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.

At the end of the day, it’s all about leadership.

Now that the legislative session is over, we can celebrate what passed, lament what didn’t pass, and plan ahead for what we need to get done next year. Conservation Colorado lauds a few of the stand-out lawmakers who advocated for our state’s communities, public lands, water, and air this session. This year at our annual Rebel with a Cause gala we are excited to celebrate House Majority Leader KC Becker as our 2018 Legislator of the Year for her leadership addressing climate change head-on and for her advocacy in support of measures that protect our communities from the impacts of oil and gas development.

Here are five other exceptional lawmakers whose partnership makes our work possible.

Representative Faith Winter

Representative Faith Winter

It’s easy for conservationists to keep their faith in Representative Winter as an environmental champion. At the Capitol, she is an outspoken advocate for equity in transportation. Rep. Winter was one of the main engineers behind the revised Senate Bill 1 transportation funding measure and helped fight for dedicated funding for options that include more buses, more bike lanes, and more sidewalks. As the Chair of the Transportation and Energy committee, she sponsored legislation like the RTD Regional Transportation District Low-income Fare Program, which aimed to create a program to offer reduced fares to low-income RTD riders. This session, Rep. Winter demonstrated her ability to reach compromise on critical legislation and proved her willingness to take on the culture of sexual harassment at the Capitol, one of the toughest fights we’ve ever seen under the Golden Dome.


Representative Dylan Roberts

Representative Dylan RobertsA mid-term appointment, Representative Dylan Roberts filled the seat of  conservation champion Representative Diane Mitsch Bush when she decided to run for Congress. He got off to a great start with a focus on protecting our water, advancing rural economic development, and preserving our unique landscapes.

Rep. Roberts was a primary sponsor of one of our priority bills, aimed to hold mining companies accountable if their future operations have any negative impacts on Colorado’s water. Despite broad support from local communities, the measure ultimately died in a Senate committee.


Senator Leroy Garcia

Senator Leroy Garcia

Senate Minority Leader Leroy Garcia has emerged as a passionate public lands advocate. He was the prime sponsor on the reauthorization of the Colorado Lottery division, which provides vital funding for Great Outdoors Colorado, a program that supports outdoor recreation and land conservation in all 64 counties in the state. Additionally, in response to the Trump administration’s attempt to lease lands near the Great Sand Dunes National Park for oil and gas drilling, Sen. Garcia penned a passionate op-ed in the Pueblo Chieftaincondemning the federal push to auction off our public lands as “a direct threat to our communities, our economy, and our way of life.”  

As the new Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Garcia has stepped up to the plate and batted on behalf of public lands protections.


Representative Dominique Jackson

Representative Dominique Jackson

Representative Dominique Jackson ardently fights for the safety of her constituents and Coloradans across the state. Rep. Jackson sponsored multiple bills that focused on protecting the constitutional rights of state citizensestablishing a program to offer reduced fares to low-income RTD riders, and adding more safety requirements for oil and gas wells and pipelines. As a member on three important committees in the House, Rep. Jackson seizes on her opportunities to vote on numerous bills that could impact Coloradans’ public safety, environmental health, and human rights.


Senator Kerry Donovan

Senator Kerry DonovanThere doesn’t seem to be a pressing West Slope issue that Senator Kerry Donovan won’t take on. From rural broadband deployment to gathering climate change data, Sen. Donovan advances legislation that addresses the intersections between dynamic policies, resource accessibility, and geographical challenges.

Sen. Donovan also sponsored a water conservation bill, the Reclaimed Water Use On Industrial Hemp bill, that alleviates some of the demand on our overstretched rivers by expanding the opportunities to use recycled water. Together, these pieces of legislation convey Sen. Donovan’s drive to fight for our communities and urban water conservation to reduce the pressure on the water supplies of Colorado’s agricultural industry on the West Slope.


Departing Champions

Speaker Crisanta Duran and Senator Lucía Guzmán


As Speaker of the House and Senate Minority Leader, Representative Crisanta Duran and Senator Lucia Guzman have fought for all Coloradans. They have advocated for urgent action to fight climate change, negotiated bipartisan compromises to ensure transportation options that make sense for all of us, and spoken up for those whose voices have been marginalized for far too long. This session, their leadership in standing by sexual harassment survivors was an exceptional example that such behavior will not and cannot be tolerated.

