Steamboat Springs During a two-day swing through Northwest Colorado, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is touching on the manufacture of forest products, land management and an all-of-the-above approach to the nation’s energy portfolio.
A roundtable meeting Tuesday afternoon focused on alternative energy showed how intertwined those subjects are for this corner of the state.
The pellet plant in Kremmling uses beetle-killed wood from the Routt National Forest. South Routt School District uses a mix of geothermal and biomass to heat its schools. Oil and gas exploration in Routt and Moffat counties must practice solid land management to preserve species such as the greater sage grouse.
And those who filled the room at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus represented many facets of the energy framework. Solar, hydroelectric, natural gas, conservation, waste management, local government, efficiency and finance all had seats at the table.
The result was a wide-ranging conversation in which everyone was pitching and listening at the same time.
Sonja Macys, a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council and executive director of Yampatika, mentioned that nonprofits don’t have access to the same types of incentives as private business for funding solar projects.
“If we could figure out something for nonprofits, that would be huge,” said Susan Holland, of Emerald Mountain Energy.
On the hydroelectric front, Holland said, it’s hard to know how much potential the area has.
Kevin McBride, district manager for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, said his organization has had costly, ongoing issues with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission related to the turbine installed at Stagecoach Reservoir.
Holland said other potential projects in the area took into consideration the level of regulation when deciding whether or not to go ahead with hydroelectric installations.
Sasha Nelson, a field organizer for Conservation Colorado, outlined some areas her organization would like to see movement in oil and gas development. She said the reform to Colorado’s leasing process is stalled at the state level in the Bureau of Land Management.
“We’d like to see development in these place in these ways, and it’s getting roadblocked at the state,” Nelson said.
Nelson also advocated for proposals to bring transmission lines across the state to tie into local communities so they can buy or sell power and see benefits from the project.
Local benefit was a topic of concern with natural gas exploration. Attendees worried that without local infrastructure, the impacts would stay localized while the gas and benefits would be trucked, liquified or otherwise moved out of Northwest Colorado.
Udall said President Barack Obama quietly has been pushing for energy efficiency progress in government and that the armed services are another sector where large efficiency gains are being made. Udall sits on the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. Senate.
Casualties near fuel lines and the danger of noise signatures from generators are concerns, he said.
Udall said he’s working on an energy efficiency package and that the feedback and discussion from meetings like these is great for tweaking or spawning policy.
“I’m a fan of solving these problems on a local level,” said Tim McCarthy, of Brightside Solar.
“Randy was a leader at the local level,” Holland said about Udall’s brother, who currently is missing after a hiking trip in the Wind River Range in Wyoming.
“He used to say what I was thinking,” Udall said.
“I always looked at this community — as I do six or eight across the state — as thinking outside of the box,” Udall said about the Yampa Valley. “I certainly never take it for granted.
“You’re all doing great work,” he said to the table.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com