Our View: A state divided

Craig Editorial Board, Jan. to March 2012

  • Al Cashion, community representative
  • Jeff Pleasant, community representative
  • Bryce Jacobson, newspaper representative
  • Bridget Manley, newspaper representative
  • Chris Nichols, community representative
  • Josh Roberts, newspaper representative

The name is catchy — the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act. After all, who could argue with those prospects?

And yet, to this Editorial Board, the act also known as Colorado House Bill 10-1365 is nothing more than a cleverly-phrased way for Front Range interests to fancy up what they’ve done many times before: completely ignore the needs of the Western Slope.

The bill requires some Front Range coal-fired power plants to be retired, retrofitted with emissions-reducing technology, or re-powered to be fueled by natural gas or other low energy-emitting sources. One industry expert said the bill would result in production losses of at least 2.6 million tons of coal statewide.

How many lost jobs will that mean for Colorado? How many for Craig and Moffat County?

In a letter opposing the legislation before it passed a third reading March 31, the Moffat County Commission wrote that our county “is directly negatively impacted by the implications of HB 10-1365.”

The commission had the right thought, but its wording was too light and too polite.

When signed by Gov. Bill Ritter — and make no mistake, our lame duck governor, with no re-election plans and no accountability, will sign it — the new law has the potential to severely hurt our energy-based economy and jeopardize the welfare of families in our community, a frightening thought given that we’re already fighting a recession.

And yet how many times did lawmakers come to Craig and Moffat County to speak publicly and openly with our residents, voters and taxpayers about this bill? How many times did they see the faces of people who could be hurt by losing their livelihood?

None.

(The Editorial Board is reassured by the actions of our own elected officials, however. The county commission formally opposed the bill, and our state legislators did, as well.)

If the governor, someone who has been no friend to our community with his policies and rarely made appearances here, wanted to do one positive thing for his constituents in Craig and Moffat County before leaving office, he would throw the bill in the trash instead of signing it, the Editorial Board contends. But, know that these board members have no faith whatsoever in that happening.

The governor and HB 10-1365 are essentially poster children for what has become reality for Colorado: we’re a state clearly divided by geography. There are the powerbrokers and shot-callers on the Front Range, and then there’s us on the Western Slope.

To the Editorial Board, passage of bills like HB 10-1365 and others, like health care reform, illustrate why many voters are turning away from the political system.

These bloated and complex bills are discussed in the power circles, but without any real outreach to the people affected by them.

Still, the Editorial Board recommends what it has many times before to those feeling alienated from politics and public officials: become more involved, not less.

We have one of the biggest elections in state history on the horizon. Take time to carefully research the candidates and issues. If they don’t meet your standards, vote in favor of who and what does.

It’s becoming a more accepted belief that officials aren’t listening to those they’re supposed to represent — capture their attention by supporting someone else.

If enough voters take that course of action, we’re betting officials who have ignored the public will understand the folly of their ways. Hopefully, that realization comes the same day their opponent is being sworn in.

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