Senator Matt Jones and Representative Mike Foote


Throughout their tenures in the state legislature, Representative Mike Foote and Senator Matt Jones have partnered as stalwart champions for protecting Colorado communities from the harmful impacts of industrial oil and gas development. This session they worked together on three commonsense oil and gas bills, including the Protect Act, which would have enhanced the ability of local government to regulate oil and gas activities and hold operators accountable.

 

We’re proud to work with these lawmakers and so many other passionate legislators at the Capitol to fight for the protection of Colorado’s lands, air, and water. But too many good policies were blocked this year by anti-conservation legislators. That’s why we need everyone to join us in the fight for the future and help us elect pro-conservation leaders in the legislature.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

120 days. 100 legislators. Among a storm of #MeToo scandals, teacher protests, civil rights debates, and more, we made progress and fought some important fights for our environment.

In case you haven’t been keeping up, here are the biggest wins, bad things blocked, and losses for our air, land, water, and communities coming out of this year’s legislative session.

VICTORIES:

Bicyclist riding through city: increased sustainable transitInvesting in transportation for all Coloradans. After two years of fighting, we notched a huge victory in passing SB 001, a bipartisan bill that includes major investments in transportation options like senior and disability buses, sidewalks for pedestrians, highway shoulders for tractors, and resources to keep everyone safe. It is a step towards funding our state’s massive transportation needs in a fiscally responsible manner, and it supports a system that will benefit all Coloradans. With 2.5 million more people expected to live in Colorado in the next 25 years, these options are more important than ever to combat congestion and improve air quality. While we believe additional revenues are needed to address all our transportation needs, this bill provides critical initial investments to move us forward.

Two kids point across a streamRenewing funding to protect our public lands. A massive funding stream for Colorado’s outdoors was reauthorized through Colorado’s lottery! This dedicates funding for parks, open spaces, and outdoor recreation in all 64 counties of Colorado. This bill (SB 066) will help boost local projects to protect our outdoors.


Solar panels: Increased Solar StorageAdvancing renewable energy through storage. Energy storage is an essential companion to renewables that will enable a clean energy future. Two bills tackled this need (SB 009 and HB 1270). SB 009 declares that power customers have a right to install, interconnect, and use energy storage systems, making sure that homeowners can store their renewable energy, while HB 1270 directed the Public Utilities Commission to consider storage in as utilities make plans for future energy sources.


Commercial irrigation at sunset: Conserved WaterConserving Colorado’s water. We helped pass three bills to allow reused water for flushing toilets (HB 1069), growing hemp (SB 038), and farming edible crops (HB 1093)! “Reuse” water is when water is used for one purpose, say to wash dishes, and then treated to a safe standard to be used again, like to water a garden. When a water provider is able to use the same water multiple times, it means more demands can be met without increasing their overall water consumption. Reusing water helps conserve our limited water resources, and these bills will save thousands of gallons a year.


A single deer in an aspen grove: protected our wildlifeProtecting state parks and wildlife. Coloradans depend on Colorado Parks and Wildlife to deliver on its mission and ensure future generations have access to the recreational opportunities available today. SB 143 allows CPW to prevent budget shortfalls and meet its goals by increasing user fees and adjusting them to keep pace with inflation.


Rural landscape with one home: Supported rural communitiesSupporting rural communities. Two bills were passed this year: first, the Rural Economic Advancement of Colorado Towns (REACT) Act aims to provide assistance to rural towns that have experienced significant economic shifts such as industry closure. This bill (SB 005) will help make sure our rural communities have support from the state of Colorado as they face transitions, often related to the shift to clean energy. Second, SB 002 adds funding for increasing broadband to rural areas across Colorado. Currently, many rural communities do not have access to broadband internet, or if they do, its poor and unreliable quality. Rural communities deserve high-speed, functional infrastructure so their opportunities to earn a good life are not limited.

