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 targetsdecarbonizing 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.

DENVER — Today, the Colorado legislature voted on final passage of HB 19-1261, the Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution. Once signed, HB 19-1261 will:

  • Create a framework to tackle climate change by setting science-based goals to reduce carbon pollution, the underlying cause of climate change, of at least 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
  • Direct the experts at the Air Quality Control Commission to create cost-effective regulations for the goals.
  • Ensure ample opportunity for public input on the best ways to meet the pollution limits in order to ensure a fair outcome for Coloradans across the state.

Coloradans are already seeing the negative impacts of climate change every day. It manifests as poor air quality affecting our health, extreme wildfires, disrupted growing seasons for agriculture, shorter ski seasons, and reduced river flows for rafting and fishing are changing how we live our lives and threatening things we love about our state. In fact, 62% of Coloradans – a full 12 points more than the next-highest Western state – say climate change is a serious problem.

 

Colorado groups responded to the bill’s passage from the House with the following statements:

“Make no mistake: this is a big deal. The Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution ensures that we are doing our part to reduce carbon pollution and leave a livable, healthy Colorado to our kids and grandkids. Thank you to the members of the House and Senate who stepped up to lead. We urge Governor Polis to act quickly and sign this bill into law.”

— Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

 

“This critical legislation lays the foundation for Colorado to take meaningful action to address climate change. Here in Colorado we see the effects of climate change every day, from more frequent and intense wildfires, to severe flooding to unhealthy air quality and prolonged drought. This legislation puts us on course to cut greenhouse gases and preserve a healthy, livable climate for ourselves and our children.”

— Jon Goldin-Dubois, President, Western Resource Advocates

 

“Climate change is the pivotal challenge of our time. Colorado’s policy makers are meeting this urgent challenge head on with bold leadership to address our state’s dangerous climate pollution, and they’re doing it in a way that’s consistent with science while strengthening our economy.”

— Pam Kiely, Senior Director of Climate Regulatory Strategy, Environmental Defense Fund

 

“We are thrilled to see Colorado take such a big step forward in passing the Climate Action Plan,” said Carlos Fernandez, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “Climate change is an urgent problem that is already causing serious impacts in our state. HB 19-1261 will tackle the problem head-on by setting goals rooted in science to cut carbon pollution from every sector of our economy.”

— Carlos Fernández, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Colorado

 

“Protect Our Winters commends the Colorado legislature for passing strong climate goals. 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. We are proud our lawmakers recognize these detrimental impacts and their response is bold climate action.”

— Lindsay Bourgoine, Director of Policy & Advocacy, Protect Our Winters

 

“Young people are at the forefront of the movements against climate change. New Era engages 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. In 2018, Colorado’s young people voted in droves, even outnumbering voters over 60. We turned out because we need action, especially when it comes to the issue of averting catastrophic climate change. HB 19-1261 sets  ambitious, yet achievable pollution reduction targets and is exactly the kind of legislation my generation wants and needs.”

— Charley Olena, Advocacy Director, New Era Colorado

 

“Climate change has quickly become a public health crisis and a serious threat to the health of all Coloradans. Specifically the rapidly warming temperatures affect our cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems. Solving such a massive problem like climate change cannot be done overnight, but we can take the necessary steps now to ensure that our children have the opportunity to live healthier lives. We commend our state’s leaders for taking this critical step with the passage of HB 1261 in protecting the health of Coloradans today and for generations to come.”

— Kate Stigberg, Healthy Air and Water Colorado

 

“Putting a limit on carbon will improve our air quality and public health particularly those most vulnerable; Colorado’s children. This bill protects our air, our environment and our health while building on the economic success of the renewable energy sector by driving innovation and creating thousands of jobs that cannot be outsourced. Thank you to our state leadership for putting Colorado’s children first as we fight against the impacts of the climate crisis.”

— Christine Berg, Moms Clean Air Force

 

“We’re proud of Colorado for taking a bold step toward reducing the environmental and economic impacts of carbon production and use in the state. This forward edge legislation acknowledges that there are trade-offs and commits the state to addressing the negative effects of the transition while not compromising on important environmental values. Well done!”

