Candidates who want to win in the Colorado primary should follow our example by making climate action their top priority.
Just days into Colorado’s 2020 legislative session, Coloradans are asking how our elected officials will continue to take bold, progressive action to tackle the biggest issues facing our state.
New polling validates what we’ve known for years: Coloradans value protecting public health and safety, the environment, and wildlife over profits for the oil and gas industry.
We took to the streets to answer this question and see what else Coloradans know — or ought to know — about methane.
Last November, Colorado voters sent a clear message by sweeping pro-conservation champions into office up and down the ballot: Coloradans value conservation.
In the face of a federal administration actively working to reverse protections for clean air, clean water, and a healthy climate, Coloradans called on our state leaders to fight back. Our calls were heard. Of the 598 bills state lawmakers introduced this legislative session, overhauls of Colorado’s energy policies and oil and gas regulations were among the General Assembly’s top priorities.
After years of the same story at Colorado’s legislature of big, bold policies to protect our future being shut down by anti-conservation legislators, 2019 held a lot of promise for Colorado. We were excited to work with our elected leaders to deliver on that promise by taking on some of our biggest campaigns ever.
Thanks to you, our lawmakers passed legislation to make Colorado a leader on climate action, prioritize the health and welfare of Colorado’s communities, and protect the lands and waterways that define our state.
Tackling Climate Change
Dramatically reducing carbon pollution is key to Colorado swiftly acting on climate change—and the need for doing so has never been more clear. We put Colorado on a path towards a zero-carbon future by setting science-based carbon pollution reduction targets, decarbonizing our energy sector, and making it easier to buy and drive electric vehicles.
Numerous studies show we have a small window within which to prevent the most damaging impacts of climate change. The “Climate Action Plan” (House Bill 1261) will help us do our part to leave a healthy environment for future generations by creating a framework to reduce Colorado’s carbon pollution at least 90 percent by 2050, relative to 2005 levels. A bill to better collect climate change data (Senate Bill 96) will keep Colorado on track to meet this goal by requiring state regulators to collect data on carbon emissions and propose reduction strategies based on their findings.
Currently, electricity generation accounts for most of the carbon pollution produced in Colorado. A bill to reform the Public Utilities Commission (Senate Bill 236) will drastically reduce these emissions by directing all utilities in the state to generate more carbon-free electricity and consider the “social cost” of carbon when planning future energy projects. This cost—used to measure the dollar value of long-term damage caused by carbon pollution—will allow utilities to evaluate the significant monetary benefits of continuing to invest in clean energy projects. Another utilities-focused bill (House Bill 1313) will help Colorado continue to play a national leadership role on clean energy by setting a template for Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, as well as other utilities, to achieve their bold carbon reductions targets.
And lastly, by 2030, our transportation sector is expected to surpass electricity generation as the top carbon emitter in the state. That’s why transforming transportation is critical to combating climate change. We took a big step toward electrifying Colorado’s transportation fleet by passing bills to extend electric vehicle tax credits to 2025 (House Bill 1159) and expand electric vehicle infrastructure (Senate Bill 77) while defeating a bill to prohibit the adoption of Zero Emission Vehicle Standards (Senate Bill 53). These bills will keep Colorado the “best place in the country” to buy an electric vehicle as well as make low- and zero-emissions vehicles more affordable and more accessible to Coloradans.
Prioritizing the Health and Well-being of Coloradans
For too long, Colorado’s oil and gas laws and regulations had not kept pace with development, leaving our communities and environment to bear the consequences. This year we made significant gains in ensuring that when it comes to oil and gas drilling, health and safety come first. The oil and gas reform bill (Senate Bill 181) outlines a number of common-sense reforms to put Coloradans’ well being ahead of industry profits. The bill not only safeguards our communities by prioritizing public health and welfare, it will help combat carbon pollution by minimizing methane emissions. As a result, this bill will protect the health of our communities as Colorado moves beyond dirty fuels.
Progressing towards a clean energy future is critical to our way of life—but we must ensure a just and equitable transition along the way. Moving toward an inclusive economy built on clean energy will require more than just technological solutions, it will mean supporting workers and communities whose livelihoods are impacted by this shift.
