For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email

Rob Douglas: Politics in Yampa Valley


Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at

Find more columns by Douglas here.

On Tuesday, national news became local and local news became national when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney landed in the fossil fuel-endowed Yampa Valley to engage President Barack Obama in the national debate about America’s energy future.

It’s a national debate with a specific date of significance that those employed in coal-related industries can recite from memory.

On Jan. 17, 2008, then presidential candidate Obama met with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle and articulated his plan to “bankrupt” coal-powered electricity production plants. Obama stated his goal was to enact a cap-and-trade system “that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there. ... So, if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

Agree or disagree with Obama’s goal, one fact is undeniable. When Obama’s intent became public, every man and woman working in coal-related jobs realized that Obama had placed a bulls-eye on their livelihood. Many of those men and women call the Yampa Valley home.

So when Romney sought the perfect venue to confront Obama’s claim of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, Northwest Colorado was a natural choice. Romney is calculating that he can increase his odds in November by siding with folks employed in fossil fuel industries in states like Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania — all battleground states this year.

After all, Romney has a point when he argues that Obama has continued his war against coal.

This spring, having watched his cap-and-trade legislation die in the U.S. Senate when Democrats abandoned the bill in 2010, Obama bypassed Congress and used the Environmental Protection Agency to start implementing mercury emission, cross-state pollution and greenhouse gas regulations that will kill the coal industry.

As the Washington Post reported March 26, the new regulations “could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.”

The Post further reported: “National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich said the proposal shows that President Obama is following through on his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through means other than legislation.”

“After Congress refused to pass carbon caps, the administration insisted there were other ways to skin the cat, and this is another way — by setting a standard deliberately calculated to drive affordable coal out of the electricity market,” Popovich told the Post.

Still, it goes without saying that Obama has significant support across the country for his desire to kill the coal industry. Many of these folks think that coal will be replaced by natural gas to fire our electricity plants. Unfortunately, they’re ignoring the agenda behind significant elements in the “environmental” movement that seek to stop any extraction and use of all fossil fuels.

Coincidentally, on the same day Romney was speaking to the crowd gathered at Alice Pleasant Park in Craig, the Wall Street Journal reported that, according to the International Energy Agency, “global exploitation of shale gas reserves could transform the world’s energy supply by lowering prices, improving security and curbing carbon dioxide emissions, but the industry might be stopped in its tracks if it doesn’t work harder to resolve environmental concerns.”

Of course, everything after the “but” in that last sentence is where the battle lies. Because as can be witnessed even here in the Yampa Valley, there are some who will never accept fossil fuels as part of America’s energy policy. And just as coal is under attack, these individuals and organizations are mounting battles to prohibit the use of fracking to extract oil and gas — the same oil and gas that Americans have been led to believe could replace coal as an energy source.

Romney’s visit to our corner of the world provided a front-row seat to the energy battle that will rage this election season. And, given the NBC/Marist poll released Thursday showing Obama with only a one point edge over Romney in Colorado, we can be sure Coloradans will play a pivotal role in the battle for the presidency.

By the way, that same NBC/Marist poll shows that Coloradans are eager to cast a ballot, with 81 percent describing themselves as “very enthusiastic” or “somewhat enthusiastic” about voting.

I have no doubt the men and women who toil in the coal mines and power plants of Northwest Colorado are in the “very enthusiastic” camp.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C., private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email


Scott Wedel 4 years, 11 months ago

What a pathetic partisan hack.

Nice attempt at following Republican talking points by interchanging proposed rules for NEW construction of CONVENTIONAL coal power plants with the continued operation of existing coal power plants that provide 50% of the nation's power.

Even the coal industry concedes that global climate change is a concern which is why they advertise clean coal which does not have the emissions of conventional coal power plants.

And nat gas drilling via horizontal wells and fracking have been so successful that there is a glut of nat gas and the differential between nat gas and oil is at all time highs. In fact, the glut in nat gas and the weak pricing is slowing the drilling of nat gas.

Sure, there is a lot to criticize about Obama, but Romney is apparently unwilling to be the moderate he once was and use his knowledge to propose useful ideas. Romney should be talking about converting diesel transportation trucks to nat gas which requires creating nat gas refilling station. Right now garbage trucks and other trucks with known local routes so refueling can be planned are being converting, but the lack of refueling options is preventing many other trucks from being able to be converted. Instead Romney has cast his lot with the wingnuts and is suggesting that pollution is fine and global climate change is of no concern.


bill schurman 4 years, 11 months ago


Thanks for your comments. Well said.

/s/ A Republican (for now)


Fred Duckels 4 years, 11 months ago

Lefties have flooded into Steamboat are stymied by the entrenchment of carbon fuel extraction in the area. They of course will stop at nothing to further the agenda. I saw in the paper that the Community Alliance was negotiating with the oil companies, apparently on our behalf, what goes? I don't want Steve Lewis peddling his agenda in my name.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 11 months ago

Fred, I am sure Steve Lewis is not mentioning your name as a supporter.

And I have seen no indication of any leftie working to shutdown coal production at 20 Mile. Their new site closer to Hayden has met with no opposition other than traffic concerns.

