Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Aug. 30, on the Whitewater drilling plan:

If Fram ever gets the green light to drill up to 108 oil wells over four years from 12 new well pads on public land in the Whitewater Basin, it won't be because there wasn't adequate opportunity for the public to weigh in.

The Bureau of Land Management determined in 2014 that the Fram Whitewater Master Development Plan, covering 26,000 acres, would not result in significant impacts to the environment. But the plan had to undergo further environmental review because it didn't analyze hydraulic fracturing — a practice of using water, sand and chemicals to break up subsurface formations to maximize directional drilling.

So, the Bureau of Land Management invited the public to comment on an amended environmental assessment. Environmental groups, who scored a victory in forcing the amended review, still oppose the plan, saying it poses a potential threat to Grand Junction's watershed and air quality.

Mesa County commissioners have endorsed the project, noting they've addressed transportation, air quality and water quality concerns raised by opponents at every stage since Fram's development plan was unveiled in 2011. Their support is contingent on assurances that air and groundwater quality will not be adversely impacted.

The city of Grand Junction took no position on the project. But in comments it furnished to the Bureau of Land Management on Monday, it provided details of the conditions it thinks the Bureau of Land Management should impose to ensure the public health, safety and welfare.

The city said it will use all means available in its Watershed Ordinance to assure protection of its water resources. Fram would be required to obtain a city watershed permit before it can perform work within the city's watershed boundaries. That alone should offer some assurances to detractors.

The city's comments also specify additional measures Fram should take: It should provide additional detail describing how its fracking program will be designed in the shallow Dakota sandstone "to mitigate fracture propagation to shallow aquifers."

Fram should also conduct mechanical and formation integrity tests before fracking, conduct baseline water quality monitoring tests beyond the half-mile radius required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and install monitoring wells near and downgradient of each well pad proposed as part of a focused hydro-geologic investigation of groundwater resources. The city also suggests that fracking operations should be witnessed by an independent hydrogeologist for at least two wells.

Without taking a stand, the city has made it clear that water resources deserve the fullest measure of protection. The Bureau of Land Management would be wise to heed the city's concerns as it ponders final approval, but the fact that city hasn't opposed the project outright is an indication that's it's been thoroughly vetted.



The Gazette, Aug. 29, on legal marijuana correlating with rising traffic deaths:

Marijuana advocates can no longer claim legalization is devoid of catastrophic results.

The Denver Post, which has embraced legalization, analyzed federal and state data and found results so alarming they published a story last week under the headline "Traffic fatalities linked to marijuana are up sharply in Colorado. Is legalization to blame?"

Of course legalization is to blame. It ushered in a commercial industry that encourages consumption and produces an ever-increasing supply of pot substantially more potent than most users could find when the drug was illegal.

The post reported a 40 percent increase in the number of all drivers, impaired or otherwise, involved in fatal crashes in Colorado between 2013 and 2016. That's why the Colorado State Patrol posts fatality numbers on electronic signs over the highways.

"Increasingly potent levels of marijuana were found in positive-testing drivers who died in crashes in Front Range counties, according to coroner data since 2013 compiled by The Denver Post. Nearly a dozen in 2016 had levels five times the amount allowed by law, and one was at 22 times the limit. Levels were not as elevated in earlier years," The Post explained.

All drivers in marijuana-related crashes who survived last year tested at levels indicating use within a few hours of the tests.

"The trends coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado that began with adult use in late 2012, followed by sales in 2014," the Post reported.

Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson called the trend "a huge public safety problem."

Colorado Springs Councilwoman Jill Gaebler, who wants a ballot measure to legalize recreational pot in Colorado Springs, tried to downplay the Post's findings in a comment on

"...33% or 196 of all traffic deaths that occurred in 2016 were alcohol-related," Gaebler wrote. "Yet you don't hear anyone trying to ban alcohol, even though it is far more dangerous, in every regard, to marijuana."

The Post found fatal crashes involving drivers under the influence of alcohol grew 17 percent from 2013 to 2015. Figures for 2016 were not available. Drivers testing positive for pot during that span grew by 145 percent, and "prevalence of testing drivers for marijuana use did not change appreciably, federal fatal-crash data show."

The entire country has an enormous problem with alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Given our inability to resolve that problem, it is arguably idiotic to throw another intoxicating substance into the mix with the predictable result of more traffic deaths caused by impairment.

El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez gets it, as shown by a comment he left on

"Recent data indicates crime is up statewide, homelessness up, black and Hispanic teen arrests related to MJ are up a lot," Gonzalez wrote. "A Denver TV station did a month long data poll last year at a hospital in Pueblo (which has fully embraced MJ) and found that nearly half of all newborns were testing positive for THC in their bloodstream at birth. Who would want to expand MJ sales in face of such data? And the big supporters of rec MJ can only fall back on their 'go-to' arguments, that 'it isn't as bad as alcohol' or that the negative articles are biased or not credible."

Another Gazette commenter expressed surprise at Gaebler's "casual attitude" about the Denver Post's findings.

"...We already have alcohol, let's add MJ, and why stop there — people want and need their opioids. Let there be drinking, toking, shooting up in our beautiful city," the commenter wrote.

