President Trump, launch the GlobalSuperTanker

By Scott Weiser

We now know why the 747 firefighting jet is just sitting on the tarmac at the Colorado Springs Airport. Some federal government bureaucrat has decided it is more important to glue thousands of paper cups to thousands of posts, arrange them in a grid, have the aircraft drop water on the grid and then weigh each cup to see how much water is in each of them than it is to put out fires.

This ridiculous exercise in bureaucracy is a required part of federal approval for an aircraft to dump water onto a raging forest fire. Evidently the dispersion pattern of an air drop must be just so, must meet some exacting standard set up by the government that cannot possibly be set aside for now so that lives and property can be saved. Talk about losing sight of the forest for the trees.

The company, GlobalSuperTanker has already designed and tested the dispersion system extensively. It is designed to atomize the liquid to prevent crushing amounts of water smashing things as it comes down. It’s a system that exceeds what the government requires, but the government won’t believe it’s own eyes or company data.

Here’s how they should be doing their approval: Load the aircraft up with 20,000 gallons of fire retardant or just plain water. Fly it over a forest fire. Dump the load on the fire. Repeat until the fire is out. Then, after the fire is out, examine the effectiveness of the air drops and if necessary make corrections to the system over the winter, when people’s lives and property are not at stake.

There’s a fundamental rule of firefighting: Get water on the flames. If you’ve got a bucket, use a bucket. If you’ve got a garden hose, use a garden hose. If you have a fire truck with a fire hose, use the fire hose. If you have an air tanker capable of dropping 20,000 gallons of water on a forest fire, use it.

There’s another fundamental premise of firefighting: Get water on the fire as soon as it is humanly possible to do so, because the smaller the fire is when you do so, the more quickly you can put it out. Five gallons of water at the right place at the right time can completely stop a forest fire from happening.

Twenty thousand gallons can put out a lot of fire instantly. The GlobalSuperTanker can lay down a 1.5-mile long strip of fire retardant or plain water in one pass. Using compressed air the tanks can be reloaded in less than 30 minutes. In Chile they had it down to 13 minutes. One pass takes the place of five smaller 5,000-gallon drops in a fifth the time and is more effective.

It is not as if this aircraft has never put out a fire. It is FAA certified and has been doing so for some time, just not in the U.S. One need only view the many YouTube videos of this very aircraft saving the town of Santo Domingo, Chile in January to see proof of this, and these videos should be all the Forest Service needs to put the GlobalSuperTanker in the air. More delay only puts lives at risk without any justification for doing so. Set aside all bureaucratic obstacles and get it in the air, tomorrow.

Nobody in Chile cared how many drops of water were in a bureaucrat’s paper cup. They only cared that miles of fire line were snuffed out in moments by an aircraft that isn’t allowed to do the same thing here in the United States.

That is simply unconscionable and President Trump needs to sign an Executive Order commanding the aircraft be placed into service immediately, suspending all further certification requirements until after fire season ends.

So give the White House a call, or send an email. Contact your members of Congress and demand that they contact the president immediately and make him aware of this nonsensical bureaucratic obstructionism that is pointlessly endangering property and lives. Do whatever you can to get the GlobalSuperTanker into the air and free of the chains of bureaucracy that bind it to the ground for no good reason.

Will Toor wants you out of your car

By Scott Weiser

Former Boulder Mayor Will Toor is gunning for your right to use the public highways you paid to use. In an opinion piece at ColoradoPolitics.com Toor, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project transportation program director, calls for conversion of existing free lanes into HOT toll lanes on I-25 through Denver. Toor claims this will “increase mobility on existing roads, and improve transit and other options,” going on to say, “This sounds like magic…”

Well, it is magic, or more accurately it is a disinformation campaign in support of his life-long goal of making it impossible for you to get from point A to point B in your car so you’ll park it and take the train or bus…or a bicycle.

Toor says that the light-rail line that parallels I-25 “provides a fast, uncongested trip for many travelers” but doesn’t say how many travelers for a reason. He also significantly doesn’t say how many people drive their cars to work every day.

According to U.S. Census data at least 75 percent of daily transportation-to-work trips in the area are in single-occupant vehicles whereas only 4 percent use any form of public transit, and the bulk of those are by bus. That amounts to just over 68,000 public transit commuters versus 1.1 million private vehicle commuters in the Denver metro area daily. That doesn’t include non-work or commercial vehicle use.

Worse, according to the census data only one percent of work commuters use any rail-based public transit daily. According to the Denver Regional Council of Governments only about 27,600 passengers using public transport, free private HOV or private toll-paid vehicles use the downtown express lanes on an average day.