— Carol Hedges, Executive Director, Colorado Fiscal Institute

 

“Coloradans love our public lands, but as the seventh fastest warming state we’re already facing the impacts of a warming climate like increased drought and more severe wildfire seasons. We applaud Colorado’s leaders for tackling this threat head-on so that present and future generations can continue to enjoy our public lands, drink clean water and breathe clean air.”

— Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director, The Wilderness Society

 

“Colorado has an opportunity to advance climate policy that brings the tangible benefits of clean energy to Colorado’s underserved communities: reduced air pollution, savings on electricity bills, and access to jobs in our state’s growing clean energy economy. We applaud the House’s passage of the Climate Action Plan today, especially the bill provisions that put equity, inclusion, and frontline communities at the center of Colorado’s climate solutions.”

— Adrienne Dorsey, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Colorado

 

“Climate change is happening right now. We have a limited time window to act and prevent the worst disasters from happening. We need to cap our carbon emissions as specified in HB 19-1261 and show that we can protect our future while growing the economy and addressing environmental injustice issues at the same time. Thank you Colorado leaders for taking a giant step forward on the path of innovation, renewal and equity.”

— Indivisible Colorado Legislative Table

DENVER — Today, Governor Jared Polis signed SB 19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations. The new law will protect public health and safety when it comes to oil and gas development.

Conservation groups responded to the bill’s passage with the following statements:

“Today marks a new chapter in Colorado’s history. For the first time ever, our state is on track to put the health and safety of workers and residents, and our environment ahead of oil and gas industry profits. This policy is nearly a decade in the making, and we applaud our elected leaders who fought for so long to make it a reality.” — Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“Coloradans now finally have a voice when it comes to oil and gas development in our state. We thank Governor Polis, Senator Steve Fenberg, Speaker KC Becker and our leaders in the Colorado legislature for listening to the urgent calls from Coloradans who are ready for change. The policy changes in Senate Bill 181 will help to make our communities healthier and safer.” — Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

“SB 19-181 is a victory for the people of Colorado. By signing this bill, Gov. Jared Polis will expand Colorado’s leadership on methane and curb emissions of this dangerous greenhouse gas, while also helping prevent catastrophic well explosions that threaten our communities. As the Trump administration continues its assault on federal methane protections, it is more important than ever that Colorado respond by boldly cutting methane and fighting climate change.” — Matthew Garrington, State Campaigns Manager, Energy Program, Environmental Defense Fund

“There has never been any Colorado legislation as comprehensive and impactful as SB 19-181. The people beset by the callous onslaught of oil and gas development now have a state government that is prioritizing their interests over the industry’s. This is long overdue and much appreciated.” — Josh Joswick, Issues Analyst/Community Organizer, Oil and Gas Accountability Project

“We thank Governor Polis and the Legislature for modernizing our laws to allow the experts in our state and local governments to make decisions that protect public health and the environment from the dangerous impacts of oil and gas development.” — Joel Minor, Attorney, Earthjustice

“This oil & gas bill signals that Governor Polis and the legislature are putting public health over polluter interests in the state.”  Sam Gilchrist, Western Campaigns Director, NRDC

“Finally, after all these years we have a bill that will protect health and safety in the gas lands. Residents of Garfield County thank Governor Polis for making this long-awaited bill law. However, we must ensure the intent of the law is upheld through the rule-making process.” — Leslie Robinson, Member, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance

“Members of Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC) and residents of Battlement Mesa are pleased to see the adoption of SB 19-181 and the prioritizing of public health and safety over corporate profits. We appreciate the hard work and determination of the Colorado legislators and Governor Polist that made this possible. We are looking forward to a new era of cooperation with the oil and gas industry to develop our valuable natural resources in a way that prioritizes public health and safety.” — Dave Devanney, Member, Battlement Concerned Citizens

 

Industry groups spent heavily on misleading advertising against SB 19-181. Analysis conducted by Westword’s Chase Woodruff as the bill moved from the Senate to the House showed that “the fossil-fuel industry [outspent] proponents of SB 181 by more than a 15-to-1 margin.” That spending included included TV advertising that was labeled “misleading” by the Colorado Sun and, at various points, “full of overstatements” and not “not accurate at all” by 9 News’ Kyle Clark.

