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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact:

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

DENVER – The League of Conservation Voters, Conservation Colorado’s national partner, today released the Colorado delegation’s scores on the 2017 National Environmental Scorecard.

Notably, Senator Cory Gardner received a zero percent score.

“We knew Senator Cory Gardner was bad on environmental and public health issues, but looking at his entire voting record from 2017, we now know he couldn’t be any worse. We deserve lawmakers who represent the needs of their constituents, not President Trump’s extreme anti-environmental agenda and his attacks on Colorado’s air, water, land, and wildlife,” said Maria Handley, Acting Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “We need our representatives in Congress to fight for Colorado values. Thankfully we can count on champions like Senator Bennet and our pro-conservation representatives to push back.”

The 2017 League of Conservation Voters (LCVScorecard measures votes cast during the first session of the 115th Congress. The delegation from Colorado earned the following scores for 2017:

Senator Bennet – 84 percent
Senator Gardner – 0 percent
Representative Degette – 89 percent
Representative Polis – 100 percent
Representative Tipton – 6 percent
Representative Buck – 6 percent
Representative Lamborn – 0 percent
Representative Coffman – 6 percent
Representative Perlmutter – 100 percent

“This Congress repeatedly refused to stand up to President Trump’s extreme anti-environmental agenda and his attacks on our air, water, land, and wildlife,” said LCV Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld. “In a year where devastating hurricanes and wildfires showed why the need to fight climate change is so urgent, Congress instead inflicted lasting damage on our communities by reversing clean water protections, confirming industry favorites to key environmental posts, and opening up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Our environmental champions are more important than ever as the administration’s hostility toward our communities continues to grow.”

The 2017 Scorecard includes 35 House votes and 19 Senate votes, including 8 Senate votes to confirm anti-environmental Cabinet and sub-Cabinet nominees who have wasted no time implementing Trump’s dangerous agenda.

LCV has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970. The Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations who selected the key votes on which members of Congress were scored. The votes included in the Scorecard presented members of Congress with a real choice and help distinguish which legislators are working for environmental protection. More information on individual votes and the Scorecard archive can be found at scorecard.lcv.org.

Contact:

Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772
Alyssa Roberts, 202-454-4573

Today Colorado Senators passed SB18-066, which extends the operation of the State Lottery Division. The bill reauthorizes the Lottery Division, which will expire in 2024 without action from the General Assembly, to administer the program for 25 additional years. The proceeds from Colorado’s Lottery support outdoor recreation and land conservation in all 64 counties in the state.

“Colorado is the only state that distributes 100 percent of lottery proceeds to support outdoor recreation and land conservation,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “The Senate’s support for lottery reauthorization sends a clear message that we value our public lands — from city playgrounds to state parks. Our Representatives should follow suit and pass this bill to ensure that Coloradans can continue to access and enjoy the trails, rivers, and wildlife we all treasure.”

Half of the proceeds from Colorado’s Lottery go to a program called Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). GOCO has returned more than $1.1 billion in funding to the people of Colorado. These projects have helped connect families to the outdoors, created and enhanced community trails and parks, built outdoor recreation facilities, preserved wild spaces and wildlife habitat, and improved river access and quality.

GOCO has funded projects from the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope, including:

  • Creating and improving over 1,600 community parks and outdoor recreation areas.
  • Conserving more than 1 million acres.
  • Restoring or reconstructing 900 miles of trails.
  • Protecting nearly 1,000 miles of rivers.
  • Adding over 47,000 acres to the state parks system.
  • Investing in efforts supporting 43 endangered or threatened species.

About Conservation Colorado
Conservation Colorado protects Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. Learn more at conservationco.org.

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772
jace@conservationco.org

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772

Today, the House advanced HB-1071, Regulate Oil Gas Operations Protect Public Safety. The 7-6 vote comes just days after the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission appeal, shining a spotlight on the conflict between the oil and gas industry and the welfare of the public.

In response, Conservation Colorado and the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Citizens (LOGIC) issued the following statements:

“There really is no debate here: Colorado must prioritize the health and safety of our residents and the preservation of our environment when regulating the oil and gas industry. We need the state to set a strong standard that directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to put people over profits,” said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, Energy Advocate, Conservation Colorado.

“Oil and gas has chosen to try to force large-scale industrial facilities nearer homes and schools while proclaiming they have the right to do so. But neither the state, nor the oil and gas industry can continue to make the claim that neighborhood drilling is safe. So when it comes to a question of protecting the public health and safety of Colorado residents, it should be a no brainer. Our state needs to take steps to make the well-being of Colorado families its first priority,” said Sara Loflin, LOGIC Executive Director.