We helped to address the needs of workers, residents, and communities transitioning to a cleaner economy in a number of policies we worked to pass this session. The “Climate Action Plan” will help empower regulators to take bigger steps toward regulating air pollution in disproportionately impacted communities by specifically directing air quality experts to collaborate with a variety of different stakeholders, including frontline communities as they work to craft regulations. The “just transition” bill (House Bill 1314) will accelerate Colorado’s switch to cleaner electricity generation while benefiting local economies by providing grants, workforce training, and other re-employment programs to communities currently dependent on the coal industry. The Public Utilities Commission Reform bill will also help support communities making this switch by requiring energy companies to create a workforce transition plan when closing a coal-fired plant.
Protecting Our Lands and Waters
Climate change, pollution, and rapid population growth are putting significant strains on the lands and waterways that Coloradans depend on. This legislative session we made big moves to preserve Colorado’s wild places and cascading waters.
From mountain peaks to open grasslands, Colorado’s lands are central to our outdoor heritage and recreation economy. That’s why we supported a bill to update conservation easements (House Bill 1264). This measure will allow more Coloradans to protect the lands they love by extending and improving upon Colorado’s conservation easement program which already protects about 2.5 million acres across Colorado. It’s also why we worked to defeat a misguided wildfire mitigation bill (Senate Bill 37) which would have undone long-established, collaborative relationships between local governments and land managers to successfully address the threat of wildfires and maintain forest resiliency.
The water we use to drink, irrigate our crops, and sustain our communities is water that we share with our rivers, streams, and lakes. But severe drought and increasing water demands threaten to diminish both the quantity and quality of our water supply.
We passed two policies to help sustain healthy, flowing rivers: a mining reform bill (House Bill 1113) and a bill to fund Colorado’s Water Plan (House Bill 1327). The mining reform bill will preserve the quality of Colorado’s waterways by necessitating hard-rock mining companies to prove they can pay to treat polluted water prior to operating a new mine. This will ensure that Colorado’s water and communities are protected from the devastating environmental and economic impacts of hard-rock mining.
The Colorado Water Plan funding bill will maintain adequate flows in Colorado’s rivers and streams by creating a revenue source—through the legalization of sports betting—to fund the Colorado Water Plan, a roadmap to prevent statewide water shortfalls. If approved by voters, the bill will allocate 10 percent of proceeds—an estimated $10 million annually—towards water conservation as well as provide money to combat gambling addiction.
These victories would not have been possible without you! Thousands of Conservation Colorado members across the state took action this legislative session to ensure a healthy Colorado for years to come.
Thank you—our members, donors, and supporters—for everything you did to make the environment a priority for legislators this year. By joining us and raising your voice on conservation issues, you have been a crucial part of this success.
This year was a year of tremendous progress. Now, we have a stronger-than-ever foundation upon which to build a better future for Colorado.
With your help, we can continue to grow our movement and be a national conservation leader.
Thanks to your support, Colorado’s Climate Action Plan — the most significant climate change bill in Colorado history — became law!
We still have work to do to ensure this law reaches its full potential, but it puts Colorado on a path toward cleaner air, healthier communities and a zero-carbon future.
Here are three ways the Climate Action Plan (House Bill 1261) will help Colorado tackle climate change and build a better future for our kids and grandkids.
Setting Strong Goals to Limit Carbon Pollution
Reducing carbon pollution is critical to protecting our way of life. Numerous studies show we have a small and shrinking window — 12 years — within which to prevent the most damaging impacts of climate change.
The Climate Action Plan sets science-based reduction targets to cut carbon pollution at least 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels in order to limit warming and its harmful impacts.
Each year, at least 3.5 million Coloradans are exposed to unhealthy air pollution and its many health-related impacts including asthma, respiratory problems, and lung disease. Projections show carbon pollution-fueled increases in smog and wildfire smoke will exacerbate these impacts while extreme temperatures will cause a spike in the number of heat-associated illnesses and death.
Cutting carbon emissions ensures that Colorado does its part to avoid a climate crisis and leave a clean, healthy environment for future generations.
Creating Cost-Effective Regulations
To put Colorado on track to achieve these targets, the climate plan directs our state’s public health and air quality experts at the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to find the best, most economical ways to reduce emissions. The plan calls on state regulators to work hand-in-hand with elected officials and industry leaders to ensure that these solutions are cost-effective — one of the many reasons major employers, businesses, and investors across Colorado strongly support this policy.