These are just some of the 27 bills we helped pass this year with the support of our 36,000 members!

But not everyone was in line with conservation interests. We also worked to kill 11 bills this legislative session that would have been bad for our air, land, water, or people.

BLOCKED:

  • Stopping Colorado from fighting climate change. SB 226 sought to prohibit Colorado from being involved in the U.S. Climate Alliance, which Governor Hickenlooper signed onto last summer. This bill was a thinly veiled attempt to stall Colorado in its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This bill passed the Senate but was soundly killed in the House, thanks in part to our members’ advocacy.
  • Repealing electric vehicle tax credits. Colorado’s innovative tax credits make our state the best in the country for buying electric vehicles. The credits have helped spur consumers to switch to EVs, giving us the 6th highest market share in the country for EVs. At the same time, EVs benefit our air quality and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. SB 047 would have ended these tax credits early, cutting off the benefits of EVs to our air and our economy, but we ensured the death of this shortsighted legislation.

And of course, we weren’t able to win in every fight this year. Some of the bills we worked hard to pass this legislative session met their ends in the state Senate, which is under anti-conservation leadership.

LOSSES:

  • Protecting Colorado’s water and rivers. A bill (HB 1301) to hold mining companies responsible for water cleanup would have updated our state’s hard rock mining laws to protect the rushing rivers and drinking water we rely on. Unfortunately, this bill was killed in the Senate by pro-industry voices.
  • Fighting climate change. One bill (HB 1297) would have allocated funds to prepare Colorado for climate change. Another (HB 1274) would have set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. Despite passing the House, both bills were sent to kill committees in the Senate.
  • Expanding electric vehicle infrastructure. Our transportation sector is changing, and we need the infrastructure to keep up the pace. SB 216 would have done so by lifting a restriction on utility companies’ ability to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure to meet the growing need and demand across Colorado. Despite electric cars like the Nissan Leaf gaining in popularity around the state, Senators voted to let Colorado fall behind.

You may notice one big issue is missing from this list: oil and gas! In fact, oil and gas was such an important and divisive issue in this year’s legislative session that we’re writing about it separately just to relay what went down. Read it here!

In all, it was a successful legislative session, despite the anti-conservation leadership we’ve seen in the state Senate. We are proud to have worked to pass bills that will be good for the future of all Coloradans, and we’re ready to keep fighting for the big issues that didn’t get addressed in this year’s legislature.

We couldn’t do this work without the support of members like you. But there is more to be done as we gear up for the next election. Sign up now to volunteer to help elect a pro-conservation legislature!That way we’ll be able to see even more victories next year.

News outlets are reporting that President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are expected to begin the process of rolling back national clean car standards in the coming days. These standards are widely supported, save Coloradans money at the gas pump, and reduce smog and toxic pollution.

“Trump and Pruitt are forcing EPA to review and reverse years of clean air policies, including the most effective safeguards to protect public health and cut carbon pollution,” said Noah Long, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council. “Coloradans will be hurt by this rollback unless the state stands up to assert its right to clean air.”

Coloradans have saved $550 million at the pump since the federal government set standards in 2012 to double fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks by 2025. Under these standards, the average Colorado household would have seen $2,700 in savings by 2030—savings that won’t happen with this rollback.

This rollback will increase carbon emissions in Colorado by 3.9 million tons per year, undercutting Governor Hickenlooper’s goals to address our changing climate. Emissions of smog-causing air pollutants from vehicles would increase by about 15 percent, making it harder for places like Colorado’s Front Range to meet federal ozone standards that protect our health. For Coloradans, especially the 343,000 people who are living with asthma, more air pollution means more coughing and wheezing, increased risk of infection, and permanent damage to lung tissue.

“These rollbacks will cancel out nearly all of the climate benefits that will be provided by the governor’s executive order on climate,” said Will Toor, director of transportation programs for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “They will also make it harder for Colorado to meet federal air quality standards and will force consumers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional fuel costs. They will leave Colorado residents poorer and breathing dirtier air,”

“The federal clean car standards save Coloradans money every time we fuel up our cars and result in less air pollution every time we drive,” said Danny Katz, director of CoPIRG. “The Trump administration is taking action to make cars more inefficient, which will cost us at the pump and every time we step outside for some fresh air.”