About HB-1071
HB-1071, Regulate Oil Gas Operations Protect Public Safety, is a response to large-scale oil and gas development that has been expanding into neighborhoods, especially as Colorado grows and becomes more dense. For years, communities in Colorado have been struggling with how to balance health and safety with heavy industrial activities like oil and gas.
Tragically, in the Spring of 2017, oil and gas development led to a home explosion in Firestone, Colorado, where two people lost their lives, and another was seriously injured. Since then, there have been 14 more oil and gas-related explosions, 6 leaks that contaminated waterways, and 22 leaks that are under investigation for potential contamination of water wells. Even under the safest operating conditions, which aren’t always employed, this industrial activity poses a risk to health and safety.

HB-1071 seeks to compel the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health, safety, and environmental welfare when considering new oil and gas permits. This bill seeks to clarify the state’s priorities in a quickly shifting landscape where the tensions between fostering industry and protecting public welfare are mounting. There are significant hazards and dangers associated with fracking and drilling, especially in urban areas, and any time a permit is considered, the potential impacts on the community and the environment must be weighed.

About Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has ignited the ongoing debate over how to protect the health and safety of Coloradans as oil and gas development expands into neighborhoods and developed areas.

In 2013, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and several other Colorado young people asked the COGCC to adopt a regulation stating that no drilling permits will be issued without a finding that drilling can occur without impairing Colorado’s air, water, and wildlife and that drilling does not adversely affect public health. The COGCC denied the request, holding that it lacked legal authority to issue such a rule. In March 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals set aside the COGCC’s decision, holding that state law makes “protection of public health, safety and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” a prerequisite for approving oil and gas development. While rejecting the COGCC’s legal interpretation, the Court did not address whether the agency should adopt the specific rule language requested by the Martinez plaintiffs.

The COGCC and the American Petroleum Institute appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which announced that it would take the case on January 29, 2018.

Conservation Organizations and Business Groups Commend Plan

Today Governor John Hickenlooper released Colorado’s Electric Vehicle Plan, which outlines a process to electrify the state’s transportation corridors and includes bold goals to further accelerate adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and ensure Colorado remains a leader in the EV market. This plan represents the next step for the Governor’s July executive order to support Colorado’s clean energy transition and make Colorado a climate leader.

Conservation groups applauded this plan for its goals of almost a million electric vehicles on the road, 500 electric buses, a larger network of charging stations by 2030, and attention to expanding electric vehicle access across the state and urban neighborhoods.

“We’re excited to see Governor Hickenlooper set bold goals for electric vehicles in Colorado. These actions will help cut down on harmful air pollution and move the state toward a healthier future, especially when paired with more renewable energy on our grid. We look forward to learning about the ambitious policies that will make this plan a reality,” said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, Transportation and Energy Advocate at Conservation Colorado.

“Governor Hickenlooper is taking a bold step forward by setting a target of nearly a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. This would save consumers over half a billion dollars a year in fuel costs, would drive down electricity rates, saving utility customers $50 million per year, and would have a major impact on cleaner air and lower carbon emissions. Colorado has already adopted the nation’s best tax credit for electric vehicles and begun investing in charging stations. But we will need to increase electric vehicle adoption by a factor of ten to meet this goal. We look forward to working with the state on the legislation, investments, and policies that will be needed,” said Will Toor, Transportation Program Director for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).

“We need to eliminate pollution from cars, trucks, and buses. The best way to do that is to move to a 100% electric vehicle transportation system. We applaud Governor Hickenlooper for releasing a plan that highlights many of the steps we need to take. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get moving,” said Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group).

“Colorado leads the nation with the highest tax credits for purchases of electric vehicles, and the EV plan sets the stage for the state to continue to position itself at the front of the pack in the transition to a clean energy economy,” said Matthew Shmigelsky from CLEER/Refuel Colorado.

“Encouraging the rapid transition to electric vehicles is an all-around win for our climate, our public health, and our economy. Coupled with Colorado’s transition to clean energy, electric vehicles offer the promise of 100 percent clean transportation as we move forward. The Colorado Sierra Club applauds Governor Hickenlooper for accelerating our transition to a 21st century clean transportation system,” said Jim Alexee, Director, Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Due to tax credits, Colorado is the cheapest state in the country in which to buy an electric vehicle. As of August 2017, there were 11,238 electric vehicles in Colorado, according to the Zero Emission Vehicle Sales Dashboard.

Electric vehicles are already more efficient than traditional, gasoline engines. They have more power, fewer maintenance needs, and pollute less than a 35 mile per gallon gas car. As Colorado’s energy providers work to bring more renewable energy onto our grid, charging an electric vehicle will pollute less than a car that gets 88 miles per gallon in the next decade. This will result in fewer harmful toxins in our air for everyone.

