Afternoon headlines April 14, 2017

The Bureau of Land Management in Colorado will hold an online auction to sell leases for more than 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas development. Bids for the right to drill on these lands, which comprise 106 total parcels, will begin at $2 per acre.

At such a low price, many environmental advocates say they want to bid on parcels to protect them from oil and gas drilling. But as The Colorado Independent reports, only oil and gas developers with the intention to drill can bid in the BLM lease sale in June 8.

Last year, writer and environmental advocate Terry Tempest Williams bid on and won two parcels of land near her home in Utah, hoping to keep the land from being drilled. After the sale, she handed the BLM her credit card to purchase the 1,120 acres. But last October, after months of deliberation, the BLM refunded Williams her money and denied her bids on the grounds that she was not planning to develop the land for drilling.

In 2008, a college student named Tim DeChristopher attended a BLM auction. After witnessing oil and gas companies buy acre after acre, the young activist ended up bidding on — and winning — nearly half of the parcels, racking up a hefty tab. When he made it clear that he was not actually going to buy the parcels, the feds threw the book at him, sentencing him to 21 months in prison for disrupting the sale.

Says BLM Colorado spokesman Stephen Hall, “The notion behind the auctions is that if you purchase a lease, your intention is to develop it. You have a 10-year window to develop that lease and ‘hold it by production,’ which is the phrase we use to say you have developed it and can hold onto it going forward.”

Two moderate Republicans in the state Senate aligned with Republicans to vote down a bill that would have required a woman who wants an abortion to obtain a transvaginal ultrasound first.

The measure also would have required the woman to wait 24 hours between initial contact with the provider and obtaining the abortion, requiring the doctor to provide information on risks and the opportunity for an abortion reversal, a chemical procedure that lacks scientific validity.

On Thursday, Republican, Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik of Thornton, joined fellow Republican Sen. Don Coram of Montrose in voting against the bill, which died on the Senate floor in a 19 to 16 vote.

A Denver fair housing organization has filed suit against Bellco, alleging that the credit union illegally denies mortgages to women on maternity leave.
The Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, a nonprofit seeking to root out housing discrimination, says Bellco – which has branches statewide – tells women who are on maternity leave that they cannot qualify for a home loan until they have been back at work for at least four weeks, with pay stubs to prove it. That policy, the housing center says, violates both federal and state fair housing laws and is in direct conflict with federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in lending based on sex and familial status. According to HUD, the Act protects women on maternity leave from lending discrimination if they can demonstrate they intend to return to work and “can otherwise continue to meet the income requirements to qualify for the loan.”
In a statement, Bellco said it has “never knowingly engaged in any discriminatory lending practices of any kind. Bellco policy forbids any kind of discrimination based on the sex or familial status of applicants, including pregnancy and maternity leave.” The credit union’s attorneys are investigating and will respond in court, the statement says, “but we are confident that the lawsuit has no merit.”
HUD has been investigating banks for discriminating against pregnant women and women on maternity leave since at least 2010. According to agency spokeswoman Maria Elena Gaona, HUD has received almost 150 complaints alleging maternity-leave discrimination since 2010 and has obtained more than $8 million in compensation for victims. The number of complaints has dropped significantly over the years. In fiscal year 2016, the agency received only nine complaints, she said.

An undocumented woman was detained Wednesday after she showed up for her scheduled check-in with immigration enforcement officials in Denver.

Maria de Jesus Jimenez Sanchez, a longtime Aurora resident, received a deportation order in 2001, but was granted multiple stays of removal and routinely checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Wednesday, during what she anticipated would be another routine check-in, Jimenez Sanchez was instead detained. Her current stay of removal has been denied, which may lead to her deportation.

Jimenez Sanchez’s attorney, Jennifer Kain Rios, says the decision should be reconsidered, particularly because there have been no new facts to her client’s case. “Maria de Jesus does not pose any threat to the community,” she says.

Jimenez Sanchez has four children, including a teenaged daughter with developmental disabilities. She was found guilty in 2012 of driving without a license, but has no other criminal record. She has lived in Aurora since 1999.

Immigration officials did not respond to requests for comment.

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