SB 19-181 will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health, safety and the environment over industry profits;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Direct air quality experts to consider rules to greatly reduce harmful emissions including methane, a dense greenhouse gas;
  • Better protects property owners from forced pooling;
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rule making around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits; and,
  • Create a professional, paid commission that can better address the litany of permits, rulemaking and oversight the commission must handle.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Here in Colorado, the oil and gas industry has had too much influence for too long while our communities and environment suffer.

Over the last decade, communities across the state have found themselves with no power to stand up to the industry when drilling comes to their neighborhoods. The very agency that is supposed to regulate the industry also has a dual mission to “foster” industry growth. And hundreds of oil and other toxic spills related to drilling occur in Colorado every year.

At the same time, the oil and gas industry has cut corners when it comes to Coloradans’ health and safety. They’ve built industrial operations in residential neighborhoods, ignoring community complaints even during the most egregious examples, such as in Battlement Mesa, with a pad 350 feet from homes. Companies have spent tens of millions on public campaigns and elections. As a result, nearly every commonsense policy to keep the industry in check has failed.

But with new leadership in the governor’s office and the state legislature, we have the chance to make a change.

A bill announced today by Governor Polis, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, and House Speaker KC Becker would protect public health and safety, give more power to local governments, and enact new protections for our environment. We’re overdue for reforms like this to our state laws.

Here are 10 reasons why these reforms are urgent for Colorado:

Oil and gas operations pose a threat to our health and safety.


  1. Our state has had at least 116 fires and explosions at oil and gas operations from 2006 to 2015.
  2. After the deadly explosion in Firestone that killed two people, former employees of Anadarko accused the company of sacrificing safety to boost profits. In court documents, they claimed company culture was cavalier with regard to public safety and oversight.
  3. Coloradans who live close to oil and gas operations face health risks including cancer, birth defects, and asthma.

Colorado’s current oil and gas regulations are too weak to protect our communities, workers, and environment.


  1. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has a nearly uninterrupted, 68-year history of failing to deny permits for oil and gas companies to drill—regardless of the risks that wells pose to health, safety, and the environment.
  2. Fifty-one oil and gas workers were killed on the job in Colorado between 2003 and 2014. Several more have been killed since then.

The industry has blocked commonsense reforms time and time again.


  1. Oil and gas companies have a successful history of defeating regulations: only four of twenty-five bills that would have protected health and safety were passed by the state legislature since 2013.
  2. In 2018 alone, the oil and gas industry opposed six bills aimed at increasing protections for communities and the environment, including those to put oil and gas rigs further away from school playgrounds, improve accident reporting, and facilitate mapping of underground pipelines that run near homes—a direct response to the tragedy in Firestone.

And they spend millions to influence the public and legislators at every step of the political process.


  1. Oil and gas companies invest heavily in defeating citizen efforts to improve our state laws or implementing those that help their bottom line. In 2018, they spent $37.3 million to defeat Proposition 112, a ballot initiative for larger setbacks for oil and gas development, and advance Amendment 74, an effort to guarantee company profits in the state constitution.
  1. The industry donates big money to elections, both traceable and dark money. In the 2018 election cycle, oil and gas interests gave close to $1 million to just one electoral committee, the Senate Majority Fund (known as the “campaign arm for Republican senators” in Colorado).
  2. Oil and gas interests paid at least $200,000 on lobbying to sway decision-makers at the Capitol in 2018.

This story isn’t about one irresponsible company, but about a well-funded campaign to maximize profits over public safety and stop at nothing to get there. It’s past time we adopted common-sense rules that make the industry a better actor in Colorado — and we need to seize that chance.

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.

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!

