Weld County | KUNC

Weld County

Jim Hill / KUNC

Colorado is currently the seventh fastest growing state in the nation. Experts expect the bullseye of future growth to be the northern Front Range.

“We’re forecasting the state to increase between 2010 and 2040 by about 2.8 million people — about 500,000 in the north Front Range, in Larimer and Weld counties,” said state demographer Elizabeth Garner.

It all has to do with jobs -- sort of. Data show that in the past 10 years many people are moving from the Western Slope to the northern Front Range looking for work, while high-paying tech industry jobs has brought workers in from other states. It’s the marriage of these two counties and what they have to offer commuters that makes them so economically diverse.

Luke Runyon / KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Colorado agriculture officials are taking steps to make industrial hemp -- marijuana’s agrarian cousin  -- more mainstream. They’ve certified three hemp seed varieties, becoming the first state in the country to do so.

A seed certification is akin to a stamp of approval, letting farmers know the plant performs well in Colorado’s soil and climate.

The certification also ensures that farmers won’t break federal law by cultivating plants above the legal threshold for THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Hemp that tests above a concentration of 0.3 percent THC must be destroyed, according to state rules. That threshold was set in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

It’s no secret Northern Colorado is growing. Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties are welcoming thousands of new residents each year. People are flocking to the area, and population numbers are on the rise.

The same thing is happening with dairy cows.

Weld and Larimer already sport high numbers of beef and dairy cattle, buttressed by the region’s substantive feeding operations. But an expansion of a Leprino Foods-owned cheese factory in Greeley will require even more cows to churn out the milk needed to produce bricks of mozzarella cheese and whey protein powder.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Food waste is an expensive problem. The average U.S. family puts upward of $2,000 worth of food in the garbage every year.

What some see as a problem, others see as a business opportunity. A new facility, known as the Heartland Biogas Project, promises to take wasted food from Colorado’s Front Range and turn it into electricity.

Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, dented canned goods, old pet food, vats of grease and helpful bacteria combine in massive tanks to generate gas. You’ll find the project on a rural road in Weld County, a stone’s throw from the county’s numerous feedlots, dairy farms, and a short drive from the state’s populous, waste-generating urban core.

Greeley officials have approved a plan that will allow 22 oil and gas wells within city limits. The massive project prompted strong opposition from some residents, and hundreds of people turned out for the hearing.

"I don’t think I’ve ever seen more people attend a city council meeting," said Sharon Dunn, business and energy reporter who covered the event for The Greeley Tribune.

Rebecca Jacobson / Inside Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy defines renewable natural gas as a "pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas." The difference between it and its fossil fuel derived cousin is that RNG is a filtered byproduct of organic decomposition sourced from landfills or livestock or… well, let's just say you and me.

Colorado State Demography Office

Northern Colorado's home and condo prices are not ticking up quite as fast as they were earlier in 2015. But the lull is typical heading into winter, say real estate experts.

If you look year over year, the median single family home price of $304,000 for the Northeast Region, which covers Boulder, Larimer, Logan, Morgan and Weld counties, is still nearly 15 percent higher than the $265,000 it was at this time in 2014.

Prices for townhomes and condos market are also staying up. With a median price of $225,000 in the Northeast Region, the prices for these units are 19 percent higher versus the same time in 2014.

Jim Hill / KUNC

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is considering two new rules governing how oil and gas operators work in populated areas. The draft rules stem from two unanimous recommendations made by Gov. John Hickenlooper's oil and gas task force. Both relate to giving local governments more say in where companies drill.

The task force's goal was to forestall a ballot effort to ban oil and gas development in some parts of the state. Yet responses to the recommendations, and now to the COGCC's draft rules, show many believe they are not addressing the concerns that led communities and citizens to call for a ballot measure.

Jackie Fortier / KUNC

Because of a state accounting error, 41 Colorado counties have to pay back $7.1 million.

For years the Colorado Department of Human Services overpaid counties for their administrative costs. The counties were told earlier in 2015 they would need to repay some funds, but didn't find out the amount until recently.

The amount owed by each county varies with its population and how much it gets from the state. Weld owes $632,002, while Larimer owes over $526,722. Denver owes the most at just over $2.7 million.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fort Collins council members voted to oppose a project calling for the creation of two new reservoirs in Northern Colorado, at least for now. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build two reservoirs to supply water to growing towns in Larimer, Weld, and Boulder counties.

The city is not opposed to the idea of the project, but Fort Collins natural areas director John Stokes, in a presentation Tuesday night to council members, said the June supplemental draft environmental impact statement released by the Army Corps of Engineers fails to adequately evaluate and address environmental impacts.

"A key component that is currently missing from the environmental impact statement analysis is a quantitative temperature and water quality model," said Stokes.