Decarbonizing our economy presents immense opportunity for our state. Colorado’s clean energy industry is significant and growing, employing more than 62,000 workers and attracting multi-million dollar investments in addition to saving ratepayers an average of 15 to 50 percent on energy costs.
Establishing policies to meet our carbon reduction targets will help Colorado’s clean energy economy continue to grow by driving innovation, job creation and further cost savings for consumers. This will allow us to reinvest in our businesses, employees, and the communities in which they operate.
Engaging Local Communities
The negative impacts of carbon pollution directly affect the health and wellbeing of people across Colorado. But not all communities or individuals are affected in the same ways. Lower-income communities and communities of color who are already more likely to experience chronic health conditions and greater exposure to harmful pollution will be disproportionately burdened by climate change.
Colorado’s Climate Action Plan addresses this inequity by requiring public health leaders to identify specific strategies for reducing emissions in frontline communities and seeking their direct input on how to best do so. These strategies will help communities craft local solutions to protect their residents from climate change.
This is especially important in a state as unique as Colorado. A recent report found that although climate change impacts vary widely across the state, most communities — more than 59 percent — are unprepared to cope with climate disruptions.
Just 26 of Colorado’s 64 counties have a plan for climate action. Source: Colorado Health Institute 2019.
Successfully tackling these changes across Colorado will require policies and approaches that are as diverse as the communities in which they’re created. By accepting public input through robust community engagement processes, the action plan promotes local solutions that are meaningful and inclusive and as a result, more equitable and just.
Each year our stunning landscapes attract over 80 million visitors to our state. These visitors are drawn to the world-class recreation opportunities that our mountains, lakes, and rivers offer, along with the unique agricultural products that Colorado is known for.
Wildfires scorched more than 430,00 acres of Colorado’s forests and grasslands in 2018.
Owners of water sports businesses who rely on healthy, flowing waterways had real concerns about their future customer base last summer. Flows in nearly every river across the state were at least half of their average and in many places, water levels were too low for fishing and rafting. A drier climate threatens to make these impacts even worse, which could seriously hurt our state’s $3.8 billion water-based recreation industry.
Farmers who depend on adequate water levels to cultivate their fields to feed our communities and a $40 billion agricultural industry feared that their crops and life savings would dry up after some water users were shut off. If our snowpack continues to deplete, water shortages will likely become more frequent along with crop failures and our position as the nation’s largest grower of organic produce.
Ranchers who count on predictable rainfall patterns to nourish our nationally renowned sheep and cattle herds were concerned whether they would have enough water for their livestock to drink, let alone to irrigate pasture or other crops. Inability to plan when and what to plant due to a changing climate could lead to early auctions and selling off parts of herds to avoid long-term profit loss—measures that many have already been forced to take.
There’s no question Coloradans are already grappling with the risks that climate change and air pollution pose to our future way of life. Rising temperatures and dirtier air are jeopardizing our health, livelihoods, agricultural heritage, and outdoor recreation economy.
As one of the fastest-warming states in the nation, Colorado has a responsibility to prevent the worst effects of a changing climate by setting science-based goals to reduce carbon pollution. House Bill 1261, a climate action plan, is an opportunity to create a framework to tackle climate change and preserve our outdoor legacy by setting a 90 percent carbon-reduction target by 2050.
We must act now to ensure a better future for the next generation of Coloradans. Air pollution is already harming our most at-risk populations; hotter temperatures will only exacerbate its negative health effects. It’s up to us to create a climate action plan and leave a livable, healthy Colorado to our kids and grandkids and this bill is critical to protecting our communities, economies, and way of life—now and for years to come.
Written by Audrey Wheeler
Coloradans are more concerned than ever about climate change — and it’s not hard to see why.
According to the latest Conservation in the West poll, concern about climate change has gone up in every western state since 2016. Here in Colorado, 77 percent of voters say climate change is a serious problem — the highest in the region. And for the first time ever, majorities of voters across the West, including conservative bastions like Wyoming and Utah, are worried about climate change.
This shift is drastic. Where did it come from? Its roots may be found in the impacts of the climate crisis unfolding in our communities.
The more we see the effects of climate change happening around us, the more concerned people are about the urgency of the problem. In fact, a new poll found 74 percent of Americans say extreme weather in the past five years (such as hurricanes, droughts, floods and heat waves) has influenced their opinions about climate change.
Here in Colorado, those impacts have been real and, in some cases, drastic.