Contrary to Toor’s claim, taking away free lanes and creating more HOT lanes decreases mobility, slows highway commutes, drives commuter traffic onto side streets, and increases miles driven, which increases air pollution as longer but less-congested routes are chosen. It’s also highly discriminatory against poor people who can’t afford the tolls and are forced onto even more congested and limited free lanes by this plan. But that’s what Toor wants.

Toor writes “This win-win approach would give drivers access to HOT lanes where congestion would be greatly reduced. It further would allow more people to use additional, affordable, effective and efficient transit instead of driving. Meanwhile, traffic in the remaining “free” lanes would be no worse than before the changes.”

“Win-win?” “Allow?” “No worse?” That’s just plain nonsense. Wealthy drivers like Toor are already the prime users of toll lanes while Average Joe gets jammed up in the already limited free lane congestion. Or they simply get off of I-25 and U.S. 36 and detour around the jams. What they don’t do is take the train or bus.

In Los Angeles when the crowd-sourced navigation program WAZE started re-routing drivers around the clogs on the notorious I-405 onto surface streets, screams of outrage were heard all the way to Sacramento. The traffic-jam avoidance caused angry residents of the lower-income communities flanking the I-405 to demand that the police force WAZE not to plot routes through their neighborhoods. Of course the police can’t do that, so WAZE commuters still divert from the freeway to surface streets when the side route is calculated to be faster than the freeway, moving the congestion from limited-access purpose-built transport corridors to kid-filled surface streets. It will be no different under Toor’s plan.

Like all magic tricks, Toor’s is all smoke, mirrors and misdirection. It is his way of imposing a “sin tax” on wealthy car commuters and making free car commutes hell on earth in order to force people onto outrageously expensive public transit alternatives that are functionally useless in reducing highway congestion but have cost us more than $5.3 billion so far to move only four percent of daily commuters.

Toor doesn’t want you to know that statistic; he just wants you out of your car no matter the wasted time and inconvenience. He is bucking human nature. Despite the average six-and-a-half minute congestion delay they now face, people like driving their cars enough that total ridership on RTD is dropping each year. Maybe that’s why Toor wants you out of your car.

 

 

Colorado’s Legislature solves a federal problem

By Scott Weiser

There is a confluence of unfair debt collection, federalism and judicial restraint with connections to Colorado that provides an optimistic view of all three. At the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Gorsuch, a Colorado native, authored a unanimous opinion on the definition of “debt collector” in the 1977 federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Enacted to prevent harassment and abusive behavior by debt collectors the statute has been side-stepped by the debt collection industry. Companies are now selling portfolios of written-off or defaulted debt to collection companies, often for pennies on the dollar. Once these debts have been purchased the new owner begins harassing the debtors to pay up.

Several people in Maryland who defaulted on car loans sued Santander Consumer USA, who purchased their debts from their original lender, CitiFinancial. The debtors complained of debt collection tactics that violated federal law. The Supreme Court Justices unanimously agreed that the federal law only covers businesses that collect debts “for another” because that’s what the statute says. The Court ruled that by purchasing the debt the company is collecting for itself, not another. Justice Gorsuch wrote “Constant competition between constable and quarry, regulator and regulated, can come as no surprise in our changing world. But neither should the proper role of the judiciary in that process – to apply, not amend, the work of the people’s representatives.”

This leaves consumers at the mercy of predatory debt collectors who evade the letter of the law by buying up debts from someone else, at least at the federal level. Justice Gorsuch points out that if the quarry has changed tactics it is up to Congress to amend the law.

Here is where federalism comes into play: In Colorado Governor Hickenlooper just signed Senate Bill 216 into law, which does for Coloradoans exactly what Justice Gorsuch suggests Congress do for everyone else.

Colorado’s version of the federal law now defines a “debt buyer” as “a person who engages in the business of purchasing delinquent or defaulted debt for collection purposes, whether it collects the debt itself, hires a third party for collection, or hires an attorney for litigation in order to collect the debt. Debt buyers are collection agencies for the purposes of this Article 14.” This cuts off the weaseling around the intent of the law here in Colorado, protecting Colorado consumers from abusive and predatory debt collection practices.

Congress need do no more than adopt Colorado’s definition of “debt buyer” and put it in the federal law to cure the fault that the Supreme Court wisely left in place.

Why was it wise for the Supreme Court to leave such a gaping loophole in the law? Because it’s not the role of the judiciary to close such loopholes, that’s the job of Congress, and the Supreme Court unanimously took this opportunity to make that crystal clear.

