News, February 28th


Carbondale–The Carbondale Town Hall was bursting at the seams last night as close to 500 people showed up to voice their concerns about the prospect of energy development in the Thompson Divide. The resounding sentiment was dead set against drilling of any kind in the divide. Patagonia, Incorporated Founder and CEO Casey Sheahan spoke against plans by Houston, Texas based SG Interests and URSA to drill and their requests to suspend the soon to expire leases. Longtime Carbondale rancher Marty Nieslanik, usually a quiet, reserved man, has been a vocal opponent of drilling in the divide. He fears it will severely impact the work he’s done his whole life, raising cattle. Pitkin County organized last night’s meeting in Carbondale. The Thompson Divide area in question eccompasses about a quarter of a million acres of public lands in the counties of Pitkin, Garfield, Mesa, Gunnison and Delta.


Silt–The Roan Plateau is once again involved in a tug-of-war between the oil and gas industry and environmental groups. Previously approved drilling leases were put on hold last summer by Colorado District Court Judge Marcia Krieger who ruled in favor of a number of environmental organizations saying the Bureau of Land Management’s plan for energy development was in violation of the Environmental Policy Act. The judge ruled that the BLM did not fully consider the possible impacts to air, water and wildlife. The public scoping process and comments will be taken by the BLM until March 30th.


DENVER (AP) – The Colorado Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling blocking one of Colorado’s first school voucher programs. The appeals court said Thursday the Choice Scholarship Program does not violate the state Constitution.
Denver District Judge Michael Martinez had sided with a group of parents and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. They argued the voucher program in Douglas County violated the separation of church and state because it gives scholarship checks that parents can use at religious schools. The judge noted that some religious schools authorized for Douglas vouchers require students to attend religious services. Martinez said the voucher program violates both financial and religious provisions in the Colorado constitution. More than 200 students got voucher money from the county.


DENVER (AP) – Marijuana regulators who are considering how the drug should be taxed, sold and regulated in Colorado are facing a deadline to get their ideas to state officials. A marijuana task force plans its final meeting Thursday. The task force is giving a lengthy set of recommendations to state lawmakers and the governor’s office. The marijuana task force has several questions still to work out. One big question is how to tax the newly legal drug. Voters wanted excise taxes to go to school construction, but pot taxes will also have to pay for safety enforcement and drug education measures. Estimates vary widely on how large the marijuana market will be.