The hard work you put in to organize, advocate, and make your voice heard made a difference. Our conservation movement is stronger than ever.
When it comes to protecting our environment, who we elect to office and how we vote on ballot measures is critical. That’s why we need YOU to use your voice at the ballot box this November 5th.
Important ballot measures and local races will be on the ballot this November 5th. Here are helpful tips and key dates for the 2019 election.
With a need to act on climate, it’s more important than ever that all of us practice civic engagement — at the local, state, and federal levels.
Today, Conservation Colorado released its 2019 Conservation Scorecard, an annual look at how every state legislator voted on key environmental bills during the recent legislative session. The scorecard provides Coloradans with the information they need to ensure their elected officials reflect Coloradans’ values, including protections for our air, land, water, and communities.
“Colorado’s 2019 legislative session was historic by any measure,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “From climate action and clean energy to oil and gas reforms to protecting our lands, water, and wildlife, this year’s scorecard provides an accounting of who helped and hindered Colorado’s progress.”
Here are top-line results from the Scorecard:
Key votes scored include:
- Colorado’s Climate Action Plan (HB1261)
- Comprehensive Oil and Gas Reform (SB181)
- EV Utility and Tax Credits (HB1159 and SB77)
- Hard-Rock Mining Reform (HB1113)
- Conservation Easement Improvements (HB1264)
- Promoting a Just Transition (HB1314)
- 18 Senators had a perfect score.
- The lowest scores were Senators Chris Holbert, Vicki Marble, and Jim Smallwood at 0 percent each.
- 36 members had a perfect score.
- The lowest scores were Representatives Mark Baisley, Susan Beckman, Perry Buck, Tim Geitner, Stephen Humphrey, Kimmi Lewis, Lori Saine, Shane Sandridge, and Dave Williams at 0 percent each.
Nordini continued: “This year, the Colorado legislature passed commonsense policies that were years in the making. At a time when the stakes could not be higher, Colorado’s new elected leaders produced results that will protect our state for years to come.”
I write as the enthusiastically wide-eyed recent addition to Conservation Colorado. My name is Koki Atcheson and I graduated from Colorado College this May with a BA in Environmental Science: Integrated and a minor in Education. I am so grateful to the Public Interest Fellowship Program and Conservation Colorado for this opportunity to start as a Communications Fellow.
I accepted a position in Colorado, far from my home base in Honolulu, Hawaii, because I recognize the state of Colorado as a national leader in advancing pro-environmental policies, public lands protections, renewable energy, and clean air and water for all people. I draw inspiration from Colorado’s green spaces of all sizes and the energy of city planners and community members working in partnership with nature. I see hope and great potential in the conservation movement, and I am eager to join a team who works relentlessly toward a better future for our environment and our people.
Once I walked through Conservation Colorado’s doors, I did not wait long to experience advocacy work firsthand. Moments after finding my desk, I listened in on a tele-press conference detailing Senator Cory Gardner’s voting history, and the implications of his anti-environmental votes. This was my introduction to what it means to hold elected officials accountable.
Senator Gardner has failed to fulfill his advertised commitments to renewable energy and the environment. Between 2015 and 2018 he voted against the environment 85 percent of the time. This record does not honor the conservationist identity that I share with 69 percent of Coloradans.
Reading Conservation Colorado’s report of Senator Gardner’s voting history, I was most upset to see that he has made surface-level claims of pro-environmental beliefs without stepping up as a leader in climate policy, sponsoring a wilderness bill, or consistently voting to secure the best interests of Colorado’s people and environment. These findings reinforce the necessity of digging deeper than political candidates’ promotional materials, and making this information easily accessible.
In Colorado, pro-conservation elected officials accurately represent the values and needs of residents. Pro-conservation actions promote public health through policies that minimize displacement and pollution, and maximize green spaces for all. In this way they are a vehicle for justice, and can work to counteract centuries of environmental racism.
Senator Gardner has an immense opportunity to represent Coloradan values and leave a positive legacy for the state he serves through working to advance clean energy, fully sponsor conservation bills, and protect the wilderness areas that keep Colorado wild.
