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Ritter touts energy expertise, talks Clean Air Act rules

Since 2011, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has traveled the country advising about clean energy policy as director of Colorado State University’sCenter for the New Energy Economy.

 Ritter regularly meets with policy makers, governors, planners and other decision makers. In the coming months he’s expecting to do a lot of work around new Clean Air Act proposed rules that will be released in June by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Section 111(d) will be hotly debated and deals with existing carbon emissions released by power plants.

“It would give each state a number that says ‘This is the amount of emissions you can emit by such-and-such a date.’” Ritter said. “States that have a lot of coal could well have to transition out of coal to things like more solar, more wind, more natural gas. I suspect that the rule is going to be viewed with some controversy when it’s announced.”

Briefly entering the spotlight in Dec. 2012, Ritter was on President Obama’s shortlist for U.S. Energy Secretary. While he didn’t make the final cut, Ritter did help the White House sketch out energy priorities that could be accomplished with executive powers.

The end product was the 207-page Powering Forward report compiling recommendations on five priorities like doubling energy productivity and alternative fuels. Included is a suggestion giving states latitude for rulemaking on natural gas.

Ritter presented 200 ideas for moving the nation toward a clean energy economy to President Barack Obama.
Credit Colorado State University

“State legislators and governors are doing a variety of important things to establish the best practices in regulation,” he said. “I personally believe that strong regulations, a willingness to comply on industry — and where there’s not willingness then strong enforcement — is absolutely essential to getting this social license to operate for industry.”

Gaining the public trust in Colorado seems to be a rocky road.

In February, industry officials had hoped that new methane emission ruleswould provide more of a ‘license to operate.’ Instead the industry faces a potential statewide ballot limiting hydraulic fracturing, indicating a weary public. Five communities along the Front Range have already placed restrictions on fracking.

Ritter thinks one mistake for oil and gas operators was not disclosing the chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids earlier. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conversation Commission approved comprehensive rules in 2011.

“I think the industry now wishes they hadn’t done that,” Ritter said. “Because that lack of transparency about what they were putting in the ground created a sense on the part of the public that there was something wrong here. That there was a reason not to trust.”

Ritter advising Nebraska on renewable energy

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will offer tips on how Nebraska could boost its use of renewable energy sources.

 The architect of Colorado’s “new energy economy” will offer some pointers this week on how Nebraska can lessen its reliance on coal-fired electricity while creating new jobs.

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will give a $20-per-person presentation Monday night in Omaha, discussing how Colorado has added more than 6,000 jobs while substantially increasing development of wind, solar and natural gas resources. He also will meet with elected officials Tuesday in Lincoln.

“I really try to make the business case for making the transition to clean energy,” Ritter said in a phone interview last week.

Ritter’s message, however, might hit a head wind of skepticism from Nebraska power generators.

Pat Pope, CEO of the Nebraska Public Power District, said some of the steps Colorado took would likely inflate consumer energy prices in Nebraska. Specifically, he said he would oppose a government mandate that sets minimum standards for the amount of renewable energy utilities must provide in their portfolios.

“It’s a clash with reality,” Pope said. “We just can’t run our economy on just renewables.”

Ritter, a Democrat, was Colorado’s governor from 2007 to 2011. He now directs the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

The center works directly with governors, legislators and other policymakers at the state level to promote the development of domestic energy in ways that provide environmental and economic benefits. Ritter said that with gridlock in Congress, states are in a position to move more quickly on new energy initiatives.

While in office Ritter signed 57 energy bills, which he said helped attract 1,500 companies to the state. He also adopted a climate action plan that mapped out how the state could reduce 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Key legislation prompted the conversion of some coal-fired electrical plants to natural gas, while other laws contributed to a tenfold increase in the state’s wind power development.

A more controversial law allowed expanded drilling for oil and natural gas while imposing new regulations that required drillers to better protect air, land and water. The measures generated resistance from those industries.

Ritter said the single most important initiative was to increase the state’s renewable energy standard. In 2004 voters approved a requirement that utilities generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources. By the time Ritter left office, the percentage had been increased to 30 percent for investor-owned utilities.

The requirement often is cited as the reason wind, solar and other renewable energy companies locate or expand in the state, according to a report published by the center.

Nebraska does not have a renewable standard on the books, but the state’s three largest electrical utilities — NPPD, Omaha Public Power District and Lincoln Electric System — have all set voluntary goals to increase their renewable energy portfolios. Mandating such standards would be a mistake, said Pope, NPPD’s chief executive.

Part of the problem, he said, is that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, so the sources can’t provide a constant supply to meet load demand around the clock.

Natural gas, which releases fewer carbon emissions than coal, can provide a base load, but Pope said much of the state lacks the pipeline infrastructure necessary to supply existing generating plants.

The state also needs more miles of transmission lines so it can export the excess electricity generated by wind. Pipelines and transmission lines are expensive, must clear regulatory hurdles and can meet stiff resistance from landowners.

“I’m just sure (Ritter) will advocate that we have one of the best wind potential resources in the nation,” Pope said. “I don’t have a problem with it, but let me do it when it makes sense for my customers. Right now I don’t have a need for it.”

State Sen. Ken Haar of Lincoln, an advocate for the expansion of renewable energy in Nebraska, said he has no intention of introducing a bill setting a renewable mandate. Frankly, he said, it wouldn’t stand a chance at passage.

But Haar is considering other energy-related bills. He argued that Nebraska needs to move faster in developing renewables and the economic benefits they can provide. He said he plans to attend Ritter’s presentations.

“We know at some point there’s going to be a cost for carbon pollution,” he said. “We have to move forward. We seem to move slower than all states around us.”

Ritter’s presentation at the Nebraska Conservation Summit on Monday will take place at the Scott Conference Center, 6450 Pine St. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation starts at 6 p.m.

The Nebraska League of Conservation Voters and the Nebraska Conservation Education Fund are sponsors. Go to conservationsummit.com for more information or to purchase tickets.

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Messenbaugh, a psychiatrist, founded Third Method Center in 1970 as a protection for runaway teenagers. These days it offers a continuum of attention to boys and girls age 14 to 19 who possess experienced real, mental and sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment.

“Jeannie Ritter might be most well-known as our state’s former first lady,” noted singer William Matthews, president associated with Third Way Center board. “but we think the woman best influence is by her continuing attempts to carry a voice to psychological state and act as a champion for all those with psychological infection, including residents of Third Way Center.

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Pete and Marilyn Coors were the honorary chairmen for real Grit, which brought 400 people to the Seawell Ballroom on Saturday-night for a chuckwagon dinner, auction and party.

Matthews joined up with the next Way Center board in 2001 and has now been its president since 2004. “as soon as you’re in and committed, it’s hard not to be,” he said of their longstanding solution. Matthews also recalled he went to their first real Grit 24 years back when it happened “in a horse barn in Littleton with dust floors. Pete and Marilyn were the chairmen that year, too.”

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