With this federal rollback, states that have adopted their own standards will continue to enjoy the benefits of cheaper car travel and cleaner air, while other states will move backward with dirtier and less efficient vehicles. Conservation groups in Colorado are calling on the governor to take action so Colorado can continue to see the benefits of cleaner cars, even as federal protections are undone.

“Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt’s rollback of the clean car standards endangers our public health and environment and will stifle Colorado’s transition to the clean energy economy,” said Jim Alexee, Director of Sierra Club’s Colorado Chapter. “Governor Hickenlooper has advocated for having the cleanest air in the nation, and now he has an important opportunity to put Colorado in the fast lane to protect our health and climate, and to keep us from wasting money on gas.”

“These rollbacks will be devastating for our climate and our air,”  said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, transportation advocate at Conservation Colorado.  “Governor Hickenlooper has committed to cleaning up Colorado’s air pollution, and to achieve that goal we need to see bold action in our state for clean transportation.”

Background:
These national emissions standards have benefited Colorado both in terms of cost savings and better air quality.

  • According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, no other federal policy is delivering as much oil savings, consumer benefits, and carbon emission reductions as the 2012 Federal Fuel Economy and Vehicle Emissions Standards.
  • Those states that have adopted the Advanced Clean Car standards will continue with their low emission vehicle standards (ten states in total). In other states, substantially dirtier and less efficient vehicles will be allowed to be sold.
  • These standards from the EPA pushed car manufacturers to make their cars more fuel efficient. For Colorado, that means the average on-road fuel economy of new cars and trucks in 2025 will be 37 mpg versus an average of 21 mpg from before these went into effect.
  • According to AAA, the average cost of owning and operating a vehicle in 2017 is $8,649. Because of the federal emissions standard, the average Colorado household would have seen $2,700 in savings by 2030 from lower gas bills.
  • Transportation is the #2 source of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, and the highest in the nation.
  • The greater Denver area ranked the 6th worst in the country for bad air days in 2015, and we are still in not in alignment with federal air quality safety regulations.

Today the House Select Committee on Climate Responsibility will hold its first of three hearings to investigate solutions to the problems that climate change poses to our Colorado way of life. The committee will hear from experts from across the state focusing on energy efficiency, rural economic development opportunities, and the electricity sector.

Leading environmental, business, and agriculture organizations are excited about the focus of the Select Committee:

“Climate change is real, and it is already affecting those of us who live, work, and play in Colorado. The longer we wait to cut our carbon pollution, the direr the consequences will be for our state, economy, and communities. Colorado needs to take bold actions, and this Select Committee is the perfect place to explore how Colorado can be a leader among states.” – Amelia Myers, Energy Advocate, Conservation Colorado

“Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is pleased to be involved with the House Select Committee, and we appreciate their leadership in tackling these difficult issues. This Committee is an important step to evaluate smart solutions to curb greenhouse gas emissions while also growing jobs across the state. There are more than 66,000 people working in Colorado’s clean energy economy — an increase of 6% over the previous year. From experience, we can expect Colorado’s economy to continue to grow from smart policies that benefit our environment.” –Susan Nedell, Rocky Mountains Advocate, Environmental Entrepreneurs

“The livelihoods of Colorado’s farmers and ranchers, rural economies, and our food supply are all vulnerable to the extremes of climate change. The National Young Farmers Coalition thanks the committee for taking action to address these challenges, including highlighting climate solutions already being practiced by some of Colorado’s most innovative farmers and ranchers and opportunities to encourage further investment in voluntary climate-smart agriculture practices and markets.” – Alexander Funk, Western Policy Director, National Young Farmers Coalition

Outside of the Select Committee, the legislature will also consider bills that seek to address the effects of climate change. HB18-1274, for example, would set a goal of reducing our statewide carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels, a goal that is in line with Governor Hickenlooper’s executive order as well as the Paris Climate Agreement.

Contact:

Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772
Susan Nedell, 303-250-4559