About Conservation Colorado
Conservation Colorado protects Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. Learn more at conservationco.org.

About SWEEP
SWEEP is a Colorado based advocacy organization that works to advance energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

About CoPIRG
CoPIRG Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education, and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being.

About CLEER
Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) develops and delivers creative clean energy programs and services for communities, governments, businesses, and households in western Colorado.

About Sierra Club
With 24,000 members and 80,000 supporters, the Colorado Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772

Today Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Jared Polis introduced the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act to permanently protect the natural beauty, outdoor recreation, historic resources, and wildlife habitat of the White River National Forest area, including Camp Hale as the first-ever National Historic Landscape.

“This bill would protect 96,000 acres in the country’s busiest national forest,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “Throughout the inclusive process to develop this legislation, thousands of Coloradans have spoken up to protect this wild place and preserve it for hiking, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, and world-class mountain biking.”

The bill will protect portions of the White River National Forest in Colorado’s Summit and Eagle counties. The region is home to iconic vistas and mountain towns that attract visitors from metro Denver and around the world. These wild places are at risk from overuse and development that could threaten the area’s clean water, wildlife, and booming outdoor recreation economy.

“Senator Bennet and Representative Polis are showing, once again, their incredible commitment and leadership on behalf of Coloradans who treasure their public lands. All of us want to ensure that the outdoor recreation industry continues to grow, that our wild places are preserved for our grandchildren, and that the natural heritage that defines Colorado remains for all to explore and enjoy,” continued Braden.

The Act would create 20,000 acres of new wilderness areas in the Williams Fork Mountains, Tenmile Range, and Hoosier Ridge, and it would expand the existing Holy Cross, Eagles Nest, and Ptarmigan Peak wilderness areas by another 20,000 acres.

In addition, nearly 30,000 acres of public lands surrounding Camp Hale will be protected as the country’s first National Historic Landscape. In 1945, Colorado’s challenging landscapes helped to train the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who went on to fight in Italy’s mountains in World War II. Former members of the 10th Mountain Division went on to help found approximately 60 ski resorts around the country, including Vail, Aspen, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and Steamboat. A flood of surplus skis and other outdoor equipment helped launch the modern outdoor recreation industry.

“Protecting the area around Camp Hale honors those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who returned to Colorado to help the state become one of the greatest places to play outside,” said Braden.

Senator Bennet and Representative Polis will celebrate the introduction of the bill at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show (OR Show) in Denver. In response to extreme anti-public lands policies, the OR Show moved from Utah to Colorado, making it the perfect place to mark the introduction of this historic legislation. Senator Bennet and Representative Polis will speak at the OR Show on Saturday, January 27, 4:30 – 5:00 p.m. at the Outdoor Research booth (44030-UL).

Contact: Scott Braden, 720-530-7473

President Trump is in Utah today where he is expected to announce the slashing of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by hundreds of thousands of acres.

Scott Braden, Conservation Colorado’s Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate, traveled to Salt Lake City this past weekend to join a protest against Trump’s actions (please feel free to use his photo included in this release’s header).

Braden stated: “President Trump’s actions are one of the largest attack on public lands in our nation’s history. This is a slap in the face to every Coloradan who cherishes our Western way of life, and is an move that threatens all protected public lands and national monuments. Trump’s decision is part of a offensive pattern of insults to Native American tribes, part of whose cultural legacy is protected by the Bears Ears National Monument. No park or monument is safe from this malicious administration, including those in Colorado.”

More information:

  • A campaign to protect Bears Ears was led by Hopi, Navajo, Ute and Zuni tribal leaders, and protected 100,000 archaeological sites. It links critical habitat corridors and several national parks along the Colorado Plateau.
  • The Antiquities Act has been deployed to create parks and protect some of Colorado’s most exemplary natural treasures including the Great Sand Dunes, Browns Canyon, Chimney Rock, and Colorado National Monument.
  • In a 2017 poll of seven Western states, 80% of voters supported keeping protections for existing national monuments.

Conservation Colorado’s executive director of eight years, Pete Maysmith, will be leaving his position at the end of September to join the national League of Conservation Voters as Senior Vice President for Campaigns.

“We are so proud of Pete and the wisdom, tenacity, and endless energy he has brought to Conservation Colorado,” said Diane Carman, chair of the board. “The fact that our national partner has recruited him speaks volumes about the power and success of this organization. Conservation Colorado is strong, healthy, and will work harder than ever to pass visionary environmental policies and elect pro-conservation candidates in 2018. We wish Pete the best and look forward to working with him in his new role.”

