Boulder County news roundup: Rocky Flats, Xcel and more


Xcel, Boulder haven’t identified power projects or costs after franchise agreement

In an April hearing with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Xcel/Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo), wrote that it “has not, and at this time cannot, estimate a total cost for” local power projects in Boulder that were a linchpin in Boulder’s settlement and franchise agreement with the energy provider.

Furthermore, Xcel/PSCo wrote that projects listed in the Prioritized Project List section of the agreement — local energy projects like micro-gridding that would help Boulder meet its 100% renewable energy goal by 2030 — are not being implemented at the moment in Boulder or elsewhere in Xcel/PSCo’s service area.

And the company wrote that any project outside of current offerings from Xcel/PSCo would be done at the cost of the City of Boulder, unless the PUC approved projects that have a broad application for other communities where costs could be recouped.

The filings also indicate that Xcel/PSCo will pay $11 million to underground electric lines, but that the company would eventually earn a return on the new underground facilities.

All this matters because Boulder likely cannot meet its clean energy goals if Xcel/PSCo is the sole provider of energy, and those who voted for the agreement believed local projects would help fill the gap to reaching 100% renewables. Too, proponents of the agreement said the municipalization effort was becoming too expensive; yet, it’s unclear, with no projects or costs identified, how expensive and feasible these local power projects will be, whenever they are identified and agreed upon.

Group sues City of Boulder over Rocky Flats trail plan

A group of organizations filed a lawsuit on May 11 against the City of Boulder, claiming the City neither adequately considered alternatives nor gathered enough public input before approving trail connections from the city to Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in April.

The expansion of recreational trails at the Refuge is the subject of ongoing debate (see “Pandemic drives Rocky Flats recreation, as local officials support greenway construction despite community concerns,” Boulderganic, May 6). Critics says the Refuge, which surrounds the former Rocky Flats Plant at which plutonium triggers were produced for decades, might still be dangerous — thousands of pounds of plutonium went missing during the cleanup of the plant, which is currently listed as a Superfund site. Officials maintain that it is indeed safe, and the Boulder County Commissioners recently moved forward on plans to fund expansions into the County’s trails system.

Now that Boulder, as of April, has joined the greater expansion project — to the tune of $200,000 — the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the City (Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Environmental Information Network and the biologist Harvey Nichols) say it didn’t consider funding trails that would circumvent the Rocky Flats site. The group claims the City was required to consider such alternatives based on its 2016 resolution to fund trail connections in the area.

As the plaintiffs explain in the complaint, “While the City Council can choose to undo a resolution approved by a previous City Council, it must do so by a vote of the current City Council, especially on an issue so crucial to the health and safety of Boulderites as whether to connect open space trails on City lands with the contaminated soils of the old Rocky Flats weapons complex. A city cannot run effectively if new members of its governing body can simply ignore the resolutions of past ones.”

The lawsuit asks the Colorado District Court to prevent City funding of the underpass connection between open space land and the Rocky Flats trails.

CU professor explores camping, and who has the right to do it, in new book

Why does society view camping out in a National Park as wholesome, and camping in a city park to protest financial inequity as troublesome? Why does society view homeless encampments as burdens, and pass laws to ban them, while encouraging camping “in the right places”?

The answers to those questions, and more, are explored in Camping Grounds: Public Nature in American Life from the Civil War to the Occupy Movement, a new book from Phoebe Young, an environmental and cultural historian in CU’s Department of History.

In the book, Young explores how camping aligns with core American ideals about nature and citizenship, and why some forms of camping are considered mainstream, others marginalized. It also looks at how camping was historically only available to those with the means to carve out leisure time, which meant many non-white communities were excluded from the activity.

“This is a fact that is getting more attention and focus lately, but it took a very long time for government agencies to proactively address that issue,” Young said in a press release for the book.
The book also looks at camping bans and how such laws tend to decide who has the right to camp and where.

Ultimately, the book seeks to put camping in context so we can explore how current policies and practices came to be, and, maybe, be amended.

“We need to recognize that the reason camping has become so embedded in our infrastructure has a longer and complex history that has differential effects on how we use the outdoors and who gets preference in using the outdoors,” Young said.

Previous articleGetting legalization ‘right’
Next articleTry this week: The Roxborough @ D’Angelo’s Deli