Archive for March, 2009

Face the State’s tunnel vision

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

It’s fair enough to cover the news from a conservative perspective, which is what Face the State claims to do, as long as your standards of “fair and balanced” don’t align with Bill O’Reilly’s. But it’s a problem when you develop such tunnel vision that you can’t even see a liberal politician’s name when he’s involved in something conservatives support. Maybe the name “Gov. Ritter” becomes invisible to Face the State’s unnamed reporters when he’s doing stuff conservatives like?

 

Maybe that explains what happened in the coverage below, which completely ignores Gov. Ritter’s involvement with Attorney General John Suthers. But whatever the explanation, it’s a ridiculously gross omission by Face the State, and it proves my point that the Colorado Independent, which covers news from a progressive perspective, does a better job of being fair and accurate than Face the State does. I’ve proven this before, but Face the State Editor Brad Jones stubbornly disputes my quantitative findings.

 

I don’t want Face the State to close down. I want it to do better.

FACE THE STATE

SUTHERS SIGNS ON TO HELP COMBAT POLLUTION IN SOUTHWEST COLORADO

 

http://facethestate.com/buzz/14848-suthers-signs-help-combat-pollution-southwest-colorado

 

 

March 18, 2009

 

Attorney General John Suthers has joined state Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in a joint-effort to combat harmful pollution to southern Colorado caused by emissions from Four Corners Power Plant.

 

The two penned a letter sent to Interior secretary Ken Salazar (PDF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (PDF), asking both to stop the FCPP from further polluting the region.

 

The FCPP is located across state lines on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, creating complex jurisdictional issues. As Interior secretary, Salazar has authority over these lands, while the state of New Mexico does not. Salazar’s office, however, declined to answer questions Tuesday about the FCPP and punted to the EPA, which did not return phone calls.

 

Talk about government bureaucracy run amok.

 

*****

 

 COLORADO INDEPENDENT

Ritter, Suthers set aside partisanship to

 fight air pollution

 

 

 

By WENDY NORRIS 3/18/09 10:05 AM

 

The only things missing from the ozone-busting tag team of Gov. Bill Ritter and Attorney General John Suthers are Mexican wrestling masks to completely shield their partisan identities.

 

The state’s chief executive and chief lawyer have teamed up to fight the belching coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant and the planned Desert Rock plant located just over the state’s southwestern border with New Mexico.

 

 

According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, the dynamic duo is taking two tacks …- push the Environmental Protection Agency to require stronger emission controls on the Four Corners Power Plant on Navajo Nation lands near Farmington, N.M., and halt an operations permit for the nearby Desert Rock Power Plant.

 

Says CDPHE: “The Four Corners Power Plant is the largest single nitrogen oxide source in the nation, emitting more than 40,000 tons of the ozone-causing pollution annually.”

 

Our colleagues at the New Mexico Independent get to the real crux of the problem with the so-called “clean coal” Desert Rock project:

 

Mary Yuhl, Air Quality Bureau Chief at the NM Environment Department, though, told the Independent the primary problem in the Four Corners region isn’t sulfur dioxide, it’s ozone, which the company’s mitigation plans don’t address.

 

It’s the ozone levels in the region, she said, that are near the maximum when it comes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

 

Colorado officials are concerned that the northwestern New Mexico power plants, those in operation and planned, will continue to violate EPA ozone and mercury emission limits that affect our own state’s clean air standards …- violations that can come with hefty fines.

 

In several stories on the Desert Rock EPA permit saga reported by the New Mexico Independent, the health-threatening bottom line for Colorado becomes apparent:

 

In …econ-o-speak,’ an externality is an external cost or benefit that is not reflected in the market price. Electricity generation from coal-powered power plants is a perfect example of a negative externality; the cost of generating electricity does not reflect the health and environmental impacts that arise from using coal. Thus, these costs are ignored by producers.

 

-

 

On the regional level, coal use contributes to acid rain. Where the acid rain occurs is highly dependent on wind and weather patterns. At the local level, coal use can impact communities and ecosytems through increased smog and mercury levels. Thus, when we consume energy from these sources, the external costs can impact very different communities.

