When you live in the Mile-High City, a thousand miles away from the nearest large body of water, you don’t always feel a strong connection with the ocean. Yet, despite our geographic distance from those majestic blue waters, Colorado is playing a significant part in destroying our oceans through buying and selling endangered seafood.
Last week, volunteers hit over 30 Colorado supermarkets to check out which red-listed fish our local stores carry. With an "endangered fish" scorecard in hand, we went aisle by aisle through grocery stores looking for about twenty vulnerable, albeit popular, species of fish. The results were shocking!
Whether canned, frozen, or on display in the wet case, we were able to find the majority of the species on our list. In the middle of the Rocky Mountains you can find Chilean Sea Bass, Atlantic Cod, Swordfish, Orange Roughy, Hoki, Ahi Tuna, Monk Fish, Red Snapper, Wild Scallops and even Shark.
King Soopers, our local Kroger affiliate, sold as many as 13 endangered fish! (See our completed survey below.)
Even though Costco, the largest purchaser of seafood in North America, just committed to dropping a dozen red-listed species from their shelves, many stores continue to stock and sell endangered fish.
Our oceans cannot continue to support current consumption levels. If supermarkets don't change their ways, these species will be over-fished to the point of extinction. Take Action by telling supermarkets to clean up their act and protect our oceans!
Last year, a Colorado survey found that 79% of Coloradoans prefer renewable energy and natural gas over coal. Let me repeat that, 79% want something OTHER THAN COAL. That is a huge majority of people!
This week, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission will decide whether or not to approve a $380 million dollar plan to put pollution controls on 3 of Colorado's dirtiest old coal plants.
All of the costs of this plan will be passed on to Colorado ratepayers.
Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Coloradoans prefer developments in alternative forms of energy, we may be forced to pay significantly more on our monthly utility bills for the same dirty energy.
After adding pollution controls, Colorado's utility, Xcel Energy, intends to extend operation of these plants until 2025, 2036 and 2041 respectively. None of the pollution controls will reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the primary greenhouse gas. Xcel's own reps have admitted that keeping these plants operating will make it harder to bring on new forms of energy, particularly renewable energy. With some of the highest wind, solar and geothermal potential in the country and the effects of climate change already apparent in Colorado, my only response to this $380 million dollar investment is:
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"
Colorado rate-payers cannot afford a huge investment in coal plants that keep us locked into last century's outdated, polluting technology. These plants are 30-40 years old, with some of the pollution controls costing more than the current value of the coal plant.
But don't take my word for it. Check out the numbers:
- Hayden 1 is a 45 year old coal plant presently worth about $32 million to Xcel. Adding Selective Catalytic Reduction or “SCR” for nitrogen oxide control is expected to cost about $67 million, or more than twice the existing value of the coal plant.
- Hayden 2 is a 34 year old coal plant presently worth about $28 million to Xcel. The SCR pollution controls would cost about $80 million—again more than twice Xcel’s existing book value for the plant.
- Pawnee is a 29 year old coal plant presently worth about $238 million. The proposed pollution controls for nitrogen, sulfur and mercury are expected to cost about $236 million, or almost the same as the net worth of the plant.
This is a matter of common sense for Colorado. We need to start making smart investments in Colorado's future. Adding expensive pollution controls to old coal plants is a BAD investment. Let's retire these old beasts and build a smarter, greener energy economy in the West.
PS. Check out my op-ed in this Sunday's Denver Post for more details.
It is not hard to see the influence of dirty energy money in this year's close Senate race in Colorado. Hannah Nichols, a volunteer activist in Denver, shares a disappointing story about her run-in with current Senator and candidate Michael Bennet (CO).
Hannah writes in her blog post "Coal, contributions, and candidates in Colorado":
Last night, I had the opportunity to meet Senator Bennet at a “Women for
Bennet” event in Denver, CO. It was a quaint, pleasant gathering of
perhaps 50 middle-aged, middle-upper class women in a private house.
With a sliding-scale campaign contribution, you could enjoy wine and
hors d'œuvres, and the opportunity to meet Senator Bennet in a casual
setting including a Q&A. As a new voter and proud Democrat, I was
excited to be there with so many other like-minded women.
Bennet and his wife each gave a little speech, mostly concerning the
importance of voting and encouraging others to vote. They also made some
pleasant statements about their children. It was sweet, even enjoyable.
Not much like a campaign rally, more like a meeting of friends.