If Colorado hopes to remain a proud champion for our environment, all of our elected officials must step up and boldly pursue action that honors our state’s human and natural needs. In my time as a Communications Fellow at Conservation Colorado, I look forward to learning from a wealth of mentors who are doing the political work to sculpt an equitable, environmentally connected future.
DENVER – Today, Conservation Colorado released a new report called “How Senator Cory Gardner’s Green Bonafides are in the Red” detailing the Senator’s failure to stand up for Colorado’s environment and way of life. From climate change to public lands to administrative nominees, the report assesses Gardner’s votes on the environment, highlights five instances of issues on which he is out of touch with Coloradans, and provides concrete examples of where Gardner’s media narrative does not match his voting record.
Specifically, the report finds that Gardner:
- Voted against the environment in 85 percent of key votes; and,
- Voted five times to block limits on carbon pollution, seven times to protect billions in subsidies for fossil fuels, seven times to undermine scientific reviews, and 10 times to make it harder to establish or enforce environmental protections; and,
- Is out of step with Coloradans’ opinions on a suite of conservation issues.
Senator Gardner’s failure to stand up for our environment has real impacts for Coloradans across the state. Conservation leaders and citizens released the following statements in response:
“Senator Gardner’s voting record is unacceptable. He ran on promises to protect our land, air, water, and communities and he has failed to deliver on nearly all of those promises. Even worse, when faced with climate change — the defining issue of our time — he refused to step up and lead. Senator Gardner is running out of time to reflect Colorado values and should change direction before it’s too late.”
– Jessica Goad, deputy director, Conservation Colorado
“When he was first elected, Senator Gardner promised Coloradans that he would be ‘a new kind of Republican.’ Sadly, the ground he broke was becoming the only Colorado senator of either party since 1964 not to sponsor a single wilderness bill. Coloradans deserve a leader who truly fights for our clean air and water, public lands, and diverse communities.”
– Pete Maysmith, senior vice president of campaigns, League of Conservation Voters
“Adams County is doing our part to fight climate change, but we can’t do it alone. Our federal leaders, including Senator Gardner, should look to Colorado’s example when it comes to protecting our lands, reducing methane pollution, and combating climate change. Coloradans know we don’t have time to waste; Colorado leaders should heed their call.”
– Commissioner Emma Pinter, Adams County
“Politics isn’t a game. Every refusal to stop a reckless drilling plan or address the climate crisis puts the livelihoods and future of Colorado families at risk. Hotter summers, altered growing seasons, and unpredictable snowpack are threats that farmers can’t afford. Please, Senator Gardner: step up and lead.”
– Mark Waltermire, owner, Thistle Whistle Farms in Hotchkiss, CO
DENVER – Today, Colorado advocates for conservation, public health, consumers, and workers applauded Governor Jared Polis for signing into law HB 19-1261, the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Carbon Pollution, and six other bills that put Colorado on a path of bold climate action.
HB 19-1261 establishes science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets, putting Colorado on a path to reduce harmful climate-changing emissions at least 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050, as compared to 2005 levels. The bill requires the state’s Air Quality Control Commission to develop cost-effective regulations to meet the targets and directs the Commission to solicit input from a variety of stakeholders, including workers and communities that are currently economically dependent on industries with high levels of carbon pollution.
“The Climate Action Plan ensures that, once again, Colorado is a national leader in the fight against climate change,” said Kelly Nordini, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “Thanks to the bold leadership of our pro-conservation trifecta, we now have economy-wide targets for reducing carbon pollution — targets that are critical for cleaning up our air, protecting our health, and preserving our Colorado way of life.”
“Coloradans have been calling on our elected leaders to take meaningful action on climate change, and this legislation is a critical step,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, President of Western Resource Advocates. “The greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals included in the Climate Action Plan will lead to cleaner air, improved public health, and a healthier climate for this and future generations. Our window to take action is small and shrinking, and we applaud Colorado lawmakers for their leadership on this critical bill.”
“Coloradans love our public lands, but as the seventh fastest warming state we’re already facing the impacts of a warming climate which threaten our way of life and our $62 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director at The Wilderness Society. “What’s important now is that we work with the Air Quality Control Commission to achieve the goals set by this legislation so that present and future generations can continue to enjoy our public lands, drink clean water and breathe clean air.”
