STATE REGULATORS APPROVE NEW RULES ON FRACKING
Colorado regulators have approved new rules requiring energy companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing but allowing them to protect trade secrets and to provide 48 hours notice before pumping chemicals underground. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission unanimously approved the rules yesterday. The process also known as fracking involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into rock formations to free oil and natural gas that’s credited for playing a role in opening up many gas reserves. Under the regulations, a company can claim a trade secret but has to explain why it should be protected. In those cases, the company would be required to publicly release information about the chemical family and concentration. Details would be available in case of emergencies.
BLM AND FOREST SERVICE SEEK COMMENT ON SAGE GROUSE PROTECTION
The Bureau of Land Management and the U-S Forest Service are working together to come up with protection plans that will keep the Greater Sage Grouse off the endangered or threatened species list. The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service has already deemed that protections are warranted for the bird, but that there were other species more important to look at. The agency must make a decision by 2015. Until then, the BLM and Forest Service are doing what they can to keep the bird off the list. That includes altering Resource Management Plans. The two agencies are now asking the public for comments on what issues should be considered, before creating Environmental Impact Statements. You find out how to make your comments by clicking here.
POSTAL SERVICE WON’T CLOSE ANY RURAL OFFICES UNTIL MAY
The U-S Postal Service won’t be closing any more post offices this year. The Service has been reviewing which of its rural offices should be closed, or consolidated to cut into a $10 billion debt. The Phippsburgh office in Routt County has been told it will be one of the casualties. The Maybell office in Moffat County has been told it will be spared. Others in Taponas, Slater, and Hamilton are still waiting for the word on their futures. The Postal Service is hoping this will give Congress time to come up with legislation to save the agency money.
STATE RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO SPEND STIMULUS MONEY
Time is running out for Colorado to spend millions in federal stimulus funds. State auditors said yesterday that 10 Colorado agencies could lose nearly $94 million in stimulus funds if they don’t use the money before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds expire. The stimulus funds expired at the end of September but some agencies have gotten extensions to spend the grant money. Auditors looked at agencies that have spent less than 75 percent of the grant money they were awarded for various projects. The Governor’s Energy Office, the state Department of Education, and the Department of Labor and Employment are among the agencies with unspent funds. All the agencies say they plan to spend the money in time.
HOUSE PASSES TAX CUT BILL FOR WORKING FAMILIES
The House has passed a bill intended to give tax breaks to workers and create new jobs in the private sector. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act extends the current lower payroll tax rate for employees, which was reduced from 6.2 percent of wages to 4.2 percent, for one year. The average working family is expected to save $1000 next year. It also requires all recipients of state and federal unemployment insurance to be looking for work, enrolled in a GED program, and participate in reemployment services to qualify for benefits. Within the bill is also a provision to accelerate a decision on the Keystone XL energy pipeline. It requires that a permitting decision be made within 60 days of the bill’s passage, unless the president determines the project not in the best national interest.
LAWMAKERS DEBATE BALANCED BUDGET BILLS
Two balanced budget amendment proposals became the topic of debate for hours on Capitol Hill yesterday. One of the bills is sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall. Both the Republican and Democrat versions would amend the U.S. Constitution so the federal government could not spend more revenue than it receives during each fiscal year. Udall says he hears from Republicans, Independents and Democrats that a balanced budget amendment makes sense. A balanced budget proposal died in the House in November. Senators are expected to vote on both proposals today.
BENNET CONTINUES TO PROPOSE BENEFITS FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has introduced a bill that would help keep foreign students with high-tech skills in the United States. Bennet says the bill unveiled yesterday will create a new category of visas for students graduating with specialties in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He says the bill will help fill Colorado’s increasing number of high-tech jobs. Bennet says studies show that more than 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Bennet says these companies employ more than 3.6 million people nationally and generate more than $4 trillion in revenue a year.
NATIONAL GROUP RECOMMENDS ANTI-TEXTING AND DRIVING LAWS
Texting, emailing or using a cellphone while driving is simply too dangerous to be allowed anywhere, federal safety investigators declared yesterday, recommending that all states impose a total ban except for emergencies. Inspired by recent deadly crashes – including one in which a teenager sent or received 11 text messages in 11 minutes before an accident – the recommendation would apply even to hands-free devices, a much stricter rule than any current state law. The unanimous recommendation by the five-member National Transportation Safety Board would make an exception for devices deemed to aid driver safety such as GPS navigation systems. Board chairman Deborah Hersman acknowledged the recommendation would be unpopular with many people and that complying would involve what has become ingrained behavior for many Americans. While the NTSB doesn’t have the power to impose restrictions, its recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators and congressional and state lawmakers. Another recommendation issued yesterday urges states to aggressively enforce current bans on text messaging and the use of cellphones and other portable electronic devices while driving.
In high school sports:
Steamboat beat Aspen.
Steamboat’s boys and girls go to the Flaming Gorge Classic.