gas development in a residential neighborhood?
ACCDAN - - - First to clarify, we are not against oil and gas development and there are currently a handful of wells spread across our communities, but what is being contemplated for this site is a 20-well large scale oil and gas facility with the character more like a major industrial plant. We object to large-scale oil and gas development in a residential neighborhood due to incompatibility of use and public safety aspects. ACCDAN strongly believes that placing a large scale oil and gas facility in a neighborhood is changing the character of that neighborhood and making it a de facto industrial area.  For most homeowners, their home is their most important asset - both emotionally and financially. We are also concerned about the increased industrial traffic on residential roads with school bus stops on them. We understand there will be tens of thousands of large truck trips associated with the project coming in and out of the neighborhood right past the bus stop. We believe that siting of large scale facility within an residential area simply should not even be contemplated. There are other alternative site locations and with technological advances there will come a time when these mineral rights will be accessible from even greater distances. We do not believe the safety and quality of life of Colorado's citizens should be compromised when viable alternatives exist today and continue to improve with time.

BRACHFELD - - - Why do you believe that the oil and gas development is dangerous when our government indicates that it is safe?
ACCDAN - - - We are not pretending to be experts in the safety of oil and gas development. I, for one, do not believe its impacts have been adequately studied and are unknown at this time so do not think someone could say with confidence one way or another. What we do know is that industrial truck traffic in a residential neighborhood is hazardous to our children and the drivers. We do know that industrial accidents can occur, even if the occurrence is considered a rarity by some, but within a community the impact to human health is higher. The government requires emergency response plans, Material Safety Data Sheets, arrangements with emergency responders and monitoring. If oil and gas was safe these things would not be required so there is some risk involved otherwise we would not have these aspects. There is risk of explosion, fire, and other industrial accident. The very sign on the fence says "DANGER" High Pressure Gas so Synergy is not telling you this is safe - they know there is a chance of explosion and telling you to stay away. We do know that the drilling and construction will create air pollution and particulates that are of danger to children and adults in our community that have asthma such as my son. What we do know is that the drilling creates noise pollution 24/7 for months and that is not the type of activity that should occur in a residential neighborhood. I cannot have a party with loud music after 10 p.m. because it disturbs the peace of the neighborhood or have a dog that barks, but they can drill 24/7 and keep our kids awake on school nights and somehow that is safe and acceptable. Risk is a relative and often involves an element of choice. We will have no choice in this matter. For those that are not impacted it is far to easy to say there is no risk and that it is safe.

BRACHFELD - - - How do you fairly argue that the owners of the petroleum cannot access their minerals?
ACCDAN - - - I think you have been misinformed about our organization. We fully support their right to access their minerals responsibly. They simply do not have to access this from a site within a neighborhood by drilling 20 wells on one spot. There are other locations that might be more suitable that area adjacent existing industrial areas, etc. where the minerals can be accessed from, it would just cost Synergy more money to do so. Although with the amount of public disruption these sites may begin looking more attractive to Synergy every day. There right is not the right to the cheapest option so they cannot be denied access and we do not want to deny them access, we just want them to identify an alternative site. Synergy is conducting an alternate site analysis right now and has a couple months left to go, but has already stated publicly there are no alternative sites. Not sure how you conclude that when your study is not done yet. Makes one question the study methodology which is why we are requesting independent assessment of the alternative site analysis.

BRACHFELD - - - Besides sound (which is planned to be mitigated) what deleterious effects from the wells are you anticipating?,
ACCDAN - - - Mitigation does not equate to elimination. Rest assured there will be noise pollution as a result of their 24/7 drilling which will impact the surrounding neighbors. While they will put in place a sound barrier wall, experience has shown that the walls are not effective and do not eliminate the vibration and sound impacts. So while it is very good that they will attempt to mitigate, these mitigations can only go so far to protect the health and quality of life of the citizens of Colorado. Other negative effects are: dust and particulates, huge volumes of industrial traffic, fumes from equipment and vehicles, impact to pets, animals and wildlife, increased industrial risk to our children and families, lack of sleep during 24/7 drilling operations, bright lights 24/7, basic and utter disruption to the peace of our community.  If your neighbor was doing any of these things you would call the police on them and they would be sited. This is not acceptable activity within a developed residential neighborhood.

