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Local chamber hosts Rep. Looper

Colorado District 19 Rep. Marsha Looper spoke at the September Eastern Plains Chamber of Commerce meeting. Water and energy issues were hot topics.”Water is one of the biggest issues in our district,” Looper said. “We have a horrible tracking system for ground water.”She said the amount of ground water is unknown, and it’s important that the state and districts establish a system to measure and track ground water. Looper said she is suggesting a $250,000 feasibility study to determine the amount of ground water in Colorado.No matter the amount, it’s equally important to find ways to supplement the ground water, she said. Looper cited the Rainwater Harvesting Bill she is sponsoring.”Right now, the law doesn’t say you can’t harvest rainwater, but the state engineer’s office says it is illegal,” Looper said. “The new bill will allow large developments to put in huge underground cisterns. Rainwater could then be used by 5,000 to 10,000 homes per developer.”Our water law is some of the most complicated in the country. Colorado is a headwater state, with 17 downstream states and one country (Mexico) vying for our water. We have agreements with these states to give them their water allotment, and, last year, we had to curtail 5,000 Colorado wells on the Republic and Platte rivers in order to supply these allotments. There are almost 300,000 well permits in Colorado now and no one knows when those wells might run dry.”Everybody wants our water. Those areas dependent on ground water need to find surface water to supplement it.”Another priority issue is energy; Looper talked about oil and gas and alternative energy sources.She said 71,000 people in Colorado work in the oil and gas industry. The industry is the largest in Colorado, Looper said, adding that the oil rig operations are restricted for several months to accommodate Prairie Dog migration. “We can’t afford to leave rigs unused, or the industry will leave the state,” she said.Colorado used to have six refineries, but there is only one left because of overregulation, Looper said.”There are 40 million acres of federal land in Colorado where there is no drilling,” she said. “We sit on some of the country’s largest oil and gas supplies. Congress needs to repeal the law during this sensitive time to drill on national land.”Looper is all for alternative energy as well.”We need solar and wind,” she said. “The wind blows on the eastern plains during the day, while the rest of the state blows at night when we don’t need power.” It’s time to harness that energy, Looper said, adding that an announcement is forthcoming “regarding a pretty big project.”Meanwhile, she said Coloradoans are preparing for a “very expensive winter.”Last year, 17,000 people used LEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) in the county; 10,000 applicants were denied,” she said. “This year, we expect 150,000 applications. We are asking for a special session from the governor to discuss how to help.”The toll road, Looper said, is a “dead” deal. “We have done a great job in the (Colorado) General Assembly to convince them that toll roads don’t work in Colorado,” she said. “Tolls just don’t pay for the road. I think that we’ll see a tax on our water in the future.”Looper said she has co-sponsored 17 bills in the House and sits on the Colorado Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee and the Colorado State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. She said all of the bills she has sponsored originated because of constituents, as opposed to lobbyists.

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