The importance of this ruling cannot be understated. It is a direct shot across the bow of the liberal activist judiciary who have been doing exactly what the Supreme Court says is beyond their authority: amending the work of the people’s representatives instead of just applying it.

Nowhere is this more true than in the repeated arrogations of legislative power by the federal judiciary in its interference with President Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration. President Trump is exercising authority expressly granted to the office of the President by the people’s representatives in Congress decades ago.

In their liberal zeal and distaste for President Trump, judicial insurrectionists in the 4th, 9th and 10th Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal have been acting beyond their lawful authority in ignoring laws duly enacted by Congress that they are sworn to uphold.

This unanimous Supreme Court ruling in a seemingly unrelated matter is actually one of the most important and decisive rulings against judicial activism in more than 100 years, and demonstrates just how determined the Supreme Court is to rein in judges who forget their place and their proper judicial authority. It also bodes ill for the injunctions against the President’s statutory authority to deny immigration to any group he deems it necessary to exclude in order to protect America against its enemies.

 

 

 

 

 

True federalism could imperil the left

By: Scott Weiser

June 8, 2017 Updated: June 9, 2017 at 7:39 am

Virginia’s Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and several other governors have rediscovered federalism in declaring they will act alone to uphold the Paris climate accord.

McAuliffe pledges to “abate, control, or limit” power plant emissions. A bevy of liberal mayors and university presidents threaten to do the same sort of thing with regard to carbon emissions, evidently without regard for costs.

Good for them. And perhaps goodbye to them.

Gov. Hickenlooper proposed something similar after the Supreme Court of the United States put then-President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan executive order on hold. Hickenlooper objected and wanted to proceed with Colorado’s version of the plan.

“Our goals were very aggressive goals, and they are not the same, but they are very similar to what the Clean Power Plan wants,” Hickenlooper told reporters in 2016. Then, President Trump won the traditional Democratic stronghold of Pueblo County and shocked some liberals into a self-evaluation.

Trump won in part because Colorado’s existing clean power mandates caused ruinous electric rates in Pueblo. Trump landed in Pueblo during his campaign and promised an end to the costly war on energy, and the message stuck.

Hickenlooper saw the writing on the wall and backed off the idea for a unilateral imposition of Obama’s Clean Power plan. That was the politically astute decision, because Hickenlooper can’t govern if he isn’t the Governor anymore.

Many people, including columnist Kathleen Parker in her recent column, mistake federalism as meaning big, centralized federal government. Federalism is more accurately the principle that our nation is not a single entity ruled by a central government like the socialist utopia of Venezuela. It is a republic made up of sovereign member states.

The federal government has limited powers, which are expressed in the Constitution. As plainly stated in the 10th Amendment, powers not expressly granted to the federal government by the Constitution belong to the states or the people. That is the doctrine of federalism.

Under federalism, states have very broad latitude to govern themselves. The highest level of authority is we, the people. We have the ultimate authority to revoke any power we have previously granted to government. Likewise, we have the ability to grant new government powers as we see fit.

The Declaration of Independence says that just governance requires the consent of the governed. Federalism says consent should mostly manifest regionally and locally, enhancing accountability among those who govern.

Nowhere was this principle needed more than during the reign of Obama, a socialist/progressive who routinely ruled by executive fiat, showing disdain for the rule of law and the consent of the governed.

Trump, a businessman and political novice, won because the governed were outraged at Obama’s disrespect for their consent. President Trump is dismantling Obama’s legacy in order to restore federalism and the power of the states as equals with the federal government.

Meanwhile, the political left is turning to federalism to try and salvage something from the disaster of underestimating the will of the people. It may not be a wise choice, but time will tell.

Thanks to federalism and ignored Americans, socialist are less harmful. Operating at the state and local level instead of the federal level, they are held accountable more easily. When the economic burdens of socialist arrogance hit home citizens will rightfully blame the governors, mayors, university presidents and council members who are responsible rather than the federal government.

They will be accountable to the people who know them best and who are in the best position to remove them from office if they overstep. In favoring federalism, that is exactly what the founders had in mind.

This column was originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Public pipeline maps are a bad idea

By: Scott Weiser

May 26, 2017 Updated: May 26, 2017 at 9:45 am

A 30-inch natural gas pipeline exploded in the Crestmoor neighborhood of San Bruno, Calif., on September 9, 2010.

The explosion killed eight people and destroyed or damaged more than 38 homes. The pipeline, built in 1954, was found to be defective because of poor construction and faulty welds.