 

 

 

Sealover at Biz Journal

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Former Rocky reporter Ed Sealover started today at the Denver Business Journal.

Sealover was hired just about the time that things started going seriously down hill for the Rocky.

It’s good news he’s found a job. If only more Rocky reporters could.

Reporters to Republicans: Where’s the Money?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Gov. Ritter is signing the so-called FASTER legislation into law today, after it cleared the state legislature last week. I wrote about this legislation in my final Rocky column. You’re excused for missing it, because the Rocky closed the day before my column was scheduled to run. It’s a low blow for me to be criticizing the Rocky’s coverage of the state legislature after the paper has died, but in some ways maybe you’ll find it refreshing. The final edition of the Rocky was such a love fest, it almost killed me. I mean, I enjoyed it, but you’d think a journalistic organ like the Rocky would have been a tiny bit more critical of itself.

In any case, below is my faster column that never ran. Fortunately, it criticizes the Post as well, and it’s relevant to state legislature coverage going forward.

If you’ve following the state legislature in the dailies, you know that both Republicans and Democrats have been telling reporters they want to fix roads and bridges in Colorado.
 

 The we-want-to-do-something theme comes across clearly, even if you read a fraction of the articles.
 

 So you’d expect journalists to tell us how much each side proposed to spend on roads and bridges and where they planned to get the money.
 

 Well, I just finished reading all the stories about highway funding in the dailies this year, and the coverage answered those two questions, at least regarding the Democrats’ proposal.
 

 But I’m left with only the vaguest notions about how much the Republicans were proposing to spend, and where they were going to get the money.
 

 In 15 of 16 articles, reporters wrote that Democrats wanted to spend between $200 and $265 million per year, depending on the article, and they’d get this money by raising average vehicle registration fees to $41 and adding $2 to rental car fees.
 

 But only two of the 16 articles provided a specific figure for the amount Republicans wanted to spend, $82 million under one proposal and $125 million under another. Even these figures were vague. The latter, published in the Feb. 5 Rocky Mountain News, was described as consisting of a $15 vehicle fee, “redirection” of the existing state budget, and severance-tax money.
 

 Instead of providing specifics, reporters wrote, in five articles, about the Republicans’ broad ideas to generate more transportation money.
 

 For example, a Rocky article Jan. 15 stated that Republicans wanted to leverage the “value of state buildings and sell bonds,” without offering a figure for how much this could raise.
 

 But the Rocky found space in the piece to quote Republican House Minority Leader Mike May saying, “The Republican plan is: Building roads, not bureaucracies.”
 

 Similarly, four articles stated that Republicans wanted to reallocate existing money in the state budget to transportation, but not a single story told us what they’d cut to free up the funds.
 

 Reporters should have given us more specifics about the Republican proposals.
 

 And here’s the key point: if Republicans couldn’t come up with specific funding sources and costs for their road proposals, then reporters should have informed us, repeatedly if necessary, that Republicans were not able to provide this specific information.
 

 Reporters also should have told us more often how much money Colorado highways actually need. Only three stories did this, reminding readers that a governor’s commission estimated that Colorado highways require $500 million – $1.5 billion per year, well above the Democrats’ proposal and way higher than the Republican’s vague proposals.
 

 Reporters should have reported whether the leaders of both parties, particularly the Republicans, think they’ve provided for basic public safety with their highway proposals. I didn’t see this addressed at all, even though the costs of repairing Colorado’s roads is so much higher than the figures debated at the Capitol.
 

 The transportation bill has cleared both the Colorado House and Senate, and Gov. Ritter is expected to sign it. So its day in the sun is gone.
 

 But with the state budget as tight as it is, you can count on seeing similar debates in the future over how to fund popular programs.
 

 Reporters should insist, repeatedly if necessary, that politicians who claim to support something, like transportation upgrades, be specific about 1) how much they want to spend, 2) where they’ll get the money, and 3) whether their proposals are will actually do the job.
 

 And their answers, or lack thereof, should be included in any article where a funding proposal is tossed around.