 

On Election Day 2018, nationwide voter turnout for the midterm elections was the highest its been in more than 50 years. In Colorado, an astounding 2.5 million ballots were returned, earning our state one of the top five highest-midterm-turnout rates in the country.

Coloradans were energized and engaged on environmental issues in the 2018 election by the threat that the Trump administration poses to our Colorado way of life and by our determination to make Colorado a national leader. That’s why this election cycle, Conservation Colorado spent more money, knocked on more doors, and engaged more voters than ever before.

With the help of our members, donors, and volunteers, we:

  • Spent $4.6 million on direct contributions to candidates, expansive digital ad programs, direct mail, canvasses, and TV and radio ads
  • Knocked on 585,375 doors in targeted areas across the state and made 2,735 calls
  • Registered 10,360 Coloradans with the goal of registering younger, less affluent and more racially and ethnically diverse voters
  • Mobilized more than 300 members and volunteers to knock doors, make phone calls, and take action to support pro-conservation candidates

Thanks to all of you, our hard work in the 2018 election paid off! We helped elect environmental champions to all of our state executive offices and establish a pro-conservation trifecta.

Governor



In the governor’s race, conservation was a key part of Jared Polis’ bold vision for Colorado’s future, and he has a long record of fighting to protect our clean air, public lands, and climate. “I look forward to working with [Conservation Colorado’s] 40,000 members to defend our public lands, grow our outdoor recreation economy, create good-paying renewable energy jobs that can never be outsourced, and make sure we can continue to enjoy our Colorado way of life,” Polis said. We’re proud to have knocked more than 500,000 doors to help elect a true conservation champion!

Attorney General



In the race for attorney general, the health of Colorado’s environment and communities was at the forefront of Phil Weiser’s platform, propelling him to victory over an opponent with a history of favoring special interests like the oil and gas industry. “As attorney general, I will lead the fight to address the reality of climate change, not deny it. I will protect our public lands and ensure we have clean air and water, standing up to the Trump agenda and suing our federal government when necessary to protect Colorado. I am proud to join Conservation Colorado…to protect Colorado’s land, air, and water, to fight for our children and future generations,” said Weiser. We’re thrilled to have an attorney general who will stand with us in fighting back on behalf of all Coloradans.

Legislature


In state legislative races this year, we fought hard in key districts to uphold the pro-conservation majority in the state House and to take back the state Senate. This work paid off on election night when we saw victory after victory for pro-conservation candidates! In each of our toughest races, candidates who prioritized the protection of our clean air, clean water, and public lands won by more than 10 percentage points over their opponents. Such massive margins make it clear that Colorado voters value our conservation and vote with it in mind.

Dylan Roberts, representing Eagle and Routt counties in House District 26 added: “Up here in the mountains, this is what voters really care about: protecting our environment, protecting our water. I look forward to working on those issues.”

Ballot Measures


In addition to our efforts to get pro-conservation leaders elected, we worked on several ballot measures — and had mixed results. We fought with all of our strength to defeat Amendment 74, one of the scariest measures we’ve seen on Colorado’s ballot in years. Even though the oil and gas industry spent more than $10 million to support 74, our side helped voters see through the deception and vote for local communities to have power over big industries. We’re grateful voters rejected this disaster!

Unfortunately, Proposition 112 failed on the ballot. We endorsed this measure to increase the setback for new oil and gas development to 2,500 feet from buildings. We supported 112 because the health and safety of our communities should come above all else, but a $30 million campaign bankrolled by the oil and gas defeated this community-led initiative. Though 112 did not pass, more than 800,000 people voted for it because they’re fed up with the oil and gas industry. We need our legislators to listen to these voters and make sure Colorado has the strongest safeguards in the West for the oil and gas industry.

A Winning Percentage

In all, 53 out of our 55 endorsed candidates in the 2018 election won their races, resulting in a 96 percent win rate and a continued track record of electing environmental champions who will protect our air, lands, water, and people.

Thanks to your help, we are excited to work closely with all of our elected officials to enact bold policies that prioritize our conservation values during the the 2019 legislative session and beyond.