A single-family home exploded in Firestone on April 17, after natural gas leaked into the basement from a nearby gas well flow line that had not been shut off and properly capped. The explosion killed two and severely injured another. Fault has not been fully assessed, but it appears the gas company and subdivision developer may be jointly responsible.

At play are two issues. The first is construction safety standards for new wells and pipelines. All new wells and pipelines must meet stringent standards for safety, during drilling and long-term during use. Such regulations must be strictly enforced and policed to ensure compliance.

The Firestone explosion highlights the second issue: dangers of development near old wells that are abandoned, dormant or in use.

As was the case in San Bruno, construction standards in the past can be markedly different from those of today. This makes inspection of older wells imperative if we are to avoid another Firestone tragedy. To that end, Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered companies to inspect all of their wells for compliance. The industry is responding to this order, as it should.

But this does not address future risks of development in established oil and gas fields that are webbed with networks of underground piping.

In response to the Firestone disaster, the Legislature considered a bill to require mapping of all underground pipes. Most agree it is a necessary move.

At issue is whether infrastructure maps should be open to the public.

National security regulations already limit public access to certain types of industrial facility information.

This is to deny terrorists information they might find useful in planning attacks. These security requirements caused a lot of controversy when the Department of Homeland Security implemented them, but history has shown that public access to some records creates valid national security concerns.

This would be true of records disclosing locations of underground natural gas and oil conduits.

Rather than create another public safety concern, the law should simply ensure that developments in pre-existing oil and gas fields are protected from mistakes like those which caused the Firestone explosion – which was a rare event.

This can be done in the permitting process for development. State government should simply require thorough surveys for oil and gas infrastructure before development begins. A plat of the proposed development should be submitted to state regulatory authorities that will have access to the confidential maps and records of oil and gas development.

If the development is in an area in which oil and gas wells were drilled, the developer must obtain certified location maps of underground infrastructure before breaking ground.

The developer must also make contact with the well owners to obtain certificates stating that the development will not damage underground infrastructure.

It is a legal requirement that any excavation must first get a utility location certificate and surface markings of utilities. This must be expanded to include a requirement that the owners or operators of existing wells both locate the pipes and ensure, with state inspection and certification, that all dormant or abandoned pipes have been properly shut off, severed and sealed.

In addition, legislators should enact a law to require all excavators immediately stop work if they sever any type of underground pipeline. The law would require written certification, ensuring the pipe has been properly sealed off and is safe before excavation resumes.

This plan deals with the risks of development of old oil and gas fields without creating a public safety concern.

This column was originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Quarry battle reveals residents’ hypocrisy

By: Scott Weiser

May 18, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 8:01 am

There’s a battle raging in Little Turkey Creek canyon southwest of Cheyenne Mountain. Transit Mix Concrete has a lease to quarry millions of tons of granite for construction aggregate over the next 30 years on property owned by the Colorado State Land Board, and the neighbors don’t want their peace, quiet, wildlife or water disturbed.

Let it be said that nobody really wants to live next to a quarry and living in the mountains is quintessentially about the natural environment that draws residents to the area. But that doesn’t mean they should be able to stop another property owner from developing their land as the law allows. Residents have the right to object, but that doesn’t mean that their objections are reasonable or that they can’t be held accountable for what they say.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety examined more than 60 issues raised by objectors to the quarry and issued recommendations that dismissed some of the concerns as unfounded. Transit Mix then cut the size of its proposal by more than half and addressed all of the valid issues brought up by the division. But the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board overruled the division’s recommendations and denied the permit, citing three concerns, legal access to Little Turkey Creek road, possible harm to nearby water wells from blasting and concerns about wild turkeys and the Mexican spotted owl.

In response, Transit Mix filed a case in El Paso County District Court and served some 90 people who testified in the proceedings with court papers making them parties to the suit. Lawyers for some of the residents claim that this is a SLAPP, or “strategic lawsuit to prevent public participation” intended to threaten and intimidate objectors by forcing them into court where they could potentially end up paying Transit Mix’s attorney’s fees. Transit Mix says that state law required it to make the objectors party to the suit, and on May 10 it asked the judge to drop the attorney’s fees part of their suit, taking that off the table.

Transit Mix alleges that the board relied on unfounded objections as justification for denying the permit, claiming it properly addressed the three concerns upon which the board denied the permit and that the board “abused its discretion and acted in a manner that was arbitrary, capricious, unsubstantiated by the substantial evidence and contrary to law.”

Minerals have to be mined where they are found, and Colorado law protects that specific right pretty carefully. State law strictly regulates development on land where construction aggregate resources are located precisely because it’s a limited but necessary resource that the state doesn’t want development to lock up forever.

