Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

As the 2017 Colorado state legislative session comes to a close, Conservation Colorado celebrated seven victories but also lamented several important bills that were killed or left on the cutting room floor by the state Senate.

Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, put it this way:
This year’s legislative session had several great, bipartisan wins for conservation issues. Conservation champions and legislators on both sides of the aisle stood up for our air, land, water, and communities, and we’re proud of the passage of meaningful and innovative bills to protect our environment.

 

But throughout the session, a group of obstructionist right-wing Republican senators repeatedly blocked progress by voting ideologically rather than for the needs of everyday Coloradans. Their opposition to simple, commonsense fixes to problems facing Colorado — such as giving citizens the opportunity to vote on a long-term sustainable funding to solve our transportation problems — should serve as a reminder about why voting matters.

Key victories that Conservation Colorado achieved were:

  • Extended a successful energy efficiency program (HB 1227)
  • Helped schools test for lead in their water (HB 1306)
  • Outlawed “rolling coal” (SB 278)
  • Defended tax credits for electric vehicles (SB 188)
  • Supported energy assistance to low-income households (HB 1116)
  • Secured funding for healthy rivers (HB 1248)
  • Prevented bills that would seize or sell off our public lands from being introduced

Despite the wins, several other environmental priorities were killed or stalled this session thanks to ideological opposition. These bills included:

  • Funding for the Colorado Energy Office and important clean energy programs, which Republicans held hostage in order to try to provide a windfall for natural gas companies (SB 301)
  • Improvements to transportation infrastructure and multimodal options (HB 1242)
  • Funding for our state parks (HB 1321)
  • Opening up new opportunities for investment in electric vehicle infrastructure (HB 1232)
  • Three measures to keep our communities safe from oil and gas drilling in neighborhoods:
    • Better protecting children from oil and gas wells located near schools (HB 1256)
    • Providing notice and transparency to property and mineral rights owners in the gas patch (HB 1372)
    • Securing mapping of and information about oil and gas lines, a critical necessity in the wake of the Firestone tragedy (HB 1336)

Conservation Colorado will be releasing its annual conservation scorecard with scores for legislators based on their environmental votes during the 2017 legislative session early this summer.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

In a huge win for the environment and the “resistance” against the Trump agenda, the vote to move forward with repealing a rule protecting air quality from oil and gas development just failed in the U.S. Senate. However, Colorado Senator Gardner voted the wrong way.

Here is a reaction from Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado.

This is an incredible day for the environment and for citizens across the country who have been telling their members of Congress to vote for clean air. The vote should have been an easy one for the oil and gas lobby to win, but the power of citizen activism has broken through the political morass.

 

With that said, we are deeply disappointed in Senator Gardner’s vote. Despite more than 10,000 emails and calls from Coloradans and multiple protests at his offices on this issue, Senator Gardner managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by voting against Colorado’s clean air in what amounted to a futile vote for him.

 

It’s obvious from this vote that Senator Gardner is much more interested in joining the Washington, D.C. political club rather than representing the values of Coloradans. This is not the leadership that Colorado needs, and we will double down on our efforts to make sure that Coloradans of all stripes know what a threat Senator Gardner’s voting record poses to clean air and environment.

Senate Republicans today attempted to use a little-known procedure (the “Congressional Review Act”) to kill rules from previous presidential administrations. Today’s vote on the “motion to proceed” was 51-49, with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) joining all 48 Democrats in rejecting the resolution.

Senator Gardner has a 100% record of voting with Trump and has voted against the environment seven times already this year, the methane vote being the eighth.

The BLM’s methane waste prevention rule was modeled on Colorado’s successful 2014 methane rules. The federal rule was finalized in November 2016 after three years of public process that included eight public meetings held across the country and 300,000 public comments. The rule would minimize the amount of wasted natural gas resources from oil and gas facilities on public and tribal lands by requiring companies to look for and repair leaks, minimize flaring (burning) and prohibit venting of gas directly into the atmosphere. All told, the rule could save $330 million worth of natural gas each year, which would result in increased royalties paid to the federal treasury saving taxpayers more than $800 million over a decade.

Contacts:

– Elizabeth Whitehead, Children’s Hospital Colorado, 720-777-6388
– Mike Wetzel, Colorado Education Association, MWetzel@coloradoea.org
– Brian Turner, Colorado Public Health Association, 303-257-7142
– Jessica Goad, Conservation Colorado, 720-206-4235

The Colorado state legislature today passed HB 1306, a bill that would provide funds for Colorado schools to voluntarily test for lead in their drinking water. The vote count was 29-6, and the bill is on its way to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk.

“Clean water in our schools is an expectation everyone in Colorado can get behind,” said Brian Turner, MPH, President of the Colorado Public Health Association. “As a public health professional, but more importantly as a parent, I’m happy to see our state moving in the right direction for our kids’ safety.”  