“Frontline communities disproportionately bear the burden of environmental injustice and climate change and need to be at the center of Colorado’s climate solutions,” said Adrienne Dorsey, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Colorado. “By signing an equitable Climate Action Plan, Governor Polis is making the benefits of clean energy accessible to Colorado’s underserved communities: reduced air pollution, savings on electricity bills, and access to jobs in our state’s growing clean energy economy.”
“Young people are at the forefront of the movements against climate change,” said Charley Olena, Advocacy Director for New Era Colorado. “We have tens of thousands of young voters across this state every year, and in every corner of Colorado, climate change looms large in the minds of these voters. HB 1261 is exactly the kind of bold action on climate that young voters called for when they turned out in droves in 2018. We’re thrilled with the end result and look forward to engaging in the rulemaking process moving forward.”
“Coloradans have been waiting for climate leadership, and the leaders that Coloradans sent to the Capitol delivered on their promises to take action,” said Jim Alexee, Director of the Colorado Sierra Club. “The legislation passed in the 2019 legislative session sets Colorado on a path to reach Governor Polis’ goal of powering our state with 100% renewable energy. The Colorado Sierra Club supported legislation that moves us forward by supporting energy industry workers, meeting the demands of electricity customers, and cutting pollution so our kids and grandkids can enjoy Colorado for generations to come.”
“We applaud Governor Polis for signing HB19-1261. A crisis such as climate change requires deliberate, bold action—and Colorado has just shown the country what that looks like,” said Carlos Fernandez, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “House Bill 19-1261 is a major victory for our state and our future.”
“Protect Our Winters commends Governor Polis for working with the legislature to sign strong climate goals into law. This bill is immensely important for the future of snowsports and outdoor recreation in our state, which pumps $28 billion into Colorado’s economy annually and suffers in the face of climate impacts, from a diminishing snowpack to increasing wildfires,” said Lindsay Bourgoine, Director of Policy & Advocacy for Protect Our Winters. “We are proud our governor recognizes these detrimental impacts to our industry and our community and his response is bold climate action.”
“Colorado’s economic future depends on our ability to tackle the issue of climate change. Agriculture, tourism, outdoor recreation, and many other industries are in danger of being irreparably harmed unless we act now,” said Carol Hedges, Executive Director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute. “Thank you to lawmakers and the governor for taking steps to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the things that make Colorado an awesome place to live, work, and play.”
“Climate change, according to the American Public Health Association, is ‘the greatest threat to public health today,’” said Kate Stigberg, Director, Healthy Air and Water Colorado. “We want to commend Governor Polis for signing House Bill 1261, the Climate Action Plan, today. This is a huge step forward to ensure we can create a healthier future for Coloradans today and for generations to come.”
“Thank you, Governor Polis, for taking leadership on climate,” said Ning Mosberger-Tang of the Indivisible Legislative Table. “Coloradans have already experienced numerous extreme weather events in the past few years. Climate change is happening right now and it’s already affecting all of us. We need to protect our climate and our future while growing the economy and addressing environmental justice issues at the same time. By signing HB-1261 into law, we’re taking a giant step forward.”
“Thank you, Governor Polis, for understanding the connection between the climate crisis and the impact it has on our children’s health and our environment,” said Christine Berg, Colorado Field Consultant for Moms Clean Air Force. “It is imperative that states and local governments step forward with solutions, and Colorado is leading the way. We are grateful for the Governor’s vision and leadership.”
“Transition is never easy. The economic and technological transition necessary to keep climate change within the limits a consensus of scientists tell us is necessary to avoid unimaginable consequences will indeed be challenging,” said Ken Jacobs, Impact Investors and Chair of the Good Business Colorado Sustainable Environment Working Group. “The good news is that Coloradans have the expertise and resources to accomplish the ambitious goals set forth in this bill. Passage of this bill, and subsequent action by the AQCC will unleash a torrent of enterprises and productive business activity in the coming years. Accordingly, Good Business Colorado strongly supports HB 1261 Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution.”
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.
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