“In the new reality that is the Trump administration, now more than ever we need to build our organizing and political power to ensure that our elected officials represent our values,” said Maysmith. “I’m thrilled to take on the challenge of building the conservation movement nationally and in other states, and together we will fight the forces that seek to pollute our air and water and undermine our right to a healthy environment. I am certain that the organization is in good hands, and I will be cheering them over the coming months and years.”

Carrie Curtiss, Conservation Colorado’s deputy director who has been with the organization for 11 years, has agreed to serve as acting executive director until she makes a long-planned career transition at the end of the year. In the meantime, Conservation Colorado will undertake a national search for a new executive director.

Maysmith and Curtiss guided the organization through the 2013 merger of Colorado Conservation Voters and the Colorado Environmental Coalition that led to the creation of Conservation Colorado. Since the merger, the organization has significantly increased its budget and staff capacity, with a deep focus on electoral capacity and Latino organizing and outreach.

During their tenure, and in partnership with key allies across Colorado, Maysmith and Curtiss oversaw myriad programmatic successes, including:

  • The implementation of “Clean Air Clean Jobs,” which resulted in the retirement of 900 megawatts of coal-fired power
  • The increase of Colorado’s renewable electricity standard to 30 percent by 2020
  • The doubling of the rural renewable electricity standard to 20 percent by 2020
  • The passage of the strongest state methane pollution rules in the nation
  • The release of the first-ever state water plan that emphasizes conservation
  • The creation of the first state holiday celebrating public lands
  • The protection of tens of thousands of acres of public lands, including the Hermosa Creek Wilderness and the Browns Canyon National Monument
  • The decision to have Colorado join the U.S. Climate Alliance in the face of the Trump administration leaving the Paris Climate Agreement

Conservation Colorado is the largest state-based environmental organization in the country with nearly 40 staff in Denver and three field offices as well as 36,000 members across the state. The organization spent $1.3 million in the 2016 elections and had a 90 percent win rate of its endorsed candidates.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235
Eight Major Rivers Across the State Given Grades for Their Health and Well-being

Conservation Colorado today unveiled its first-ever “rivers report card,” an assessment of the health and well-being of eight rivers across the state based on several factors including water quality and flows. Only one river received an “A” grade, while four received grades of “C” or worse.

“Colorado’s rivers sustain our communities, economy, environment, and way of life,” said Kristin Green, Water Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “They provide us with clean drinking water, irrigate Colorado crops, support wildlife habitat, and provide world-class recreation opportunities. In order to protect our rivers, we must first have a clear understanding of what threatens them. This report is a call to action for anyone who cares about our rivers to get involved and fight to ensure they are clean, healthy, and flowing.”

The grades for the rivers analyzed in the report are:

  • Arkansas River: C
  • Colorado River: D
  • Dolores River: D-
  • North Fork of the Gunnison River: B-
  • North Platte River: B+
  • Rio Grande River: B
  • South Platte River: C
  • Yampa River: A

Grades for each river were assessed by analyzing their flows, the amount of water diverted out of the basin, water quality, and the existence of major dams. 

Colorado’s rivers are threatened by climate change, overuse, poor dam management, energy development, and the needs of a population that is set to double by 2050. The report provides several ideas to protect our rivers, including conserving water, voluntarily sharing water rights, avoiding large new water diversions, building water-smart landscapes, and implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. 

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720- 206-4235

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper today announced major steps to fight climate change, including putting the state of Colorado on track to meet the emissions reductions targets of the landmark Paris climate agreement and joining Colorado into the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 13 states and Puerto Rico committed to meeting the goals and objectives of the Paris Agreement. 

“Times like these demand decisive action, and we are pleased to see Governor Hickenlooper join the burgeoning movement among states, cities, and businesses to tackle climate change,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “The actions that the governor has announced will not only help us fight climate change, but will bring clean energy jobs and business innovation to the Centennial State. With today’s announcement, President Trump has become even more isolated from the world, whose leaders are taking aggressive action to fight climate change. We are excited to work with Governor Hickenlooper to meet or exceed all of these important targets.”

Other actions in the governor’s announcement include:

  • Measurable goals for carbon emissions cuts in the utility sector, as well as those for energy efficiency.
  • Supporting electric vehicle infrastructure in Colorado. 
  • Focusing on making buildings more sustainable.
  • Adopting greenhouse gas tracking and reporting requirements for Colorado, which will enable the state to identify opportunities to cut pollution and therefore save energy and money.
  • Spurring economic development in Colorado’s coal and mining communities.
  • New partnerships with local governments to fight climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement included a worldwide goal of limiting temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius. As part of this, the U.S. set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and also outlined “mid-century” goals to get to zero emissions.

Colorado’s clean energy economy is rapidly expanding, with 62,000 jobsalready in the clean technology sector and more than 2,000 cleantech companies. Nearly 90 Colorado businesses have pledged to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.