One must stretch the imagination to deny that legalized pot has caused a substantial increase in Colorado highway deaths. Pot is an intoxicating, psychoactive drug. That means it cannot be harmless. Expect emerging and troubling data to make this fact increasingly clear.



Cortez Journal, Aug. 28, on modeling decency, dignity to help bring order to democracy:

Most Americans have little reluctance to state firmly that race-based superiority is wrong.

At the same time, too many fall into the belief that their political opponents are inherently inferior. Distaste based on voluntary choices is not the moral equivalent of white supremacy, but lumping large numbers of people together and labeling them snowflakes, racists, freeloaders or compassionless definitely is a form of prejudice.

That kind of "othering" can cross the line that separates disagreeing with someone's opinions and dismissing someone's humanity. It's a dangerous practice, and there's absolutely no doubt that it is growing ever more prevalent in the United States of America.

Twice, recently, someone has publicly expressed the wish that Sen. John McCain, who is suffering from brain cancer, would die. From there, it's really not all that far to the belief that it's OK to make that happen.

Political discourse has degenerated into namecalling, sometimes without any other message.

When the president himself routinely uses derogatory terms for American citizens and elected officials - who at least knew they were signing on to a system rife with partisan divisions - something is wrong.

Insulting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not the way to craft consensus.

It is now common, and acceptable in some circles, to brand any unflattering opinion as uninformed and untrue, any inconvenient news as fake, and anyone who holds an opposing viewpoint as un-American. The number of leaks from within the Trump administration, as well as the number of people already fired, show that trust is almost nonexistent and relationships aren't working.

None of this moves our country forward.

The United States of America is - or ought to be - a nation in which ideas are refined through vigorous, respectful debate. Proposals can be made stronger through valid criticism and rejected if they cannot withstand scrutiny. That work should involve everyone's best effort, not obstruction and obfuscation, and not instant rejection of the work of opponents and predecessors.

Can we all take a deep breath and remember that the process of governing can be accomplished in a civil and humane manner, even while benefiting from sharply divergent opinions?

What we are seeing right now is not America at its best. All of us need to demand civil and responsible behavior from those we have elected, and we need to model that behavior in our political activism and everyday discourse.

We can, and must, do better.



The Durango Herald, Aug. 28, on Durango cyclists making city, state proud:

It was the stuff of legends, a classic Western confrontation: Two men in a duel in the sun.

No rifles or six-shooters involved in this 21st century clash, but riders on saddles still the same.

There was no hero in a white hat, or a bad man dressed in black. But this was a generational battle, with a wily old hand unwilling to yield to an upstart, and no quarter given to the young rider fighting not only the elder on a rocky alpine trail, but a recently dislocated shoulder to boot.

And now it is history. Durango's Howard Grotts, 24, excelled on the uphill grades, as he is perhaps the nation's best mountain bike climber. Fellow Durangoan Todd Wells, 41, excelled going down, as few riders in the world negotiate technical downhills like he can. On the sixth and final stage of the Breck Epic, Grotts erased a nearly three-minute deficit to Wells to take the title.

"Epic" might be an understatement. The single-track race is 240 miles long and boasts 40,000 feet of elevation gain. "Beyond epic" is more appropriate, as the race started just one day after the Leadville Trail 100, an iconic one-day mountain bike marathon above 10,000 feet that Grotts won in just under six hours and 16 minutes.

The runner up? Wells again, who like fellow Durango cycling icon Ned Overend before him, is showing no signs of slowing down in his fourth decade on two wheels. Enter legendary territory, because in winning both races, Grotts duplicated the feat Wells pulled off a year ago when he won his third Leadville 100 and followed it up with a win at Breckenridge.

Doing that at just 24? That's remarkable. As for Wells, grab a thesaurus or go online, because we have run out of adjectives to describe his tenacity and talent. We will frame his name in cycling headlines for some time to come.

Beyond the pair, an impressive number of Durango riders are having great seasons. Next week, Grotts will be in Australia for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, joined by another Durango rider, Payson McElveen. A Fort Lewis College alum, McElveen joined Grotts and Wells on the podium in Leadville, and took on the Breck Epic as well.

Also headed down under are Christopher Blevins, a member of the 23-and-under American team (who has had an impressive summer on a road bike), and Katja Freeburn, named to the USA Cycling junior women's team. Freeburn, recently of Durango High School, will race for FLC upon her return, as will Animas High grads Keiran Eagen and Camryn Sippy.

On the road, we can't overlook Sepp Kuss, just 22, who recently placed sixth overall in the four-stage Colorado Classic just a week after a ninth overall finish in the seven-stage Tour of Utah. He finished just one minute and six seconds behind Colorado Classic winner Manuel Senni of Italy. Kuss, you will remember, left everyone else in the background scenery of Molas Pass in winning this year's Iron Horse Classic.

From the youngsters in the DEVO program to the veterans in the professional ranks, local cyclists on dirt and on the pavement are adding to Durango's legendary cycling reputation on almost a weekly basis. To say we are proud is yet another understatement.

Back to the thesaurus we will — gladly — have to go.