BRACHFELD - - - What legal recourse do homeowners have for the damage to their property values, health and quality of life from the new wells?
ACCDAN - - - You would need to check with an attorney on that. From what we can tell we have no recourse for damage to property values or quality of life. We would love for someone to tell us otherwise though. If one of our children gets hit by a Synergy truck then we will have recourse. Other than that, health impacts from environmental hazards are extremely difficult to show causation so the likelihood of any compensation is next to none.  However we do have  the recourse of free speech, right to assembly, right to petition the government, and we can hold them to each and every minutia of requirement and technicality to make sure that the project proceeds in absolute 100% compliance with all applicable laws, etc.

BRACHFELD - - - Will any of the residents benefit from the new jobs these wells create?
ACCDAN - - - They would have the potential to benefit from new jobs whether they are created at 140th Avenue and Franklin or one mile from here at a site adjacent to a current industrial area not in the middle of a neighborhood so I think that is a moot point.

BRACHFELD - - - How responsive has Adams County Commissioners been?
ACCDAN - - - I think many of the commissioners have been responsive. We requested an Alternative Site Analysis and they asked Synergy to do one. We requested they postpone further action on the project until after Colorado concludes its rulemaking for large oil and gas facilities and they have announced publicly that they will do so. They have met with us on every request, attended and spoke at our meetings, answered our phone calls. Is it responsive enough, the future holds the answer to that question.

BRACHFELD - - - Why did the residents not expect oil and gas development in their residential neighborhood when the oil and gas rights did not belong to them?
ACCDAN - - - This is an interesting question. Perhaps you are not familiar with our neighborhood. We have oil and gas in our neighborhood and did not object when it came, but it is a few wells like what you see all over the place. This is not a few wells. This is different. We are not anti oil and gas, but we are pro common sense. Common sense would tell you that you do not put 20 oil and gas wells in the middle of a neighborhood. It is just absurd. If it was not so sad it would be funny.

BRACHFELD - - - Is oil and gas development permitted by zoning regulations?
ACCDAN - - - Zoning regulations cannot prevent oil and gas. As you indicated before and we agree, mineral right owners have the right to responsibly access their mineral rights. We do not seek to deny them access, we just want the access to be done responsibly in a way that does not endanger Colorado neighborhoods.

BRACHFELD - - - How will this disrupt the middle school it is so near to?
ACCDAN - - - The increased industrial traffic will pose an increased risk to school children. The increased dust and particulates will pose a respiratory risk to the school children in our neighborhood and at the bus stop on Franklin Street less than 1 block from the site. The increased light and noise will disrupt their sleep and study patterns.

BRACHFELD - - - What else should I have asked but didn't?
ACCDAN - - - I think you should be asking the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission why the proposed rules for large oil and gas facilities do not provide a minimum setback for those facilities, why the proposed rules contain no specific mitigations, why the proposed rules deny Counties a voice in the process, why the proposed rules are not protective of the citizens of Colorado.

My interview with COGCC will follow in this series.

Elder abuse: unfortunately, every vote counts

     It is a responsible choice that some elders have made to give up driving: when a person’s eyesight, hearing and reactions are insufficient for the road, their driving could endanger other drivers.  Regrettably, at least at several Douglas County nursing homes, these courteous elders have neglected to give up voting.
     Meadowlark Herald reporters have observed individuals entering into area nursing homes, posing as nursing home workers to gain the trust of the elders there, and besides registering elders as voters, assisting them in filling out ballots by advising them on how to vote.
     That the advice is willingly sought and taken: these elders confess that they are unfamiliar with the issues and candidates.  That the individuals who are assisting them offer partisan advice represents a form of elder abuse.  However, the willing nature of the elders blurs the ethical and legal line intended to protect society from this form of voter fraud.

     Happy election day.

"Freedom works" for Douglas County School Board Richardson

by William Thomas - - - I just watched Craig Richardson, DCSD Board Member, tell the audience that "freedom works," then go on to say that teachers are free to earn a great deal and free to do wonders in the classroom. Mr. Richardson doesn't understand that teachers stuck in pay bands aren't free to earn a great deal and with a dictated curriculum, cannot be free to do wonders in the classroom. He also doesn't understand that the evaluation methods determining teacher pay are also not a mark of freedom; they're complete control. This isn't freedom.