In fact, a "leftie" would probably support MORE local production because local coal is cleaner than most other coal. Cap and Trade on emissions would have been expected to increase demand of local coal since power plants could switch to our coal and reduced their emissions. But the current system gives existing plants very little incentive to pollute less than their allotted maximum so they instead use the cheapest coal.

And local politics of either party is certainly not of a "They of course will stop at nothing to further the agenda" style. There is none of the lawsuits, recalls or other steps in a "stop at nothing" manner of politics.


Scott Ford 4 years, 11 months ago

Wing nuts that Righties or Lefties are just that; it matters very little. I think the band Steelers Wheel said it the best. As true today as when it was orginally recored in 1972 for the majority of us.

Cindy: I know you enjoy this type of music. Where were you in 1972?


jerry carlton 4 years, 11 months ago

Rob Douglas calls Scott Wedel a " gutless coward" and Scott Wedel calls Rob Douglas a "pathetic partisan hack". Where has the civility gone?


Rob Douglas 4 years, 10 months ago

I received a thoughtful email from a reader that, in part, asked me to elaborate on the portion of my column where I stated: "there are some who will never accept fossil fuels as part of America’s energy policy. And just as coal is under attack, these individuals and organizations are mounting battles to prohibit the use of fracking to extract oil and gas..."

So, as an addendum here, I will provide the following statement from the Sierra Club that I provided the emailer as just one example (amongst dozens) of the radicalized views of so-called environmentalists.

“Fossil fuels have no part in America’s energy future – coal, oil, and natural gas are literally poisoning us. The emergence of natural gas as a significant part of our energy mix is particularly frightening because it dangerously postpones investment in clean energy at a time when we should be doubling down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.” —Robin Mann, Sierra Club President

Given that the Sierra Club is considered America's most influential and mainstream "environmental" group and given that it routinely files lawsuits to stop fossil fuel extraction, I feel comfortable citing this example as the current position of the environmental movement.

To state that fossil fuels have no part in America's energy future and to call for the end to all liguid natural gas exports and claim that America could have 100% green energy - as the Sierra Club does - is beyond irrational.


Scott Ford 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Rob - The Sierra Club has done some good locally. If I recall correctly in the late 1980's there was an issue with "acid snow" in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. The Hayden and Craig Power Stations were thought to be the cause. The Sierra Club took legal action against the owners of both power plants. A ton of studies then took place over the next several years and it was determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the lakes in the Mt. Zirkel had the highest acid levels in the western United States.

Having fished the lakes and streams in the wilderness area since the early 1970's it just seemed to me that the "bugs" were essentially missing from what I rembered. This included the mosquitoes and chorus frogs.

The owners of both power plants took the position that the "acid" was likely naturally occurring because of the volcanic rock formations in the area and it was not their fault. Eventually the EPA used some type of unique isotope added to the coal that did pinpoint that the source of the "acid" was the Hayden and Craig stations.

The cost to retrofit the Hayden Station was going to be in excess of $100 million and for the Craig Station it approached $250 million. There was discussion that the owners would shut down the plants rather than take on the expense of retro fitting them. This made the current Yampa Valley upset regarding the future of coal look like child's play. The retrofit work on the Hayden Station was completed in 1999 and the Craig Station was completed in 2004.

The scientist confirmed chemistry in the lakes got better quickly after the retrofits were completed. All I know that is that the damsel flies, chorus and leopard frog populations that had gone missing seemed to return in 3 to 4 years. Believe me the mosquitoes have retuned as well.

Although I do not agree with everything the Sierra Club does I am glad they used their national clout to protect the lakes and streams in the Zirkel Wilderness.

I think Steve and Linda Lewis were very involved in this effort and may have something to add.


Eric J. Bowman 4 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately, the Bushies changed the rules such that groups like the Sierra Club no longer have "standing" to pursue such lawsuits, while gutting the Clean Air Act and hamstringing EPA enforcement.

It wasn't just the Sierra Club involved in that lawsuit here, IIRC, the agricultural community played their part as well. Had such efforts, and EPA enforcement, been allowed to continue beyond the 20th century we'd have prevented over half a billion TONS of pollution being released into the environment each year. Damn, that really adds up, no wonder the planet keeps getting hotter.


Rob Douglas 4 years, 10 months ago

The Denver Post editorial board is now picking up on the radicalism of the Sierra Club under its current leadership.

Editorial: Sierra Club's about-face on natural gas n Colorado


Rob Douglas 4 years, 10 months ago

Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane has published a stinging rebuke of Obama's energy policy (along with that of several previous presidents) based upon a new study from the left-of-center Brookings Institution. Definitely worth a gander.

See: ‘Clean energy’ is money wasted


Rob Douglas 4 years, 10 months ago

Also, Governor Hickenlooper has now taken a very reasonable position on fracing.

“I was personally involved with 50 or 60 (fracked) wells,” [Hickenlooper] said, at the Atlantic Next Generation Energy summit in Washington. “There have been tens and thousands of wells in Colorado … and we can’t find anywhere in Colorado a single example of the process of fracing that has polluted groundwater...There is a lot of anxiety out there certainly with hydraulic fracturing,” he said. “But often times that anxiety is not directly connected to facts.”

see: Hick: Hydraulic fracturing has gotten a bad rap


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