Just days into Colorado’s 2020 legislative session, Coloradans are asking how our elected officials will continue to take bold, progressive action to tackle the biggest issues facing our state.
As a member of the Senate majority party, you would expect Senator Cory Gardner to have the power to follow through on his promises to Coloradans to protect our climate, lands, and natural resources. Instead, Sen. Gardner fell short and failed to deliver key environmental funding while finding ways to help carbon polluters.
Despite Sen. Gardner’s ramped-up environmental rhetoric, a brief look at the final months of 2019 shows that Gardner’s record is full of hot air. He has much to improve in the New Year.
Depleting Conservation Funding
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a critical program for funding land protection, access for hunting and fishing, trail maintenance, and other programs, but this funding was allowed to expire in 2018 when Republicans held majorities in the House and the Senate.
At no cost to taxpayers, LWCF collects as much as $900 million annually from offshore oil and gas royalties. But because Republican Congressional leaders like Sen. Gardner allowed the program to expire, none of that funding has been going to protect and invest in national parks and public lands across the nation. Sen. Gardner spent most of this year promising he would clean up the mess he made by delivering full, permanent funding for LWCF.
Sadly, under Sen. Gardner’s watch, the Senate passed a year-end $1.4 trillion spending bill that fell short for conservation funding, failing to approve over $400 million of the $900 million allotted for LWCF projects for the next year, and only allocating the remaining funds for just a single year.
Dismantling the Bureau of Land Management
When it comes to managing our public lands, Sen. Gardner tied himself to an Interior Department plan to relocate the headquarters of Bureau of Land Management—the agency that oversees oil, gas, and coal leasing and permitting on millions of acres of public lands—to Grand Junction, Colorado. It quickly became apparent that the move was not all it was cracked up to be.
Sen. Gardner, who labeled himself the “chief architect of the plan,” has long-touted the local economic benefits of moving up to 400 BLM staffers out West and the conservation benefit of having BLM leadership closer to the lands they manage.
After the initial relocation announcement, details began to emerge about how devastating the plan will be for the agency. More than 80 percent of BLM officials who have been forced to relocate are expected to resign rather than uproot their lives, and Interior officials will only be moving approximately 40 jobs to the new headquarters. Those that do relocate face pay cuts. Many other D.C. positions will be scattered through the West. It turns out the 27 staff members forced to relocate to Grand Junction will share an office building with oil and gas companies and industry executives.
Dismantling the agency and moving career leadership positions away from Congress will allow political appointees at the Interior Department to approve drilling and mining projects on public lands. The plan received widespread criticism from former BLM career staff, and prompted an investigation from the Government Accountability Office.
Sen. Gardner promised significant economic benefit to the Grand Junction community, and that this move would be beneficial for the management and conservation of public land in the West. However, his words do not match the results. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel summed it up well in their reaction after the details of the move emerged:
“A day after feeling like this was a game-changer for Grand Junction, the letdown is palpable. We’re stuck between feeling grateful that Grand Junction will be known as the BLM’s Western Headquarters and frustrated that such a distinction has been hollowed out to its barest impact… It doesn’t help that much of the rest of the country thinks that this is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle any conservation-oriented aspects of the agency in service to President Trump’s energy dominance agenda.”
Cutting Clean Energy Investments
As Colorado makes significant strides moving towards a clean-energy economy, federal investment has failed to keep up.
In April, Sen. Gardner touted that he cosponsored a bill that would provide tax credits for battery and energy storage—a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to bolstering a clean energy grid in states like Colorado and combatting our dependence on fossil fuels. The bipartisan legislation would have provided tax breaks for investments in developing grid-scale energy storage to incentivize wind and solar production. In the long run, the energy storage investments would have paid for themselves through grid improvements. A similar tax incentive structure significantly drove down the prices of solar panels in recent years.
Again, Sen. Gardner failed to deliver.
Although the year-end funding bill included $39 billion worth of provisions that would extend or establish tax breaks for different sectors, tax incentives for clean-energy storage were not included in the final spending package.