When Senator Bennet opened up the floor for questions, I proudly raised
my hand. I’ve been volunteering with Greenpeace and local coal campaigns
in Colorado for almost a year. Climate change and energy are among my
top priority issues as a voter. I asked: “Senator Bennet, coal is a
major issue here in Colorado. The public, small buisnesses, and state
legilsators have all demonstrated a desire to transition off of fossil
fuels into alternate and renewable sources of energy. However, the
federal government continues to heavily subsidize the coal industry,
among the other fossil fuel industries. I feel that this transition
cannot be truly realized here in Colorado or across the nation until the
federal government ends subsidies for coal. What is your stance on
federal subsidization of the coal industry?”
Now, Bennet is famous for avoiding questions with elaborate, long winded, evading responses. And he was not pleased with this question and verbally expressed his displeasure with the question and with me personally in front of the entire crowd. When he finally got around to answering, he mumbled something about foreign oil, about the need for stronger federal legislation (duh), and, the real kicker, our need to continue to fund research to develop “clean coal” technology. He even claimed that while proof of coal being produced “cleanly” did not currently exist, finding the solution to “clean coal” was a worthy endeavor.
Not only was I shocked by his angry response to my honest question, I was even more shocked by his answers. Clean coal?!?
While I was leaving, I was stopped and interrogated as if I were some sort of infiltrator or spy. Two of his staffers asked me who I represented and what organization I was with. The media? Senate hopeful, Ken Buck? I told them, honestly, I was just a student citizen interested in personally learning more about the positions of my candidate and my representative. What had I done wrong besides ask a question he didn’t like?
I voted for Senator Michael Bennet today however, I must say, my vote was given bitterly. I am not anti-Bennet; I still maintain that he has voted the right way on a number of important bills and legislation and at least he believes in climate change, unlike his opponent Ken Buck. But, I am disappointed which is almost worse. Senator Bennet, like most members of Congress, takes considerable donations from the coal and oil industry and at least in Bennet’s case, it looks like those contributions paid off. Bennet is being a good boy. Despite overwhelming support for a new energy economy in Colorado, he supports keeping those tax-payer dollars flowing towards the same dirty energy because it keeps the pockets of the politicians nice and full.
After some much-needed sleep, I woke up inspired by what I saw and heard at the EPA hearing in Denver. Rarely do we have the opportunity to sit next to our opposition and wait patiently to testify in front of a panel of some of the most powerful people in this country. My voice was as important as the man in the $3,000 suit sitting next to me. I got the same amount of time, the same attention, and the same polite “thank you” after my allotted three minutes.
Of all the powerful, heartbreaking, inspiring, angry and hopeful stories I heard at the hearing, a couple stand out a week later:
A Montana rancher stood in front of the panel of EPA reps in his cowboy boots, dusty jeans and ten-gallon hat and talked about what was happening back on his ranch in Montana. He relies on his reservoir for his livelihood. It provides his land and his cattle with the necessary water for survival. His ranch isn’t far from an active coal plant. He asked an expert to test his water and found that it contained toxins 16 times the lethal limit for cows. Just another reminder that when the coal industry neglects to clean up their mess, people downstream undoubtedly suffer.
A caravan of people came up from the four corners area representing Dine and Hopi people living on and around Black Mesa. Strip mines, coal generating stations, and toxic sludge ponds literally surround their community. The long and short-term impacts of the coal industry are not just environmental. As one woman put it, you can see the effects of the coal industry in the people of that community. People are sick, the water is contaminated and, for the most part, nothing has been done.
By 8 pm, 10 hours into the hearing, people were exhausted, hungry, and 100% drained. Outside, the sun was setting and people were starting to trickle out one by one. At this point I had my head resting on the back of the chair, my eyes closed. I was ready to go home. A number was called and the room burst into a flurry of excitement. I looked up and a ten-year old boy was walking up to the podium. He talked about the next generation and the responsibility of adults to clean up their own messes. He urged the EPA to do the right thing and protect his generation and future generations from the hazards created from burning coal and allowing the toxic bi-products to go unregulated. Wow.
If you live in a city hosting an EPA hearing, attend. If you don’t, get your voice heard. Standing up and demanding a better world, looking opposition in the face, bringing people from all walks of life together in one room, this is what I love most about being an activist. Its almost enough to make you want to burst into a round of “the people….united….will never be defeated.”
Greenpeace regional organizer for the Rocky Mountain and Southwest region
Your Personal Activist Network