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.

The People’s Climate March in Denver. Photo by Christian O’Rourke

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.

DENVER — Today, in one of his first major administrative actions, Governor Jared Polis signed an Executive Order that will reduce carbon emissions for Colorado’s transportation sector, the second-largest source of carbon pollution in our state. Governor Polis’ action sets in motion a plan to accelerate large-scale adoption of, and increase consumer choice of, Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) in Colorado.

Additionally, the Executive Order:

  • Creates a transportation electrification workgroup to develop, coordinate, and implement programs and strategies to support widespread transportation electrification.
  • Directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a rule to establish a Colorado Zero Emission Vehicle program.
  • Revises how the state will allocate nearly $70 million from the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” case to focus all remaining, eligible investments on electrification of transportation, including transit buses, school buses and trucks.
  • Orders the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop a ZEV and clean transportation plan to support the widespread deployment of electric vehicles in ways that save energy, reduce congestion and improve our transportation network.

In response to the Governor’s announcement, advocates released the following statements:

“Governor Polis hit a stand-up triple today — cleaner air, more car choices for consumers, and an important first step on climate. We are eager and excited to continue working together to bring nationally leading climate policy to Colorado.” — Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“We should not have to choose between clean air and getting to where we need to go. Electric vehicles will cut pollution in a way that will save us money. The cost to fuel an electric vehicle is a third of the cost of filling up at a gas pump and electric vehicles have fewer maintenance costs. We applaud Governor Polis for speeding up our transition to an electric-powered future.” — Danny Katz, Executive Director, Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG)

“Governor Polis is leading on critical environmental issues right out of the gate. By attacking tailpipe pollution he taking on climate change and pushing for cleaner skies for Colorado at the same time. This action is good for the economy, great for the environment and shows Colorado leadership. With the federal government AWOL on all these issues, Colorado is stepping up.” — Noah Long, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

“Colorado is a national leader in fighting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants – but the science is clear that we must also reduce pollution from cars and trucks if we want to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. Governor Polis’ executive order will allow us to leverage Colorado’s increasingly green electricity generation fleet to achieve further and compounding reductions in pollutants from the transportation sector. Governor Polis’ leadership will help our state prepare for growing consumer demand for electric vehicles while cleaning up our air and reducing greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.”  — Erin Overturf, Clean Energy Program Deputy Director, Western Resource Advocates

“The Colorado Sierra Club applauds Governor Jared Polis for making one of his first actions in office one that addresses the climate crisis in our state. While the federal government goes backward on climate action, Governor Polis showed today that Colorado will charge ahead on solutions to cut pollution from transportation, putting at least one million more electric vehicles on the road by 2030.” — Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

“It’s already clear that Coloradans are calling for action on climate. Utility providers and municipalities are making bold commitments to protect our environment and now our state government is following suit. Governor Polis’ charge to clean up Colorado’s transportation sector is exactly what communities across Colorado want to protect our health, our air, our environment, and our economy.” — Kelsey Maxwell, Clean Cars Organizer, Environment Colorado

“This executive order is a significant commitment by the new governor to support forward-thinking policies that will advance the adoption of electric vehicles, saving Colorado residents money at the fuel pump, and helping to lower electric rates, all while making our air cleaner and lowering carbon pollution. SWEEP congratulates Governor Polis for this bold action.” — Howard Geller, Executive Director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP)

“By committing to electric vehicles, Colorado is investing in a clean transportation future. We know electric vehicles run cleaner, reducing the pollution that causes climate change—and that advantage is only going to increase as Colorado invests in renewable electricity. We know they’re cheaper to operate and maintain—a driver in the Denver area can save more than $700 a year fueling their car on electricity instead of at the pump. Thanks to Governor Polis, Colorado could join the forward-looking states who are building a strong electric-vehicle market. With smart policies, more Colorado drivers could reap the benefits of electric vehicles.” — Michelle Robinson, Clean Vehicles Program Director, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

“We are thrilled to have Governor Polis joining us here at The Alliance Center to sign this executive order. Colorado has long been a leader in sustainability, and it is encouraging to see our new governor committing to our citizens’ health, to stronger environmental protections and to our clean energy economy.” — Brenna Simmons-St. Onge, Executive Director, The Alliance Center

