Fuel sales could boost airport rent revenues

ASPEN – Pitkin County could receive at least $3 million in annual rent from a proposed new private jet center—a sum that is 16 times more than what the current fixed-base operator pays at Sardy Field. Airport finance consultants explained the situation to the Pitkin County commissioners during a mid-August meeting on the airport master plan, which the county is expected to adopt this fall. The current draft airport plan includes building a new fixed-base operations facility—a terminal and services for private planes (or general aviation, as it’s officially called)—on the west side of the airport. The current fixed-base operator, Atlantic Aviation, leases a facility on the east side, and is expected to pay the county $167,000 in rent this year. The current lease was signed back in 1993 by Atlantic’s predecessor, and at that time was probably a fair deal for the county, airport director Jim Elwood told the commissioners.

Biomass in Germany and in Austria … and in Colorado?

On Wednesday, Sept. 28 the Roaring Fork Biomass Consortium hosted a regional biomass summit at Carbondale town hall. The day included a number of presentations on the feasibility of biomass in the Roaring Fork River valley region. At the biomass summit, Aspen Journalism presented an audio slideshow with photos and audio captured during an educational tour in August of biomass plants and biomass-related companies in Germany and Austria. The slideshow starts at a biomass plant in Ascha, Germany and moves to various facilities in and around Linz, Austria.

Should Colorado move from beetle-kill to biomass?

Below is the transcript for the radio story that is posted above and was produced in collaboration with KDNK public radio in Carbondale:

“Huge clusters of dead lodge pole pines and other trees killed by insects can now be found on over 4 million acres of land in Colorado. And regional and local forest managers are looking far afield to see whether those dead trees can be used to create green energy. Scott Fitzwilliams, the head of the White River National Forest, recently found himself in Linz, Austria at a biomass plant. “This is a lot of wood and a lot of power.” At the big plant in Linz, stacks of dead trees were being ground into wood chips, which were then burned to boil water.

Al Gore calls "bullshit" on climate propaganda

Former Vice President Al Gore spoke Thursday at a communications and society seminar at the Aspen Institute (FOCAS). He primarily addressed the subject of how citizens can exercise their democratic duties in the networked world, although he also gave a long overview of media and communications history. Gore spoke off-the-cuff for about an hour and then took questions from the seminar attendees. During the discussion, Gore addressed the issue of what happens when citizens are fed information that is meant to derail rational debate on complex issues. And he had high praise for the book, “Merchants of Doubt”.

Stormwater mismanagement in the gas fields

The state’s Water Quality Control Division says a division of Williams natural gas company failed to take measures at a gas field construction site to keep dirt and mud from running down steep hills into a tributary of Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River in Parachute. On Nov. 1, 2010, state inspectors witnessed “erosion and sediment discharge from the disturbed area” of a Williams construction site on the Roan Plateau in Garfield County. They found Williams “failed to prepare and maintain a complete and accurate stormwater management plan for the project.” The project included building a road and installing a gas pipeline.

Two other gas field stormwater violations

Williams is not alone when it comes to failing inspections at construction sites in Garfield County’s gas fields. The Petroleum Development Company received two stormwater permits, one in 2002 and one in 2007, for construction of an access road for oil and gas exploration on 56 acres about 10 miles north of Parachute. Under the permit, it was allowed to discharge stormwater into Garden Gulch, Parachute Creek and the Colorado River. The company started construction on the Garden Gulch site in December 2005 and the site was inspected in April 2008. Inspectors found numerous flaws in PDC’s stormwater plan and found “significant erosion” due to improper mitigation measures.

Proposed EPA fracking study

The EPA has proposed an in-depth study of the relationship between water and the hydraulic fracturing process in natural gas production. The federal agency’s draft proposal, highlighted below, is written in clear language and should be of interest to anyone with a stake in Garfield County, where natural gas production and the use of “fracking” remain high and 20 percent of the “produced” water is being poured into local streams and rivers, according to a recent article in the Glenwood Post Independent. The EPA draft study proposal describes how water quality can potentially be harmed throughout the fracking process, from obtaining water to disposing of toxic “flowback” water after it has come out of the well. The proposed study plan identifies that one area of potential study is Garfield County. Here’s a story on the study from ProPublica and the press release from the EPA about the draft study plan, which is open to public comment.