Looking at some of the complaints, it’s certainly arguable that the board gave inordinate weight to the aesthetic concerns of nearby residents and the sheer volume of complaints because its reasons for denying the permit appear to be based on opinions, emotions and public pressure not facts. That’s what the district court will determine.

Concerns about wild turkeys and the Mexican spotted owl appear to be environmental-activist spaghetti thrown against the wall in hopes something would stick. But many of the people who are complaining live in the very habitat they want conserved, not that wild turkeys are in any danger of extinction and not that any Mexican spotted owls have ever been found on the quarry property, or anywhere else nearby. So who is actually responsible for loss of habitat, Transit Mix or current mountain subdivision residents?

Private property owners, including Transit Mix and residents in the area, are under no obligation to provide public wildlife habitat. If owners want to erect turkey-proof fences and put netting overhead to keep owls and wild turkeys out, there’s nothing anyone can do to prevent it.

If the residents of the area value turkey or owl habitat so much, perhaps they should move to the city and replace the quarry’s habitat with their own.

But it’s hypocritical to support taking someone else’s property rights while expecting not to be made party to a lawsuit to protect those rights. Free speech is free, but it can have consequences, and this is one such example.

This article was originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Boulder County Isn’t a Sovereign Nation

By Scott Weiser

They call it the “People’s Republic of Boulder” as a joke aimed at the perpetual shenanigans of the most liberal city and county in Colorado. But Boulder County and the City of Boulder, for all their leftist leanings are still political subdivisions of the State of Colorado and the United States of America and are subject to all the laws and regulations thereof.

East Boulder County United and Boulder County Protectors on the other hand aren’t government agencies, they are anti-fracking groups whose spokesperson Cliff Willmeng said “We do not recognize the authority of this body, we do not recognize the authority of those industries to override the free people of Boulder County. We will not be allowing a single well in Boulder County” at a May 1st meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The members of the COGC tolerated Willmeng’s tirade with stone-faced bemusement and then went on about its state-authorized business of regulating the extraction of oil and gas statewide.

Willmeng is an extremely radical activist who was the driving force behind the attempt to pass an ordinance in Lafayette that would have made physical attacks and obstruction against oil and gas employees and operations legal, an absurdity fronted by his mother, Lafayette City Councilperson Merrily Mazza. That entirely unconstitutional ordinance was defanged by more rational voices on the City Council back in January, just as Boulder County’s five-year moratorium on oil and gas development was overturned by the courts and expired on May 1st.

Groups like East Boulder County United and Boulder County Protectors aren’t really all that concerned about fracking itself. Fracking is being used as a propagandistic buzzword and stalking-horse for an anti-technological Luddite return-to-primitivism effort to completely stop the extraction of fossil fuels.

Despite the hysterical propaganda from these kind of organizations the EPA, even under Obama, did not find any credible evidence of substantial risks to air or water resources that can’t be mitigated as a part of a comprehensive 2016 study of fracking impacts. The EPA identified many areas of possible concern including examples of surface contamination from fracking fluid spills, which can be controlled by proper well operation, but was not able to show that sub-surface injection itself or the subsequent oil and gas production poses any substantial risks to the environment.

Now Willmeng is once again trying to forward the fiction that Boulder County is a sovereign nation not subject to American law. Engaging in a bit of bald-faced cultural misappropriation Willmeng and his fellow radicals invoke a mish-mash of Native American theology and socialist ideology as justification for their plan to balkanize Boulder County to “create democracy in our municipalities and counties within the State of Colorado.” Their manifesto claims “our communities are under siege from a structure of law that has bestowed greater rights on corporations than on the communities in which they operate.”

What they actually mean is that private property rights, in this case the rights of those who own the oil and gas are an impediment to their socialist desire to turn Boulder County into Venezuela. They want to amend the state constitution to dispose of private property rights by making “local laws that elevate the rights for Colorado residents and communities above the rights of the State of Colorado, including legal rights for the natural environment.” To socialists, when individual rights conflict with their collectivist ideology, those individual rights must be discarded in the name of social democracy.

But the state and federal Constitutions remain in force to protect private property mineral ownership that pre-exists the homes that these fractivists live in, and live in with full knowledge that they didn’t buy the mineral wealth under their property. It’s right there in their property deeds. So unless they are prepared to pay the estimated 8 billion dollars that some say is what those resources are worth, they cannot be allowed to prevent it’s extraction.

Reasonable regulation of oil and gas extraction by the COGC to minimize risks and harm are perfectly appropriate, but the key words are “reasonable” and “regulation,” which cannot be replaced with “ban,” no matter how much radical activists might want it to be.