“Today Governor Polis took an important step forward by announcing his commitment to increase the deployment of electric vehicles and improve Colorado’s readiness for a clean, zero-pollution transportation system. We’re excited about Governor Polis’ vision, and look forward to working with the new administration to accelerate these critical clean technologies while simultaneously rolling up our sleeves to secure the science-based reductions in climate pollution essential to protect Colorado’s environment and its economy.” — Pam Kiely, Senior Director of Regulatory Strategy, Environmental Defense Fund

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.

Transportation


  • 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.

Water


  • 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.

 

Communities


  • 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!

 

Today, three conservation organizations — Conservation Colorado, Western Resource Advocates, and Environmental Defense Fund — praised Xcel Energy’s announcement that the Minnesota-based corporation and Colorado’s largest utility had committed to going 100 percent carbon-free by 2050 company-wide. It is the most ambitious commitment to climate action of any power company in the country and their commitment will help Colorado play a leadership role nationally on both climate and clean energy.

“Colorado has yet again established itself as the national leader on clean energy, which is great for our economy, our air and future generations,” said Kelly Nordini, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “By pledging to cut its carbon pollution and transitioning away from fossil fuels, Xcel is leading the way to the future with Colorado as  a national model in fighting climate change. With governor-elect Jared Polis also committing to a bold vision and leadership on climate and clean energy policy, our future is only getting brighter.”

“Utilities have a critical role to play in reducing overall carbon emissions. Xcel Energy should be commended for its leadership in setting ambitious, achievable goals,” said Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois. “Our experience working with Xcel Energy in Colorado for over a decade – to expand renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions – has proven that a healthy economy and protection of our environment can go hand in hand. As Xcel Energy takes action to meet these goals, it will expand opportunities, and dramatically re-shape the energy and carbon landscape across its service area.”

“The grim description of public health impacts in the recently-released National Climate Assessment have provided yet more evidence of the urgency of mitigating climate change. Simply put, we must eliminate carbon pollution, and Xcel Energy is the first power company in the country to commit to doing just that,” said Pam Kiely, Sr. Director of Regulatory Strategy for Environmental Defense Fund. “Xcel has outlined targets that are actually commensurate with the ambition needed from the power sector for us to achieve economy-wide goals, and we look forward to working with Xcel to demonstrate how a decarbonized power sector can catalyze a carbon-free economy.”

Xcel is the largest electricity provider in Colorado. In August, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan, which was supported by WRA, Conservation Colorado, EDF and a diverse coalition that included business, labor, and other leaders. Under the plan, Xcel will retire two aging coal-fired power plants and replace the energy with wind, solar, and the nation’s largest battery-storage project—many of those investments being driven directly into Pueblo County, where the coal plants will be retired. It will dramatically cut carbon pollution, create  hundreds of jobs, and will lead to the investment of over $2 billion in Colorado’s rural economy.

By changing only eleven words in the Colorado state constitution, Amendment 74 has the power to upend how our local governments function and fund important public programs. Here’s five things Colorado voters need to know about Amendment 74 before ballots drop on October 15.

1. What does Amendment 74 really say?

Amendment 74 is intentionally vague and confusing – but don’t let that stop you from investigating the impacts of this dangerous ballot measure. Under the pretense of property rights, Amendment 74 would require the government – and consequently, taxpaying Coloradans – to foot the bill for disgruntled property owners, corporations, and special interests that believe a regulation hurt their property value, even in a negligible way.

2. Who’s behind the ballot measure?

A vibrant red sunset with a silhouette of an oil rigThe oil and gas industry has pumped money into this measure since day one. Although Colorado Farm Bureau is the publicly-named proponent, the state’s largest oil and gas companies have invested $21 million in support of Amendment 74 – and against oil and gas setbacks – through the Protect Colorado PAC. Its top three contributors are some of the largest oil and gas players in the state: Anadarko Petroleum, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy.

