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Tipton touts bill to expand hydroelectric production

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, touted his legislation to expand hydroelectricity production in western Colorado during a political gathering Saturday afternoon at BB’s Kitchen in Aspen.

On Tuesday, the full House of Representatives will consider H.R. 2842, a resolution known as the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2011. A recent House Natural Resources Committee statement said the legislation will create jobs and expand production of clean and renewable American energy by eliminating red tape on small canal and pipeline hydropower projects.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we’re going to be able to get that through the House of Representatives. I’m excited about that,” Tipton said. “That would be a major bill for me to be able to get through.”

Tipton said that in Colorado alone, the legislation could provide the capacity to generate as much hydroelectric power as northern Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. On average, the dam’s power plant produces 4.5 billion kilowatt-hours annually.

“We’re going to be allowing our local water companies to be able to go into conduits that were built by the Bureau of Reclamation – it’s their choice; no mandates are coming down – to put in these small hydro units,” he said.

The bill would streamline the regulatory process and reduce administrative costs for small hydropower development at existing Bureau of Reclamation canals and pipes. Such man-made facilities are already on disturbed ground, and the environmental impact of adding hydropower would be minimal to none, according to the Natural Resources Committee.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will generate $5 million in federal revenue over 10 years through increased hydropower production.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., has said he supports Tipton’s bill.

“Hydropower is a low-cost, renewable, and emissions-free source of energy that provides low-cost electricity,” Gosar said in a statement. “It is an integral component of the long-term energy plan for my state and the nation. We must protect our existing hydropower infrastructure and find ways to expand smaller-scale hydroelectric power generation.”

In addition to the Aspen visit, Tipton met with constituents in Glenwood Springs and Meeker on Saturday. He said much of rural western Colorado, including Aspen, could use an economic shot in the arm.

“When I walk Main Street Aspen, this prosperous community, and I see (retail spaces) that are vacant now,” he said. “You go into Glenwood, there are more. We go into Meeker, where I was this morning, even more.

“We’ve got to be able to get this economy moving. We’ve got to be able to get our people back to work. In terms of policy, either helping or getting out of the way is incredibly important.”

Tipton’s talk at BB’s Kitchen was hosted by the Aspen Democracy Initiative, a fledgling group that says it seeks to inspire and empower younger citizens to effect positive change by engaging in civic issues and the political process. Co-founder Jill Teehan said the organization is not affiliated with any mainstream parties and that its members hold a wide array of political beliefs.

“The people who are here today … we’re seeing an entire mix, unaffiliated, Democrat, Republican,” Tipton said. “This is giving me an opportunity (to speak with) young people. It’s about their future. What we’re seeing happen in Washington, and in Denver, is starting to greatly impact the America that they’re going to have to live and work in. So to be able to hear their thoughts is important.”

Tipton, a former chairman of the state GOP, represents Colorado’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The sprawling, 45,100-square-mile district includes most of western Colorado, including Craig, Grand Junction, Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Durango and Alamosa.

It also takes in much of the south-central part of the state, including Pueblo and Trinidad. Through a redistricting approved late last year, it will include Avon and western Eagle County next year; Las Animas County will be removed from it. Vail will remain in the 2nd District.

Tipton, who is only 13 months into his first term in Congress, is being challenged by state Rep. Sal Pace, a Pueblo Democrat, and Tisha Casida, a conservative businesswoman from Pueblo who has no party affiliation. Election Day is Nov. 6.

In other remarks, Tipton said that the Denver Post was accurate last week when it reported that his office mistakenly used taxpayer resources to promote a January campaign event in Avon.

The event, described as a town hall meeting, was promoted on Tipton’s official congressional website, which is funded by taxpayer dollars. The newspaper quoted the Members’ Congressional Handbook at length:

” … Staffers on public payroll are not allowed to work for campaigns full time, and the work they do should not be on House office equipment, should not be done during regular House office time and should not be done using House e-mails or House resources,” the handbook states. “Members may not use official funds, including the use of staff resources, to conduct ‘town hall’ meetings or other official gatherings outside their districts.”

Though Avon voters may participate in the Nov. 2 election for the 3rd District seat, the western Eagle County area won’t officially become part of that district until new and re-elected House members are sworn in early next year. Tipton said the mistake was a simple staff error and that no public money was used to conduct or travel to the event.

Tipton added that in the upcoming presidential race, he will support whomever is chosen as the Republican nominee. He said he will not endorse any of the GOP contenders before the nomination.

“We have the empirical evidence that President Obama’s policies have not led to job creation, have not led to a growing economy in this country,” he said.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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