Colorado just had its second-driest summer on record. Three of the largest wildfires in state history happened over a span of just four months. More than 440,000 acres burned, destroying homes, impacting agriculture, choking our rivers with ash and sediment, and shutting people out of public lands.
The Yampa River was placed on a “call” for the first time ever. As a result, many people with water rights from the Yampa were shut off. The river shrunk to a trickle through Dinosaur National Monument. Popular fishing spots from the Crystal to the Colorado Rivers were closed due to low water and warm temperatures.
Colorado is not alone in facing these extreme weather disasters. The five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five years, with 2018 coming in as the fourth-hottest year. Dire predictions from scientists about our planet’s future are coming true, right before our eyes.
Together, these facts lead to a simple conclusion: the time has come for the West to lead on climate action.
Coloradans are ready to do something. A full 62 percent of Colorado voters say climate change is an extremely or very serious problem, up 23 points in just the last few years.
We need our leaders to listen to Coloradans and act now, before the problem gets worse. While it is encouraging that more and more people care about our climate, we can’t wait for the next disaster to strike. Instead, we need action now to show the West — and the nation — how a single state can take the lead.
Colorado has led the way on climate action before. Back in 2004, we were the first state to pass a renewable energy standard by ballot measure. In the past year, we became the only interior state with Low-Emission Vehicle standards to make our cars and our air cleaner. Our biggest utility, Xcel Energy, was the first utility company in the nation to commit to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050.
Now, we can lead again. Colorado has the opportunity to show the country that it’s possible to act on climate. Moreover, we can prove that it’s possible in a state that produces fossil fuels. Let’s call on our decision makers to put our state on the map for more than beautiful vistas and craft beers — let’s be the state that starts the momentum to act on climate.
Written by Audrey Wheeler
We are living during a pivotal moment for the protection of Colorado’s environment. With the opening of Colorado’s legislature and Governor Jared Polis being sworn in, we will enter the legislative session following a new era of leaders who were elected on their promises to protect our air, land, water, and people.
According to a survey of Colorado voters taken just after November’s elections, the environment was a major factor for voters’ choices. When asked which policy issue was “most important” in their vote for governor, 42 percent of independents chose “energy and the environment” as one of their top two options – the most of any issue tested. In other words, it wasn’t the economy, healthcare, education, immigration, or taxes that rose to the top for Colorado voters — it was energy and environment.
Coloradans voted for pro-conservation champions to lead our state government, so now we have the opportunity to pass bold policies that will protect our future! This year holds a lot of promise for taking steps to protect our air, land, water, and people. With Governor Jared Polis at the helm — who won his race on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy — we are gearing up for strong leadership from Colorado.
In 2019, we aim to make Colorado a leader on climate action, prioritize the health and safety of communities over oil and gas, and protect our lands and waters.
Our biggest efforts for climate action will be:
- Taking bold action to protect our climate. A recent report from the United Nations found we have 12 years to act to prevent disastrous climate change. Colorado can lead the nation toward a clean energy economy. Xcel Energy’s recent commitment to a carbon-free energy grid by 2050 is a great start, and we can do more for our climate. As our executive director, Kelly Nordini, said in a recent news story: “Carbon’s a pollutant. We need to set a limit on that pollution and say as a state how we’re going to limit that carbon pollution.”
- Making sure health, safety, and the environment are put first when it comes to oil and gas development. The oil and gas industry has had far too much influence over political and regulatory processes in Colorado. We need to put the health and safety of our communities first and have the best safeguards in the West.
- Protecting the public lands, rivers, and streams that make Colorado a great place to live. As our population grows, we need to make sure our public lands are preserved, our rivers keep flowing, and our wild places are accessible for everyone to enjoy.
Learn more about these goals and how we plan to reach them at Colorado Conservation Future.
With these policies, we can take our future into our own hands. We can move forward on Colorado climate action, making our state a leader for the nation on clean air and climate change, as well as with safeguards that put people ahead of oil and gas industry profits. Let’s work together to seize this opportunity to protect the state we all love.
The time to shape our future is now.
How Colorado is ready to lead on the Environment
Drove 1,800 megawatts of clean energy. Cut pollution from cars. Organized thousands of Coloradans to stand up to the Trump administration. Won 53 elections, electing more women and people of color than ever before in Colorado. When we pause and take a look back, it’s clear that our 2018 was pretty eventful.
