A congressman: 'I looked back, and there was smoke pouring out'

Joel Hefley was the U.S. Representative from Colorado Springs

Forty Years Ago This Week: State Sen. Joel Hefley, R-Colorado Springs, told The Colorado Statesman that new federally mandated regulations under the Clean Air Act were completely unnecessary and pointless for coal production in the west. 

“Mandated scrubbers of power plants in Colorado Springs are useless,” said Hefley. “Western coal, which the power plants burn is low in sulphur dioxide emissions, which the scrubbers are intended to reduce. Therefore installing the expensive scrubbers will make little difference to the environment.”

Hefley said that the Clean Air Act required the equipment, regardless of the geographical area or type of coal used.

“Eastern coal is high in sulphur dioxide, and the equipment protects Eastern coal interests from competition by the West,” Hefley contended. “The Reagan administration plans to modify some of the requirements in the Clean Air Act to help solve differences in local and regional needs.”

The lack of acknowledgement of economic and physical realities of the particular areas involved, Hefley argued, was down to the “heavy-handed unreasonableness” of the EPA.”

In other related news, U.S. Sen. Gary Hart pointedly criticized the U.S. dependence on foreign oil and the proposed sale of planes to Saudi Arabia in exchange for oil. 

“The sale reveals the failure of our national energy policy,” Hart said.

To reduce energy independence, Hart advocated a $10 per barrel import fee on all foreign oil, which, he argued, would lead to reductions in oil consumption of “at least one-half million barrels per day over the next two to three years.”

Hart further advocated shifting the revenues back through low-income energy assistance and reductions in Social Security taxes.

“This provision should mitigate any loss of consumer purchasing power induced by the oil import fee,” Hart said. “The National Energy Plan calls for abolishment or reductions in most federal programs promoting conservation and alternative energy sources. Dependency on foreign oil is a clear threat to U.S. security.”

Twenty Years Ago: Several days in intensive care for phlebitis wasn’t enough to stop Mesa County Commissioner Kathy Hall from speaking out publicly about the county’s efforts to de-Bruce grants and jail fees.

“We will be honest in government,” Hall said. “To say this is a tax increase is a lie. To say you can launder the money is a lie.”

County commissioners had drafted a ballot initiative to ask voters to allow the county to exempt from TABOR caps the upcoming $2 million railroad grant for a road project as well as fees collected from the state for housing state prisoners in the county jail, fees paid by work release prisoners and state grants covering Medicaid to the services to the elderly.

Hall said the funds were all from outside the county, not Mesa County taxpayers.

But Commissioner John Crouch told The Colorado Statesman that the railroad grant would be handled “by a dummy corporation separate from the county’s books and thereby out of reach of TABOR calculations.”

“The funds would instead be a tax increase,” Crouch said, since any refunds to taxpayers from surpluses would be cut.

“That’s nonsense,” Hall said at a press conference in her living room. “It’s lying to the taxpayers. If we can get this passed, we can be more aggressive about seeking funds from outside sources.”

Kent Baughman, brother to Commissioner Jim Baughman, told The Statesman that commissioners weren’t specific enough in what they would do with the additional money from state funds.

“I say, where are you going to spend the money,” Baughman said. “They say for ‘county purposes and services’ but won’t say specifically. But, yes, trying to launder money through a railroad grant is just plain stupid.”

Rachael Wright is the author of the Captain Savva Mystery series, with degrees in Political Science and History from Colorado Mesa University, and is a contributing writer to Colorado Politics and The Gazette.

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