Category: Stories

Things I have written, and such

Fracking Fracas

Fracking Fracas

Polis townhall
Congressman Jared Polis addresses fractivists, August 2014

A last-minute backroom deal among Colorado Democrats scrapped plans for a potentially divisive anti-fracking ballot measure. The move may save the party’s candidates, particularly Governor John Hickenlooper — a loyal industry supporter — and Senator Mark Udall — who faces a tough reelection. But “fractivists” say a vote is coming sooner or later.

I report on the Democratic family feud and the fractivist fallout for High Country News in the August 12, 2014 issue. For the story, I traveled to Boulder to watch Congressman Jared Polis (Democrat) speak with — and hear it from — angry fracking opponents outraged at his decision to pull back the ballot measures.

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The Road to Flood Recovery

The Road to Flood Recovery

Hwy7 floods CDOT
State Highway 7 near Lyons, Colorado following Sept. 2013 flooding. (Courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation)

In September 2013, driving rains flooded North St. Vrain Creek to nearly 10 times its typical volume and caused it to rise more than 5 feet in barely 24 hours, chewing up sections of U.S. Highway 36, the adjacent roadway between Lyons and Estes Park, Colorado. In Apple Valley, a small side canyon off the highway, the swollen river uprooted and inundated houses and buried cars as it carved a brand new channel.

The close proximity of houses and the highway to the river not only left them vulnerable to damages, but also compromised the natural function of the North St. Vrain’s floodplain.

With last fall’s floods, opportunity has followed tragedy. Recovery efforts have meant a chance to upgrade and restore both river systems and infrastructure, which haven’t always functioned in harmony. Initiatives to protect property and lives in the short term are feeding into long-term plans to reduce flood risks while also restoring the natural patterns and functions of rivers.

The vision is a herculean one, requiring the coordination and cooperation of scores of federal, state and local government agencies, businesses and conservation groups, and thousands of landowners—all with slightly different interests but a common goal of improving flood resiliency. The project unfolding along Highway 36 is a prominent, initial example of what that cooperation might look like and the results it could produce.

“Race to Recovery”

Headwaters Magazine, Summer 2014

‘Sawasdee’ for Students in Need in Thailand

‘Sawasdee’ for Students in Need in Thailand

Just a few decades ago, universities in Thailand were reluctant to admit students with disabilities, partly due to a surprising historical legacy of Buddhism.  But with new laws guaranteeing education and access for all children, U.S. and Thai researchers are now looking at how schools are meeting the challenge for a new generation of students. A feature for the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Northern Vision, the magazine of the University of Northern Colorado.

Phuttamonthon Buddhist Park, near Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand.
Phuttamonthon Buddhist Park, near Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand.

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The Power and Energy of Water

The Power and Energy of Water

"Boulder Power Plant Park" by Jason Bellegarde (via Flickr)
“Boulder Power Plant Park” by Jason Bellegarde (via Flickr)

The energy-water nexus defines the mutual relationship between two essential resources. My Fall 2013 article for Headwaters Magazine, “The Power (and Energy) of Water,” explores how planners and policymakers in Colorado and the West are increasingly evaluating energy sources based on their water use and looking at how their choices can help address growth, climate change and other issues.

 

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Fracking on the Range

Fracking on the Range

Methane flaring from natural gas well (image via Ecowatch)
Methane flaring from natural gas well (image via Ecowatch)

Oil and gas companies are on a drilling bender across Western public lands but surrounding communities aren’t interested in the hangover.

My story for Sierra Magazine, July/August 2013 issue — “Busting Out of Boom and Bust” — looks at how fracking and drilling has gotten lax oversight on public lands, and how towns across the West are fighting back to protect forests and rangelands, rivers and water supplies.

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