As of September 12, Anadarko has donated nearly $6 million, Noble Energy contributed almost $5 million, and Extraction Oil and Gas committed almost $4 million. The industry remains as the only contributor to the cause.

3. Who’s against the ballot measure?

Oil and gas development behind cows grazingOver 100 local elected officials and legislators have spoken out against Amendment 74, reiterating that the ballot measure is too broad and goes too far. Outspoken opponents so far include a host of environmental and progressive non-profits across issue areas, Club 20, Colorado Association of Realtors, Colorado Municipal League, and Governor Hickenlooper.

“If passed, Initiative 108 will bring the work of local government to a screeching halt because Denver will be entangled in lawsuits filed against the city for any number of programs, projects, rules, policies, or zonings that anyone could challenge by indicating that it has harmed their property. This is not a way to govern — by tying the hands of your elected leaders who work on these matters on behalf of our communities,” said Denver City Council member Debbie Ortega.

4. Why do we need Amendment 74?

The short answer: we don’t. Here’s why:

  • The Colorado Constitution already protects private property owners and doesn’t allow private property to be taken for public use without compensation.
  • Amendment 74 would broaden some powers imparted by the state Constitution, unleashing sweeping effects and unintended consequences for communities across the state.

The motive behind Amendment 74 is clear:

Oil and gas companies want complete freedom over how and where they do business.

5. How could this impact my community?

Let’s go through a few scenarios:

  • Police lights at nightIf an oil and gas company wanted to place more pipelines, storage facilities and wells near homes – like the pipelines that caused an explosion and killed two people at a home in Firestone just last year – but was blocked by zoning laws or local rules, they could sue a local government for preventing them from making a profit.
  • Public health and safety laws that keep industrial activities away from hospitals and nursing homes may not be enforced if contractors and industry players sue.
  • Local governments would be unable to do their jobs as they waste taxpayer dollars fighting frivolous lawsuits. They could even be forced to raise taxes or cut services like police and fire departments in order to cover the cost. The ultimate losers would be the taxpayers.

We rely on our local governments to help craft plans for what our communities look like, and how to keep residents safe. They do this in open, public meetings to balance the needs of all citizens. This established, trusted democratic process would be upended under this measure.

Amendment 74 is not a measure about protecting private property rights: Amendment 74 aims to bankrupt any local and state government that tries to regulate the oil and gas industry.

Vote NO on Amendment 74 to save our communities, our environment, and our Colorado.

In spite of widespread public support of the rule, the Trump administration today took steps to repeal the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Methane Waste Rule. This 2016 rule was created to cut methane waste from oil and gas operations on public lands by requiring producers to fix leaky infrastructure and create gas capture plans prior to development.

“Again and again, the American people have spoken up for these rules that keep our air clean, help our communities stay healthy, and save taxpayers money. But the Trump administration refuses to listen,” said Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado. “Colorado has led the way with strong state-based safeguards that will remain in place, but smog and pollution don’t stay within state borders. Coloradans will certainly feel the effects of this harmful and short-sighted rollback.”

Undoing the BLM Methane Waste Rule will lead to greater air pollution from oil and gas development as producers won’t have to fix leaks or keep gas from escaping into the air. The methane will cause the same amount of short-term climate damage as 8.3 million cars driven over ten years.

In addition to methane, oil and gas operations release dangerous air toxins, including benzene, a known carcinogen, and smog-forming pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks and worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema. The Trump Administration’s decision to undo this rule will cause more air pollution that will harm families, especially those living closest to oil and gas development.

Preventing methane waste saves taxpayers money. The BLM’s own analysis found that rolling back the rule will cost Americans more than $1 billion — $824 million of wasted natural gas and $259 million in lost public benefits — due to increased methane emissions.

This rule has been under attack since Trump took office, but every attempt to undo it has been met with immense public backlash. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted in the most recent public comment period in May, with 99.8 percent supporting the rule. The 2018 Conservation in the West Poll found that 74 percent of Coloradans support rules requiring oil and gas producers to prevent methane waste on public lands.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today officially began the process of rolling back safeguards that reduce waste and decrease air pollution from methane and other air pollutants. These safeguards are widely supported in Colorado; in fact, a recent poll by Center for Western Priorities showed that 67 percent of Coloradans oppose rolling back environmental regulations on oil and gas development.