The bipartisan bill would provide funding for schools to voluntarily test their water for lead, and it prioritizes testing for older schools and schools with younger children. Schools that discover lead in their drinking water have several routes for securing more funding to mitigate the issue. Just seven of Colorado’s 178 school districts have tested their water for lead, and in these districts, 100 schools were found to have lead in their water.

“There are no safe levels of lead,” said Dan Nicklas, MD, pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “The recent crisis in Flint, Michigan, brought the nation’s attention to this environmental hazard, though lead toxicity has always been a public health challenge. We fully support our state proactively addressing this risk to keep Colorado kids safe.”

“We recognize our school districts are badly underfunded and cannot perform this important work for student safety without assistance,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association. “We appreciate our legislators for stepping forward with funding to help older schools meet the challenge of providing safe learning conditions for their students.”

“A safe environment is a human right,” said Kristin Green, Water Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “We’re thrilled that legislators from both sides of the aisle stood up for Colorado kids and will help keep them safe from lead pollution.”

Contact: Jessica Goad 720-206-4235

The Colorado state Senate just passed HB 1227, a bill to extend a successful energy efficiency program, on a 21-14 vote. The state House has already passed the bill, so it is going to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk.

Theresa Conley, Advocacy Director at Conservation Colorado, made the following statement:

This is an important win for Colorado. Energy efficiency programs have been wildly successful in our state, having saved consumers money and helped our environment. Despite misleading information that this bill would cost ratepayers money, its passage demonstrates that bipartisanship can be found on energy issues. We thank Senators Priola and Fenberg, as well as Representatives Winter and Lawrence, for their teamwork and for their commitment to Colorado’s consumers and our environment.

Colorado has long been a bipartisan leader in energy efficiency policies. Energy efficiency saves money for families and businesses and reduces air pollution. A Colorado bill passed in 2007 created the Energy Efficiency Resources Standard, which requires energy savings goals for utility companies, providing incentives for implementation of energy efficiency programs. This program is set to expire in 2018, and HB 1227 extends it through 2028.

Since its implementation in 2009, the EERS has created over 40,000 jobs, avoided 1.85 million metric tons of pollution, and saved Colorado consumers and businesses over $1.3 billion in utility costs. HB 1227 ensures the continuation of programs that help Colorado consumers and business save money, support existing jobs, create new jobs, and benefit our environment.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

Highlights include dozens of events across the state, eight special beers, appearances by elected officials

Conservation Colorado and its partners have announced plans for celebrating the first-annual Colorado Public Lands Day, which will occur on Saturday, May 20th.

Ninety-five events are currently planned across the state, with more being added weekly. A map of all events can be found here, and highlights include:

  • “Governor Hickenlooper Celebrates Colorado Public Lands Day,” Grand Junction Off-Road Bike Race main stage, 12:00 PM, Grand Junction
  • The Future of Public Lands” featuring U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter and the band Elephant Revival, American Mountaineering Center, 5:00 PM, Golden
  • Events in Denver’s urban parks including Montbello Day of Beauty, 10:00 AM, and BBQ at Silverman Park, 12:00 PM
  • Party and live music, Powerhouse Science Center, 6:00 PM, Durango
  • Celebration featuring Colorado Public Lands Day architect state Senator Kerry Donovan, High Alpine Brewery, 5:00 PM, Gunnison

Eight special beers are being brewed by Colorado breweries to celebrate various aspects of public lands. Broken Compass’ spruce tip IPA, for example, pays homage to the mountains of Breckenridge, while Kannah Creek Brewing Company’s “Monument Irish Red” honors Colorado National Monument.

In addition, renowned Colorado-based band Elephant Revival is sponsoring a public lands trail cleanup on May 12th. The band has been dubbed the “official sound” of Colorado Public Lands Day 2017, and is hosting a contest to win free tickets to their show at Red Rocks on Sunday, May 21st, for anyone who helps promote Colorado Public Lands Day.

In May 2016 Colorado became the first state in the nation to establish a holiday recognizing the value of public lands to our state. The bill passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. Colorado Public Lands Day will occur on the third Saturday in May each year.

More information about all of the events can be found at copubliclandsday.com.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

News is breaking that the tragic accident in Firestone, where two people were killed in a home explosion, was caused by natural gas leaking from a cut flow line.

Here is a reaction from Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado:

The Firestone tragedy is the most recent– and heart-breaking– wake-up call that oil and gas exploration is a dangerous, heavy industrial activity that must be kept away from homes and schools. For years, communities across the state have raised concerns about the perils of siting homes and oil and gas facilities near each other, but these cries for change have fallen upon deaf ears. We have been left with empty promises from the oil and gas industry and tragedies such as this.

Our elected officials must act with great urgency to strengthen the rules and laws governing oil and gas drilling. This means taking any action necessary to put the burden of proof for showing that drilling is safe onto the industry, not onto concerned community members.

Moving forward, the COGCC must take decisive action and not allow any oil and gas activity unless it is proven to be safe to human health and our air and water. The fact that the commission is even considering appealing a court decision applying this standard is shocking.