Coloradans expect our leaders to fight for our climate and public lands and stand up to corporate donors and the fossil fuel industry. Sadly, Sen. Gardner’s environmental promises to his constituents don’t match up with his actions in Washington.
Sen. Gardner, please: as you look to the New Year, consider a resolution to represent Colorado values in the U.S. Senate.
This Colorado Gives Day help us turn our goals into action! Learn what your donation will help us accomplish for our air, lands, water, and communities.
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New polling validates what we’ve known for years: Coloradans value protecting public health and safety, the environment, and wildlife over profits for the oil and gas industry.
The conservation community — which has traditionally excluded Indigenous voices — needs to recognize tribal outreach as a top priority as we strive to achieve our values of inclusion and intersectionality.
CARBONDALE, COLORADO – Today, Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest statewide environmental advocacy organization, announced the opening of a new Roaring Fork Valley office based in Carbondale to serve this ecologically unique and politically important region.
Central Mountains Organizer Erin Riccio released the following statement in response:
“As Conservation Colorado’s organizer in the region, I’m excited to bring the voices of my neighbors along the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys to the State Capitol and other decision-making spaces. Together we can fight climate change, protect our lands, waterways, and wildlife, and stand up against powerful interests.
“Calling this area ‘home’ is a dream come true.”
The Roaring Fork Valley is already a conservation leader, including:
- The only municipalities in our state — Glenwood Springs and Aspen — to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy;
- Cancellation of 18 oil and gas leases along the Thompson Divide, an important landscape renowned for its hunting and recreation opportunities;
- Creation of the Crystal River Management Plan to better manage water usage and enhance the ecological integrity of the river; and,
- A goal to electrify one-third of the Roaring Fork Valley Transportation Authority’s bus fleet.
“I’m thrilled that Conservation Colorado has established a permanent presence in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Jacque Whitsitt, the Mayor of Basalt. “Their focus on state and national policy will be a great asset to the robust conservation community that already calls this area home.”
Riccio, a fluent Spanish-speaker, will work with local citizens and leaders to capitalize on this progress, including:
- Conserving our public lands that support a high quality of life and booming outdoor economy by passing the CORE Act;
- Protecting our unique communities from the health and safety hazards of oil and gas activities through continued engagement with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission;
- Addressing climate change by implementing the Climate Action Plan to reduce statewide carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050; and,
- Ensuring our rivers are healthy and flowing with full funding of the Colorado Water Plan.
Application for school districts to apply for funding for clean buses opens October 7th
DENVER – Today, Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest statewide environmental advocacy organization, released Cleaner Air for Denver with Electric School Buses. The new report, by VEIC Research, finds that replacing diesel buses with electric buses will result in more than $100,000 in savings on maintenance and fuel costs and cut harmful pollution.
The report arrives as Colorado school districts prepare to apply to this round of the Regional Air Quality Council’s “Alt Fuels Colorado” Program — which is funded through the multi-million dollar VW settlement with Colorado — opens on October 7th and runs through November 8th. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is administering over $68.7 million in funds as part of the settlement, including $18 million to replace and scrap diesel school buses.
“Every day, kids across across the state are exposed to harmful air pollution from diesel bus fumes,” said Juan Gallegos, Protégete Program Director for Conservation Colorado. “This new report shows that electric school buses will deliver cleaner air to our communities today as we move toward clean, renewable electricity. And in an era of tight budgets, our leaders will be thrilled to know that they can deliver these benefits while saving money. This report is a call to action for school districts, especially those with majority Latinx students, to take action now and apply for the VW settlement money to replace their bus fleets.”
Specifically, the report finds that:
- With each bus replaced, DPS will see a total of $112,353 in fuel and maintenance savings over the lifetime of the vehicle.
- And for each bus replaced, there are $13,044 in societal benefits from the reduced air pollution.
- Electric buses produce less nitrous oxide (NOx) and greenhouse gases (GHG) than new and existing diesel buses, even when including upstream impacts from electricity generation and diesel refining.
