Hey there, Boulder. Give yourself a round of applause for making it through another week. 👏 But before you scamper off into your weekend, spend a moment with us here in your morning edition of BRL Today.

Today’s top story from John Herrick breaks down yesterday’s presentation to the Air Quality Control Commission by Boulder County officials, who brought forward new local research indicating that oil and gas emissions are the single largest contributor to ground-level ozone, one of the Front Range’s most urgent public health threats. We also published today the Spanish translation of our story examining disproportionate discipline at BVSD.

On a lighter note — be sure and check out this video from our wildfire reporter (and TikTok star) Tim Drugan, who hilariously breaks down his latest story on forest thinning for his 127.6K followers. Does BRL need a TikTok account now? 🧐 Much to consider.

Lastly, huge thanks to all of you who responded to our request on Monday to tell us you got our newsletter — as we work to make sure BRL Today stays out of your spam folder for good.

Until Monday,

– Jezy, managing editor

Library Inspired: The BPL Staff Art Show, on display through Sept. 6. at the Boulder Main Public Library, features work by library staff members inspired by the library collections. Read more in the Picks section of today’s newsletter. Courtesy: Boulder Public Library / Twitter

Quickly

🌡️ Heat advisory continues: Expect more highs in the mid-to-upper 90s today under mostly cloudy skies. A heat advisory remains in effect until 8 p.m. Similar conditions should be in store for Saturday, before things cool off on Sunday with highs in the low-to-mid 80s and a possible afternoon thunderstorm.

🚌 Bus routes (finally) returning to Boulder Junction: Lynn Gussinger, who represents Boulder and Broomfield counties on the RTD Board of Directors, told the Boulder City Council on Thursday the district is planning to bring back two routes to Boulder Junction, the neighborhood east of 30th Street that was designed to accommodate fewer cars and more public transit. (RTD once touted Boulder Junction as the “primary regional bus terminal of East Boulder.” It’s been closed since April 2020.) That includes the AB2 to Denver International Airport and the FF4 to Civic Center Station in Denver. Gussinger also said the district will bring back the FF2, which is the fastest bus from Boulder to Denver. She did not specify a timeline. She said ongoing workforce issues and reduced ridership will affect when the buses return.

🚗 Catalytic converter theft concerns: During the presentation by RTD, councilmembers voiced concerns over the number of catalytic converter thefts at the Table Mesa Park-N-Ride. Councilmember Bob Yates said his catalytic converter was recently stolen there. He suggested RTD install cameras. Gussinger said she would look into it. “The problem is you have to have somebody monitoring those cameras and ready to act really quickly,” she said. “I know that we have increased police presence there. And it does seem to be helping.” (Read our previous coverage of how the Boulder Police Department has been sending out more officers to patrol places like the Table Mesa Park-n-Ride, due to reports of people stealing cars and car parts.)

🏳️‍🌈 City declares Clela Rorex Day: Boulder City Council began last night’s meeting with a declaration honoring the life of the late Clela Rorex, “who had the courage to do what no one had ever done before” when the trailblazing former Boulder County clerk signed the first same-sex marriage license in the United States in 1975. The city joined Boulder County in declaring July 23, which would have been her 79th birthday, Clela Rorex Day. Read our profile on the LGBTQ ally here.

👨‍💼 New director of homelessness initiatives: The state has hired Cole Chandler, co-founder and executive director of the Colorado Village Collaborative, as its first director of homelessness initiatives. “This new position will focus on the prevention of homelessness, which includes connecting families and individuals to housing services and support,” according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Human Services.

🙋‍♀️ Volunteer victim advocates wanted: The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office is seeking volunteers to serve as “victim advocates” for its night and weekend shifts. These residents will provide assistance, support and information to people whose lives have been altered by accidents, violent crime and other traumatic events. “Ideal volunteers are at least 21-years-old, calm, compassionate, emotionally mature, and non-judgmental,” according to a news release. Deadline to apply is Friday, Aug. 26. Learn more about the program here.

🚲 Vision Zero action plan: The City of Boulder is still seeking public input through July 31, regarding its “community goal to have zero serious injuries and zero deaths on our streets.” If you missed last month’s meeting on the city’s Vision Zero action plan, you can access it here and offer your thoughts here. And check out our stories on Vision Zero and related transpo projects here and here.

Top Story

Ahead of this summer’s ozone season, Boulder County officials put the spotlight on oil and gas drilling as culprit

By John Herrick

As residents in Colorado’s Front Range prepare for the summer’s unhealthy ozone levels, Boulder County officials are pointing blame for the region’s air quality woes at the oil and gas industry. 

In a presentation to the state Air Quality Control Commission on Thursday, July 21, the county’s air quality experts presented studies they’ve commissioned on oil and gas pollution wafting in from drilling sites in Weld County. That pollution includes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and methane, a potent planet-warming gas. Much of the research is based on data collected by an air monitor at the Boulder Reservoir that was installed in 2017. 

The new research indicates oil and gas emissions are the single largest contributor to ground-level ozone, one of the Front Range’s most urgent public health threats. Ozone forms when VOCs and other pollutants from oil and gas, wildfires and automobiles react with sunlight. The toxic gas is linked to respiratory ailments, heart attacks and strokes.

