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RMPBS, Tryba Architects, Denver
Photo courtesy of Tryba Architects

New West Daily Roundup for Sept. 2, 2016

Today in New West news: $1.5M loan approved for Rocky Mountain PBS, predator control study, sage grouse guidelines, and two Western Slope coal plants to shutter.

Earlier this year, we reported Rocky Mountain PBS would move to a new headquarters at 21st and Arapahoe Street in Denver, CO, into a building designed by local firm Tryba Architects. We also reported the move would cost $30 million; Rocky Mountain PBS CEO Doug Price told the city PBS they would swap their current space (on Bannock Street, near West 11th Avenue) for $1.5 million and a state-owned block on the proposed headquarters site. RMPBS would “lease back” the Bannock building until the new headquarters is finished.

Now, according to the Denver Post, the City Council has approved a $1.5 million loan to Rocky Mountain PBS to start construction of the project:

The loan — of which $1 million is forgivable if RMPBS meets a goal to hire 43 new workers in two years — is just a smidge of the $30 million the station needs to fundraise from supporters. The City Council will vote on the loan agreement Sept. 12. If the full council approves the deal, RMPBS has 90 days to begin construction.

“This isn’t an incentive to bring a business here, but a partnership that we and OED (Office of Economic Development) and many others believe will create the type of place for technology and innovation to occur,” said Jeff Romine, a city economist working on the project.

And much like past city economic development loans, this one targets an undeveloped part of the city, Arapahoe Square, a largely undeveloped area northeast of downtown that is bounded by Park Avenue West, 20th, Lawrence and Welton streets.

[…]

“It has the same characteristics as Industry,” Romine said, pointing to the now-thriving coworking spot on Brighton Boulevard that the city loaned $1 million to in 2013.

“When we first started talking about Industry and Jason and Ellen (Winkler) brought that forward, Brighton wasn’t Brighton,” he said. “There’s always a risk, but it’s about us being a catalyst. We think this is going to be the same case. We’re asking Rocky Mountain PBS to think broader than their parameters.”

And the project is, indeed, broader. In addition to the station’s new studios and offices, the project will include office space for digital art-related businesses. The idea, Romine said, is that area businesses could better work with PBS to create digital shows or other content, or even share equipment.

The $1 million performance loan requires PBS to create 43 new jobs within 24 months of the loan’s approval. Romine said the station can meet that goal by leasing the commercial spots out.

Earlier this year, a pair of researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Riddarhyttan (Guillaume Chapron) and University of Wisconsin–Madison (Adrian Treves) published a study arguing that culling of large carnivores (like wolves and bears) leads to an increase in poaching. The study challenged conventional notions of predator control, which hold that removing carnivores from the wild decreases poaching because “problem” animals are removed. The study found that the opposite is true: when culling is implemented, poaching goes up, as killing becomes normalized.

Now, Treves and another pair of researchers (Miha Krofel of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and Jeanine McManus of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa) have published a study in Frontiers of Ecology and the Environment arguing that other forms of predator control have been implemented “without first considering experimental evidence of their effectiveness sin mitigating predation-related threats or avoiding ecological degradation.” In other words, managers and livestock owners used lethal or non-lethal methods of predator control (guard dogs, fences, poison, etc.) without considering whether they would work i.e. get predators to leave their cattle alone.

The study weighed 24 recent predator control studies (including two in Montana and Idaho) and subjected them to “rigorous tests using the ‘gold standard’ for scientific inference.” In other words, they subjected them to an experiment. From the study’s conclusion:

In conclusion, we believe the science of predator control lacks rigor generally – the resulting uncertainty about the functional effectiveness of killing predators should guide evidence-based policy to non-lethal methods until gold standard tests are completed.

Keeping with wildlife, according to the Billings Gazette, the Bureau of Land Management has released their latest guidelines for implementing greater sage grouse management plans. The release comes after Wyoming announced their sage grouse populations were up for a third year in a row.

The BLM (and to a larger extent, the Interior Department) have attracted criticism for their handling of the sage grouse. Conservaitonsists argue the bird should be placed on the Endangered Species List, while mining and drilling companies say the plans would curb their effectiveness and profits. From the Gazette:

The plans released Thursday provide instruction on how to carry out the preservation efforts developed by federal officials with input from states, industries and conservationists.

Initial reactions Thursday were widely positive, though many are still reviewing how the large and detailed guidelines address issues such as oil and gas development and grazing in specific sage grouse breeding areas.

“[The BLM] came out with what we feel were some strong conservation plans a year ago,” said Bruce Pendery, energy and climate policy specialist with The Wilderness Society. “This is another step in that process of how are we going to get down to brass tacks.”

The plans are effective immediately, but realistically it will take time to establish them on the ground as federal offices around the West make decisions on permitting and drilling on public lands, he said.

“These instruction will help put BLM on a better path to fulfilling the plans, make them come to fruition,” Pendery said. “That said, one of the things we will be doing is monitoring how well different field offices are implementing them…That will be our job, to track these things and make sure they are put into practice.”

Not all groups are pleased with the BLM’s approach to the bird’s conservation on public lands, where a large number of companies operate.

“The [guidelines] include arbitrary prioritization of leases and permits, no matter how much companies have done to protect sage grouse,” Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for Western Energy Alliance, said in a statement.

The federal regulations ignore responsible energy development on public lands, she said.

“This is another example of draconian federal measures that ignore actual on-the-ground measures that states, counties, landowners and companies are already doing to conserve the species,” she said. “No credit is given for the fact that companies have reduced potential impact by 70 percent and the other protections that they’ve put in place.”

Keeping with energy, according to the Denver Post, two power plants on Colorado’s Western Slope will shut down by 2025, citing challenges brought by a decline in coal and the cost of retrofitting to meet emission standards:

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a cooperative based in Westminster, will retire the 100-megawatt, coal-fired Nucla Station in western Montrose County by the end of 2022. The nearby New Horizon Mine, which feeds the plant with coal, will also cease operations and undergo reclamation.

Tri-State also operates three coal-fired units at Craig Station, two of which it owns in conjunction with the Yampa Project, a partnership that also includes PacifiCorp, Platte River Power Authority, Salt River Project, and Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy.

By the end of 2025, Yampa Project will retire Unit 1, a 427-megawatt coal-fired plant built in 1980. Units 2 and 3 will continue to operate, but with added emissions control equipment to stay in compliance.

“Tri-State has worked tirelessly to preserve our ability to responsibly use coal to produce reliable and affordable power, which makes the decision to retire a coal-fired generating unit all the more difficult,” Tri-State CEO Mike McInnes said in a statement. “We are not immune to the challenges that face coal-based electricity across the country.”

In the end, it was more cost-effective to retire the two plants rather than retrofit them with equipment to comply with stricter emission requirements, Tri-State said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told the Post the agreement will cut carbon dioxide emissions by nearly four million tons a year, which will contribute to the department’s other goal of improving air quality and visibility. CDPHE chief Dry. Larry Wolk was pleased with the outcome, but acknowledged the short-term job loss tempered his enthusiasm. While Craig Station Unit 1 will have little to no impact, the Montrose County closures will “hit Nucla and Naturita hard.”

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