Thursday, September 11, 2008

State Board of Ed Announces 2009 Legislative Priorities

The Colorado State Board of Education today announced its priorities for the 2009 session of the General Assembly, focusing on ways to stabilize and increase funding and improve data gathering and analysis.

The priorities are:

1. Efforts to improve the "long-term financial stability" of education funding and develop a "comprehensive school finance solution";

2. Additional funding to improve the state Department of Education's data and information systems and personnel, with a goal of fostering "efficient data sharing";

3. Revisions of the required format for the annual School Accountability Report and changes to the state's school accreditation provisions to reconcile public reporting and actions required by these state accountability provisions and those mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act;

4. Continued funding for implementation of "proven, evidence-based programs and strategies for closing the achievement gap";

5. Expansion of "effective dropout prevention and recovery strategies";

6. Completion of a thorough review of model content standards prior to the adoption of any new statewide assessment tools;

7. Continued development and oversight of high-quality online programs, schools of choice, and other educational innovations to ensure strong student results;

8. Increased access to early childhood education and family literacy programs; and

9. Increases in the state's Permanent Fund, maximization of trust income, exemption of school trust land revenues from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ritter Says State to Get Grant to Help With Renewable Energy Transformation

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has been selected to receive a $397,700 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance renewable energy in Colorado.

GEO will use the grant to develop technical, financial and policy frameworks to expedite the construction of an additional 1,000 megawatts of renewable resource capacity onto the Colorado electricity grid.

“This DOE grant is another important step forward for Colorado’s New Energy Economy,” Ritter said. “It will help us connect Colorado’s abundant solar and wind resources to our transmission grid."

The objectives of the nine-month grant are to prepare a set of concrete policy recommendations that will:

(1) directly address major permitting, siting and environmental barriers to the integration of renewable energy development and transmission expansion;

(2) connect several gigawatts of renewable energy from the 10 Renewable Resource Generation Development Areas identified in a 2007 “mapping” report conducted for the governor’s office and state legislature;

(3) support both regulated and public utilities to expand the current level of planned transmission investments to the Generation Development Areas; and

(4) be replicable in other states to substantially expand and create an aggregated, regional, renewable energy market.

One thousand megawatts of renewable energy will provide enough power to serve 330,000 homes.

The governor's office did not indicate when the federal grant would actually be received by the state.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Scanlan to DC to Talk Bark Beetles

West Slope Rep. Christine Scanlan (D-Summit County) is headed to the nation's capital to argue for more money to help Colorado fight the bark beetle epidemic that is killing large numbers of coniferous trees in the state's high elevation forests.

There is growing evidence that the bark beetle problem could spread across the west if not effectively addressed. Some experts have said that dead tree stands pose a threat of devastating wildfire and create hazards sufficient to jeopardize the region’s vital infrastructure.

“We’ve worked very hard the last two years to educate the public about the bark beetle scourge and to address the problem as best we can with our limited resources,” Scanlan said at a press conference in Keystone on Sunday. “We’ve been as creative as possible. But at some point duct tape just isn’t enough. Congress needs to supply the hammer and nails.”

Scanlan, who vice-chairs the state interim committee on wildfires, will be meeting with members of Congress and the U.S. Forest service next week in support of a request for additional resources to mitigate the bark beetle emergency.

Scanlan will join Rick Cables, Chief Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region, and Jeff Jahnke, the Colorado State Forester and Director of the Colorado State Forest Service in Washington.

At the request of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Cables compiled an estimate detailing the funding needed to address the bark beetle emergency more aggressively. He estimates millions of dollars are needed to mitigate the threat to human life, property and to protect vital infrastructure and resources, including the power grid and various watersheds. Additional resources will be applied to treating affected areas by quarantining and removing diseased and dead trees as quickly as possible.

The mountain pine beetle infestation, which is expected to last for another 3 to 5 years, is already having a devastating impact: 1.5 million acres are already affected. 38 recreation sites remained closed this summer because of the infestation and 3,500 miles of roads and additional 950 miles of trails are under threat of closure.

During the previous two years, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have worked to pass a variety of measures expanding mitigation and protecting Colorado’s watersheds and infrastructure through quarantine and deforestation efforts. The legislature has also created incentives to encourage industry to take advantage of the additional volume created by the epidemic.

The pine beetle epidemic is expected to kill nearly all the lodgepole pine covering 2.2 million acres in the region. The infestation of the insects, which are not dying in winter because temperatures in recent years are not as cold as they have historically been, has moved to lower elevations in the past year and now threatens Colorado’s ponderosa pine forests.