The studies bolster earlier research showing the oil and gas industry’s outsized contribution to ozone concentrations. The county also presented data indicating methane emissions have not declined in recent years — despite efforts to rein in the greenhouse gas. 

“Despite newer regulations, oil and gas emissions have not decreased,” said Cindy Copeland, Boulder County’s air and climate policy adviser. 

Boulder County has a long history of fighting against oil and gas drilling. In 2012, the county passed its first drilling moratorium. The moratorium ended in 2016, when the Colorado Supreme Court stuck down such local bans. The county borders Weld County, which produces more oil and gas than any other county in Colorado. Both counties sit atop the oil- and gas-rich Denver-Julesburg Basin. 

In addition to Boulder County, the City of Longmont, Town of Erie and the City and County of Broomfield have commissioned their own emissions monitoring to better understand the impacts of drilling on public health. 

By putting the spotlight on oil and gas drilling, the local governments hope the nine-member Air Quality Control Commission will crack down on industry emissions in order to curb ozone and greenhouse gas pollution. 

Specifically, they want state air quality regulators to adopt rules prohibiting drilling during the summer ozone season, according to Copeland.

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BRL Picks

🪕 Mountain Jam: Reminder — KGNU’s 34th Annual Charles Sawtelle Memorial Mountain Jam bluegrass festival is coming up Sunday, July 24, at Boulder’s historic Gold Hill Inn. This year’s outdoor mini-fest will feature three Colorado bluegrass bands: Jake Leg, Greg Schochet & Little America, and Megan Burtt Band. Tickets are $35 for KGNU members, $40 for non-members and free for kids under 12. Get yours here.

🧑‍🎨 Art Bar Summer Series: Head to the Art Bar at R Gallery in the NoBo Art District on Saturday, July 24, for the kickoff of their series of artist talks, demos, poetry, performance and more. Gallery owner and featured artist Rob Lantz will be on hand from 6–8 p.m. to discuss his photography practice and experience running a community art space. The event is free to the public, with libations (alcoholic and otherwise) available to purchase at the bar.

😂 Laugh it up: Frequently hailed as the “Best Comedy Show in Boulder” by Westword, the Boulder Comedy Show continues its nearly decade-long tradition of weekly laughs at Rayback Collective (2775 Valmont Rd.) at 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 24. Tickets here.

📚 Art by the book: Heading to the Boulder Main Public Library? Be sure and stop by the Arapahoe Ramp to check out Library Inspired: The BPL Staff Art Show on display through Sept. 6. The exhibition at 1001 Arapahoe Ave. features work by library staff members, inspired by the library collections.

Covid-19 Updates: July 22, 2022

  • 153 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 4% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 13 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from a high of 21 last week.
  • 42% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 68% since July 2020.
  • Note: Stazio Ball Fields in Boulder is now the only free community testing site in Boulder County. It’s open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What We’re Reading

📖 Remembering victims of the Aurora theater shooting, 10 years later: “Ten years have passed since a gunman slipped into a midnight screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ at the Century 16 cineplex and opened fire into the crowd, ending 12 lives, leaving 70 others injured and forever linking the city of Aurora to America’s litany of shocking mass violence. Among those killed on July 20, 2012: a 27-year-old celebrating his birthday with co-workers by catching the latest Batman movie. A high school football player. A Navy officer. A 6-year-old girl whose mother survived bullets to the neck and abdomen. An aspiring sports journalist.” [Denver Post]

📖 A plan among upstream states like Colorado aims to save the Colorado River (without mandatory water cuts): “Colorado and the states that make up the upper half of the Colorado River basin have submitted a two-page proposal on how they will reduce their use of the river. The five-point plan does not include any mandatory cuts to water usage in the upper basin. The plan is in response to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s recent demand that the seven states that share the river must act quickly to reduce their water consumption dramatically.” [CPR]

ICYMI from BRL

🏘️ In rebuff to Boulder City Council, city’s Planning Board allows housing near pharmaceutical plant in East Boulder redevelopment plan. The board approved a version of the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan, a long-term vision for adding residential neighborhoods to an entirely commercial area of the city. The plan is now back in the hands of the city council.

🏪 Mental Health Partners restores hours at its 24/7 walk-in crisis center. Since February, the county’s only dedicated facility for people experiencing a mental health emergency has been closed on weekends. It’s now open around the clock, but the underlying staffing shortage that prompted the reduction in services remains, according to the nonprofit.

📣 ‘What am I doing this for?’: Amid another grim season of mass shootings, three former youth gun reform activists from Boulder reflect on why they left the movement. No local residents were on the team behind last month’s March For Our Lives rally in Denver, according to its lead organizer.

🎒 Boulder Valley School District punishes Black and Latino students at disproportionately higher rates than most Colorado districts. Parents continue calls for accountabilityLatino students at BVSD are about 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students, a Boulder Reporting Lab analysis of district data shows. The district and parents are not in total agreement on how to address the longstanding problem.

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Thanks for reading!

Our journalism depends on you.
Have a story tip for us?
Send us your ideas at tips@boulderreportinglab.org.

– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.