- Denver’s grid is getting cleaner so electric buses will offer even cleaner operation in the future.
Denver Public Schools (DPS) is the largest and most populated school district in the state and is a leader in sustainability practices. DPS is one of the few school districts that has a climate change plan.
“We support the efforts of the DPS Sustainability Office and Conservation Colorado, and value the findings from this report,” said Albert Samora, Executive Director of DPS Transportation Services. “Our team has begun to look at alternatives to diesel buses and will incorporate the findings of this report as we progress with our analysis and planning for the future.”
“VEIC was thrilled to work with Denver Public Schools, with the support of Conservation Colorado, to identify a pathway toward a cleaner bus fleet,” said Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, Director of Clean Transportation at VEIC. “Investing VW Settlement dollars in Denver’s school transportation will yield long term benefits for children’s health and we’re excited to see Denver advancing this important work.”
“Every time we get on a diesel school bus we’re putting our health in jeopardy,” said Joyce Lopis, a DPS student attending Vista Academy High School in Green Valley Ranch. “Transitioning buses to electric will help reduce hospital bills, absent days, and air pollution. We have the right to breathe clean air without putting our health in danger.”
If you love our public lands like I do, I hope you will tell the Trump Administration they don’t own these lands, we have entrusted them with the management of OUR lands.
DENVER — Governor Jared Polis today announced an executive order to protect iconic Colorado wildlife and the landscapes they call home, aimed at conserving western landscapes and big game species for future generations. Gov. Polis’ order means Colorado will prioritize, coordinate and focus on protecting the traditional migration corridors of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and moose.
Specifically, the executive order directs:
- Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to compile a status report of wildlife migration and associated science by the end of the calendar year;
- Colorado Department of Natural Resources to identify policy, regulatory or legislative opportunities to ensure the ongoing conservation of seasonal habitat and migration corridors;
- CPW to incorporate the importance of migration corridors into public education and outreach efforts; and,
- Colorado Department of Transportation to enable safe wildlife passage and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
The order will remain in effect until May 1, 2023 unless modified or rescinded prior to that date.
Conservation groups released the following statements in response:
“The health of our wild spaces and wildlife are a measure of the health of our state. Governor Polis campaigned on a pledge to ‘keep Colorado wild.’ Today’s executive order is a first step in delivering on that promise to ensure that Colorado remains wild for future generations.”
– Kelly Nordini, executive director, Conservation Colorado
“Colorado’s wildlife are a key part of our state’s heritage and our outdoor way of life. This executive order will help Colorado balance our state’s rapid growth with the increasing need to safeguard our wildlife by helping to keep their habitats and corridors protected and connected. We applaud Governor Polis for taking action and look forward to continued partnership to enact this measure.”
– Rachael Hamby, Western lands policy analyst, Western Resource Advocates
“These wild places are vital for birds to thrive, taking cover in the winter and stopping over as they migrate. The protections that Governor Polis has set in motion through this Order will benefit many species and set important standards throughout the state.”
– Nada Culver, Vice President for Public Lands, National Audubon Society
“The Colorado Sierra Club applauds the Governor for taking bold action to protect wildlife and our Colorado heritage. Thanks to Governor Polis, Colorado is taking key steps to better understand and protect the historical migration pathways of the animals.”
– Jim Alexee, director, Colorado Sierra Club
“We humans share this beautiful state with the wildlife, plants, insects, and birds that are part of nature. The efforts of Governor Polis to protect the wildlife and their habitats through the designation and maintenance of wildlife corridors will enhance the quality of life for us all. These corridors will ensure that future generations will experience the rich diversity of animal life that we do.”
– Sherry Schenk, Public Lands Committee member, Western Colorado Alliance
“Colorado’s leadership in advocating for protection of wildlife corridors is more important than ever before . In southwest Colorado, the most critical wildlife corridor for lynx in the state is at risk from a massive real estate development atop Wolf Creek Pass. We look forward to working with state agencies to make the Governor’s vision a reality.”
– Mark Pearson, executive director, San Juan Citizens Alliance
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