Review of the 2015 flu season

I admit that I was reluctant to undertake a review of this year’s influenza virus.  Previous seasons of influenza were disappointing to say the least.  Flu, like fine wine, requires a perfect combination of seasonal circumstances and genetic stock – but, having been assured that just as the best wine can be ruined by bad pairing, this year I was encouraged to forgive the disappointing past seasons, skip the flu shot and give it a try – and I was not sorry I did.
I have not enjoyed the flu since 2004, and I must admit that so much has changed since then.  The 2015 flu demonstrates the remarkable dedication of the virus to improve itself through cross-breeding, selective evolution, and random mutation.  While still falling short of the grandiose 1918 season, the 2015 flu represents a new era of forward-thinking; a time when we can actually start to look forward to a new standard.
I found the cold chills with the hot sweat simply scintillating.  And the fever-induced nightmares thought provoking.  Painful joints and muscles – all the old standards – were there... But the charm of overwhelming mucous and splitting sinus headache simply wasn’t up to expectation – these were replaced by a burning irritation of the bronchial tubes and meandering rotation of symptoms throughout the body.  Such artistic boldness may only be undertaken with some degree of risk and whatever the reward sought in this adventurous experimentation, I am forced to consider it would have been better to ensure that the diarrhea was more painful, or at least ensure a more satisfying degree of nausea.

Only time will tell if the 2015 flu has the staying power of the 1992 season, but – despite its many short comings - I am contented.  If you’ve not had the flu in a while, consider skipping the flu shot and giving this year’s influenza a try.

October 2015

This issue: Elbert County Commissioners say “our zoning regs are vague and ambiguous,” photo tours of Pikes AND Longs Peaks, continuing coverage on guns and gun control (analysis of Ben Carson’s Hitler comments, review of Australian gun laws, Harvard analysis of the use of guns in self defense), how a two-party democracy works, Frank Reeves survives a wildlife attack, Ethics Watch and Duvall pursue Rowland, Eloy Oliveira’s back!, RMNP Superintendent retires, a fatality on Longs Peak, an interview with the Colorado Independent, the ADVENTURES OF STEVE RICKETT: BAIL BONDSMAN!, Wildlands Defense begins mapping prairie dogs, the 140th Anniversary of the Train Depot in Castle Rock, a review of the Castle Rock Museum tours, a History of Bill Thomas, news from India by DEEPAK MORRIS!, deep thoughts from the Virginia Commonwealth by GARY TWOHORSE GREEN, AVERAGE J IN TAIPEI, how Naropa University almost killed its prairie dogs (but didn’t), some great sutras and other Buddhism, remembering America’s Muslim Heritage, a very special report ALL ABOUT HUMMINGBIRDS! As we interview Kristiina Hurme and Alejandro Rico-Guevara…and much much more!

Paper tiger Hidden expense

Ethics Watch and Duvall pursue Rowland

     Robert Rowland paid his $1000 fine after assurances that Elbert County would reimburse him.  The fine was levied against him for abuse of public funds in a campaign finance violation.
That the bold move appears to defy the Court should be little surprise: Robert Rowland, Tea Party Chairman, encouraged the public to disobey the Courts on his facebook page on September 16, questioning their authority.
The reimbursement was undertaken without the advice of County Attorney Wade Gateley whose standards of acceptable risk could be described as adventurous in terms of how he has navigated the enforcement of questionable zoning and building codes, outrageous violations of labor laws, and deftly clamped down on farmers in the County for selling their farm products. Gateley said he told Rowland that he could get his own attorney.
Rowland and Commissioner Larry Ross both excused themselves from the discussion of the resolution, although Ross later seconded it for a vote. He then excused himself from the vote, as did Rowland.
The resolution passed with Dore being the only vote.
On April 27, a cashier’s check, payable to Elbert County with Rowland identified as the purchaser, was paid to Elbert County. On the same day, Rowland submitted a request for reimbursement from the county for the $1,000 fine, which he received three days later.
Rowland, as chair of the board, signed the check.
The Office of Administrative Courts doesn’t have the authority to hold someone in contempt when that person does something that appears to go against a Judge’s order. However, a contempt of court citation is being sought in Elbert County District Court, together with complaints against Wade Gateley, who appears to have lied when he indicated Robert Rowland paid the fine without expending public money.  The contempt complaint is being brought by Colorado Ethics Watch and Jill Duvall, who brought the original complaint.
Duvall ran against Rowland for the Elbert County board in 2012. Rowland won by a better than 2:1 margin in that race, which saw record turn-out and was accompanied by allegations of elections irregularities by Election Watchers.

Rowland and Dore have both asked the Herald to not ever contact them again, and were not sought for comment.