The fight du jour that certain citizens are waging over the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in Aspen is the latest in a long tradition of contentious elections. Who could forget Mohamed Hadid, Dick Butera and the Ritz Carlton hole? How about SkiCo, Intrawest and the Base Village hole?
Elections are routinely bought and sold across America. You know why? Spending a ton of money works. However, the best interests of the common man can be skewed in these over-funded feuds. What is the motivating factor behind these contests? What makes their clocks tick?
The citizens that make up the warring factions in the hydro project argument are straight out of the Brazilian novellas. The mayor is portrayed as a man straining to assure that his legacy will be firmly cemented in the Aspen Walk of Fame — if he can only secure the green image of Aspen and set an example for the rest of the country (that the country will promptly ignore).
Then there’s the environmentalist torn between saving a few pounds of coal and the creek that runs past her house full of boreal snail darters. Enter the sage old weather prognosticator who operated the last hydro plant in Aspen and doesn’t recall it causing the denizens of the creek to die in a mass extinction. Not to mention, the hodge-podge of high-end homeowners who, like Greta Garbo, just “want to be let alone.”
Before the hydroelectric issue came up, had anyone ever heard of Maurice Emmer? What exactly are his motivations? If nothing else, Aspen has been given a rising new star in the ever-evolving cast of characters that make up the history of this town. Maurice has been shrilly vocal in his opposition to the diversion of water from the creeks. So far, all of his emotional arguments have been debunked by facts. Go Mo!
When you throw in the idea that billionaire coal mine owner and faux Wild West township ramrod Bill Koch is involved in financing the opposition, it is evidence enough that the city of Aspen must be on the side of good. Remember, Mr. Koch spent $2.5 million for the purchase of the only tintype picture of Billy the Kid in existence. Billy the Kid was reputed to have been a pretty bad dude, just as Koch’s two more famous brothers have been portrayed. I don’t want to stereo-tin-type, but you are who you hang out with, and who you hang on your wall.
Bill Koch has a vested interest. According to the city, and this newspaper, the hydro project will save the burning of 5 million pounds of coal per year. It seems like a lot when you were raised with only one lump in your stocking as I was, but one power plant can burn 160 tons per hour, so 5 million pounds is a drop in the bucket. Still 5 million pounds a year adds up and it’s all pennies in Koch’s pocket.
However, it’s not the tonnage that concerns the city — it’s the principle.
Aspen likes to set an example for the rest of the world. Until upvalley governments began instituting land use codes, the entire valley was a developer’s paradise. By regulating the way business is done, the local government saved Aspen and made people rich. Liberals built that! Aspen established the smoking bans that have taken hold nationwide. Thanks to Aspen, millions of smokers are pariahs forced to stand in the middle of the street to puff away, but thousands of lives may have been saved. Aspen might have banned fur coats too, but voters were too cold to the critters to get it done.
As a small city with a big budget, Aspen has the wherewithal to help change the world for the better. The goal of the Canary Initiative has always been to wean Aspen off the coal-fired teat that the industrialists and politicians want the rest of the country dependent upon. True freedom is the idea that we can choose what sources of energy we will use, rather than entrenching ourselves in monopolistic ventures that we are daily propagandized with as the only solution.
According to the plan for the hydroelectric plant that is posted online, the city intends to slowly ramp up operations in order to evaluate its effects on the stream. Science is guiding its actions, not emotion. I can think of no reason that the city of Aspen would come to the conclusion that hydroelectric power is more important than stream health. However, if that happened then, and only then, would there be reason never to trust city government.
The carpetbaggers, novella stars and boreal toads financing this debate should look at it from the perspective of one of the 24,000 lives that will be shortened by burning coal this year, including the 2,800 who will contract lung cancer. They should take into account the record heat waves that occurred around the world for the past decade. They should think of Aspen without snow — permanently.
The residents of Aspen should support the city of Aspen for aspiring to slow those deaths, break those heat waves and save winter for those of us who love it. I believe that it is motivated to do the right thing for the town, the streams and the planet based on the best scientific evidence available.
I have no faith in the selfish, emotional and greedy motivations of the opposition whatsoever.
Email Johnny at firstname.lastname@example.org.