“Colorado has led the way with strong state-based rules that have proven to be good for public health, for business, and for our environment. While these safeguards remain in place, smog and pollution don’t stay within state borders. Coloradans, especially working families and people of color, will feel the effects of this harmful and short-sighted rollback, which only serves to benefit oil and gas company profits,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas released into the air when oil and gas is extracted. The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards, which have been in place and working for almost a year, reduce emissions from more than 36,000 wells all around the country. These standards cut 21,635 tons of methane, around 6,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 450,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants each year. Capturing methane means less waste (because the methane is used for energy production) and less pollution (because toxic gases aren’t being released into the air).

While these critical safeguards are being rolled back at the federal level, Colorado continues to have strong rules, which served as a model for the EPA standards. While wells in Colorado will still be subject to these robust state regulations, Colorado’s air will be harmed by the undoing of the EPA rule. Air pollution doesn’t stop at state lines, and Coloradans will be impacted by this decision and the thousands of tons of methane pollution that the industry will again be allowed to emit.

Written by Sophia Guerrero-Murphy

This November, our ballots will be full of measures for voters to weigh in on. One of these – Amendment 74 – is an attempt by special interests to turn local decision making on its head.

Official Ballot EnvelopeAmendment 74 would allow any property holder, including corporations, to sue local and state governments over any regulation, from city planning to basic health and safety protections.

For the sake of protecting the Colorado we love, we cannot let this dangerous amendment pass.

What does it do?

The amendment is written to be purposely confusing and dangerously broad. Under the guise of protecting property rights, it would require the government – the taxpayers – to compensate property owners, including corporate interests and industry, for any decrease in the value of their property – including loss of profits – due to any government law or regulation. The cost of paying out the industries and special interests when enforcing codes and laws will eventually make enforcing even the most straightforward regulations too expensive. In short, it destroys the ability of local leaders to make decisions about what their communities look like.

This measure is unnecessary, too extreme, too broad, and was created by and for special interests.

 It’s unnecessary because the Colorado Constitution already protects private property owners; it doesn’t allow private property to be taken for public use without compensation.

→ This ballot measure would expand part of our Constitution in a way that is incredibly broad and would have sweeping effects on local governments and communities across the state. By requiring local governments to compensate corporate interests, Amendment 74 seeks to make any regulation too expensive to implement.

→ The motive of this measure is clear: it’s paid for by oil and gas companies because it would give them complete freedom over where and how they do business.

Here are three ways that Amendment 74 would hurt Coloradans:

1) Amendment 74 puts industry over people.

An oil rig near residential areaWhile you won’t find any mention of oil and gas in the measure itself, Amendment 74 was written to prevent local governments from limiting oil and gas drilling in any way. Cloaked in language that would have you believe that all Coloradans’ property rights would be strengthened under this measure, Amendment 74 is exclusively backed by oil and gas companies. Protect Colorado, a front group created by the state’s largest oil and gas companies, has raised a staggering $13 million so far in support of 74. Its top three contributors  – Anadarko Petroleum, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy – each donated more than $2 million to the cause.

So, what’s in it for them?

If an oil and gas company wanted to drill near a hospital, school, or nursing home but was blocked by zoning laws, the company could sue the government for preventing them from making a profit. If this happened, the government would have to either pay the company or waive the zoning law. In most situations, city, county, and state governments would not be able to afford the payoff, so they would be forced to allow the company to drill wherever it wanted.

The scariest part of Amendment 74 is how broad it is. Far beyond allowing the oil and gas industry to ignore policies designed to protect public health, it could:

  • A sign for a liquor store near a churchAllow gun shops, strip clubs, and marijuana stores to be built near schools despite neighborhood or family concerns;
  • Allow industrial activities to be located right beside nursing homes, daycares, and hospitals;
  • Undo noise regulations that ensure we all get a good night’s sleep;
  • Undermine local decisions on landfills and hazardous waste storage, allowing them to be located virtually anywhere;
  • Get rid of public health standards governing restaurants, tattoo parlors, or hospitals;
  • Hurt safety rules like fire and building codes.