Building a movement requires many small successes. And this year — with the support of our many dedicated volunteers, donors, and activists — we accomplished a lot to protect Colorado’s environment.
First, we put more time, money, and effort into electing pro-conservation leaders than ever before — and it paid off! We played a part in getting Jared Polis elected as governor and in electing pro-conservation majorities in the Colorado legislature!
But election victories aren’t the only thing we accomplished this year.
Energy and Climate
- We helped bring more clean, renewable energy to Colorado through Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan. This will save an estimated $213 million for energy consumers, replacing two coal-fired power plants using renewable energy, existing (but no new) natural gas resources, and doubling the amount of battery storage that is currently under contract in the entire country. We sent nearly 10,000 public comments (a new record) to the Public Utilities Commission to make this plan a reality.
- We worked to pass a bill that supports rural communities impacted by economic downturn, like a big industry leaving. The “REACT” bill provides much-needed coordination and resources for state agencies to assist rural communities. It does this by designating a specific state agency, the Department of Local Affairs, to coordinate economic assistance.
- We made big moves for cleaning up pollution from cars in Colorado. In November, Colorado became the first interior state to pass Low Emission Vehicle standards for cars and trucks, which will reduce pollution from tailpipes, help Coloradans breathe easier, and save money for families at the pump. We lauded Governor Hickenlooper when he kicked off the process with an executive order in June, and we brought input from more than 7,600 Coloradans to the agency in charge.
- We played a part in passing a bill to increase funding for transportation, a need that has grown as Colorado’s population has boomed. A true compromise, this transportation funding bill includes flexible, statewide funding that invests in transit, bike, and pedestrian options as well as highways and roads. SB 001 provides funding for all parts of the state to decrease congestion, promote equity, and reduce air pollution.
Wilderness and Public Lands
- We partnered with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Jared Polis to introduce a bill in both chambers of Congress to permanently protect 96,000 acres in the White River National Forest, including Camp Hale as the first-ever National Historic Landscape. The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Act will protect the natural beauty, outdoor recreation, historic resources, and wildlife habitat in the nation’s busiest national forest.
- We supported a bill to reauthorize Colorado’s lottery to continue funding outdoor recreation and land conservation. Through this program, Great Outdoors Colorado has returned more than $1.1 billion to the people of Colorado through projects like community parks and trails in all 64 of Colorado’s counties.
- We mobilized thousands of Coloradans to speak up to the Trump administration, sending in comments on proposed changes to sage grouse plans, getting local elected officials on board to stop drilling near the Great Sand Dunes, and recruiting 103 businesses to send a letter to Congress to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
- We worked with our legislative champions to pass three bills that allow reused water to be used for flushing toilets, growing hemp and marijuana, and cultivating edible crops. Reused water is recycled water that has been treated so it is clean enough to use again. These bills will save water for Colorado.
- We won a lawsuit to keep the Dolores River flowing. There is now water that is legally allotted to restore stream flows for the fish and wildlife that depend on it.
- Conservation Colorado Education Fund and Protégete registered 10,360 new voters in Denver and Pueblo counties—75 percent of whom identify as people of color—to help increase voter participation in Colorado.
- We graduated 44 Promotores, or individuals from Latino communities who committed to learning how to organize and lead their community toward local and statewide solutions through civic engagement. This included our first-ever youth Promotores, who are local high school and college students going through our program.
- We helped defeat Amendment 74, a ballot measure supported by out-of-state corporate interests who wanted to change the character of Colorado neighborhoods and our rural landscapes by giving developers loopholes to build anything they like, anywhere they like.
The Fight Continues
Our country is seeing a rare convergence of political climate, public concern, and capacity to make meaningful changes in the next few years — and those changes will be led by the states. We’re taking on some of our biggest campaigns ever to pass bold policies that will make Colorado a leader for the nation.
We’ve come up with a vision for the future that serves as a clear call for our leaders to make meaningful policies in 2019 and beyond to protect Colorado’s environment. It includes:
- Putting a limit on carbon pollution and advancing clean energy innovation
- Electrifying and cleaning up our transportation sector
- Safeguarding communities from oil and gas development
- Keeping water in our rivers and ensuring our drinking water healthy
- Protecting public lands and wilderness for all Coloradans
With your help, we can continue to grow our movement and make Colorado’s future one that we’re proud to leave as our legacy. Donate before the end of the year to support our vision for the future and become a part of the fight!
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