2) Expensive for taxpayers.

Measures similar to Amendment 74 that were passed in other states show just how burdensome it would be to Coloradans. By forcing local governments, like cities and counties, to pay individuals who “suffered any burden” as a result of a regulation, these measures were prohibitively expensive to governments and taxpayers.

Stacks of claims fill an office roomOver a three-year period in Oregon, a measure similar to 74 resulted in the filing of nearly 7,000 claims requesting a total of $19.8 billion in compensation. Faced with such a massive payment, cash-strapped governments were forced to waive rules for nine out of ten claims. This benefited agribusiness, developers, and extractive industries at the expense of taxpayers.

If Amendment 74 passes, the power of our state and local governments will be strangled. We rely on our local governments to listen to community members and plan for the future of our neighborhoods. They do this in open meetings with public input to balance the needs of all residents. That long-held, trusted process would be upended under this measure.

3) Threatens the property rights of most landowners.

Foreclosure sign in front of a houseUnder Amendment 74, Colorado landowners will suffer. Despite what proponents of 74 claim, waiving regulations would weaken, not strengthen, property owners’ rights. Since property values go down when an undesirable development – like a landfill – is planned near a community, one unregulated property owner has the potential to harm the property values of many.

This also happened in Oregon, where property owners could only sit and watch as an 80-acre gravel mine was built next to family ranches, 150 vacation homes were put up in a national monument, and subdivisions tore up agricultural land. As these landowners learned, waiving land-use rules not only generally damaged property values, it pitted neighbor against neighbor and put a stranglehold on local decision making. Two years after it passed, Oregon residents opposed the 74-like measure by nearly two to one.

With all the attacks on our environment occurring at the national level, it’s easy to lose track of the local ballot issues that Coloradans will be voting on this November. But this year, not paying attention could be dangerous.

Amendment 74 is not a measure about protecting private property rights. No, the purpose of this initiative is to bankrupt any local and state government that tries to regulate the oil and gas industry. It poses an unprecedented threat to our communities, our environment, and our way of life.

See Amendment 74 for what it is – a measure to deregulate and debilitate – and vote NO.

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772

Xcel Energy, the largest electricity provider in Colorado, today took the next step in its “Colorado Energy Plan,” which provides a roadmap for how Colorado can move toward a clean energy future. The new details show that bids from renewable energy developers were the lowest ever seen in the U.S. to date, meaning that Xcel customers will benefit from lower costs while Coloradans will enjoy cleaner air.

“The fact of the matter is this: renewable energy like wind and solar will save ratepayers money while cleaning up carbon pollution,” said Maria Handley, acting executive director at Conservation Colorado. “Nearly ten thousand Coloradans showed their continued and resounding support for clean energy by speaking out for this plan, and the economics prove that it’s time for our transition away from coal. We’re thrilled to live in a state that continues to be a leader in the nation when it comes to the environment and clean energy, and we encourage our Public Utilities Commissioners to approve the Colorado Energy Plan.”

The “120-day report,” filed with the Public Utilities Commission, contains details on the mix of energy sources Xcel hopes to use under its Electric Resource Plan. Not only does the plan include more than 1,800 megawatts of new wind and solar, but it would also double the amount of battery storage in the U.S., making our grid more resilient by storing renewable energy for later use. Prices for solar and wind paired with energy storage were priced lower than existing coal-generated power in Colorado, confirming that clean energy will actually save customers an estimated $213 million.

Xcel’s plan seeks to close two coal plants in Pueblo and replace them with three solar projects and two battery storage projects in the county. Taking these coal plants offline will reduce Xcel’s carbon emissions by approximately 4.5 million tons each year—a reduction of 59 percent from 2005 levels.

This latest report comes after months of public input, during which a record 9,428 people submitted comments to the Public Utilities Commission and dozens more packed their hearings in Denver and Pueblo. The overwhelming majority of this public input was in favor of a clean energy mix for Coloradans.