A few items of interest regarding the state of play of oil and gas drilling in Colorado:
– In a case (Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) decided in mid-March, the Colorado Court of Appeals determined that protection of public health and the environment is “a condition that must be fulfilled” before the commission can issue permits. In its meeting yesterday, the commission noted that it is “still deciding whether to pursue an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.”
– The state Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, supported and encouraged by the oil and gas industry, recently voted down a simple, clarifying bill that would keep oil and gas well 1,000′ from school property, not just school buildings themselves.
– Oil and gas development is coming soon to even more suburban neighborhoods, as seen in maps of Adams and Arapahoe Counties.

Contact: 

Jessica Goad, Conservation Colorado, 720-206-4235
Kaili Lambe, People’s Climate of Colorado, 719-445-8332

Despite snow and cold, thousands of Coloradans who believe that climate change is real and that our elected officials must take immediate action to address it turned out to the People’s Climate March on Denver this morning.

Led by indigenous leaders and youth activists, the march highlighted the voices of communities most directly affected by climate change. The march was a collaborative effort of environmental, social, racial, and economic justice groups.

Credit: Philip Wegener Photo and Video

Marchers returning from the mile-long circuit formed into the shape of a thermometer with a line at 2 ℃, which represents the amount of average global temperature rise that the planet can tolerate before the most dangerous and destructive effects occur.

Speakers and performers after the march included Colorado State Representative Joe Salazar, spoken word artists, a representative of the labor community, a Naval Officer and national security expert, members of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, several youth leaders, and representatives from the groups in the steering committee.

“The science of climate change is irrefutable, as are the potential consequences of inaction,” said Leia Guccione, Veteran of Operation Free. “No single threat poses a greater or more enduring danger to both the safety of our men and women in uniform and our nation as a whole. Climate change makes our battles harder, demands for humanitarian relief more urgent, and our resilience at home weaker–we must take action now.”

“Service Employees International Union Local 105 members are joining thousands of working people taking to the streets for the People’s Climate March to build unity, fight for a clean economy, and to protect the environment for future generations,” said Tikdem Atsbaha, a janitor at Denver International Airport and mother of two. “Greedy corporations are continuously putting profits over people and the environment, as a union member and working mom, I can’t stand by and let them threaten the very air we breathe and water we drink.”

“This is about our future, said Tay Anderson, the Student Body President of Manual High School.” That’s why it’s so important that young people get engaged, get active, and vote.”

Cover image: Christian O’Rourke, O’Rouke Photography

Contact: Jessica Goad 720-206-4235

This evening the Colorado state Senate Finance Committee voted down HB-1242, a bipartisan transportation funding bill. In response, Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, stated:

It is extremely disappointing that just three Senate Republicans stood against the very tenants of TABOR and refused to let the people of Colorado vote on whether to tax themselves to improve our crumbling transportation system.

Coloradans from across the state weighed in and said they wanted a way to fix our roads and bridges, build safer sidewalks and routes to schools, and  invest in infrastructure to move people, not just cars.

We are committed to working with Senate and House leadership to continue to find solutions that allow Colorado to be prepared for future growth and changes. We thank Senator Grantham and Representative Duran for their tremendous efforts.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting this morning that President Trump is expected to sign an Executive Order on Wednesday that would require a “review” of national parks and monuments that have been protected by presidents using executive action under the Antiquities Act since 1996. This review could result in parks and monuments being shrunk or completely losing protections.

In Colorado, this means that three national monuments are in the crosshairs: Browns Canyon near Salida (designated in 2015), Chimney Rock near Pagosa Springs (designated in 2012), and Canyons of the Ancients near Cortez (designated in 2000).

Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado, made the following statement:

With this review, the Trump administration has launched an attack on Colorado’s heritage and the iconic public lands that are critical to our economy and way of life. The fact that federal bureaucrats are attempting to overturn protections for our lands is deeply offensive to those of us who live in the Colorado and the West.

More details:
– No president has ever attempted to revoke a national monument and legal scholars believe it is illegal.
– Coloradans are strongly supportive of presidents’ abilities to create new national parks and monuments. One poll found that 82 percent of Coloradans believe protections for parks and monuments should be kept in place rather than revoked.
– Regions surrounding national monuments have seen continued growth in employment, personal income, and increased per capita income.
Scott Braden is available for TV, radio, and print interviews today and throughout the week.

Contacts:
Elizabeth Whitehead, Children’s Hospital Colorado, 303-775-6601
Mike Wetzel, Colorado Education Association, MWetzel@coloradoea.org
Brian Turner, Colorado Public Health Association, 303-257-7142
Jessica Goad, Conservation Colorado, 720-206-4235, jessica@conservationco.org

The Colorado House Education Committee is taking testimony this afternoon on HB 1306, a bill that would provide funds for Colorado schools to voluntarily test for lead in their drinking water. Just seven of Colorado’s 178 school districts have tested their water for lead, and in these districts, 77 schools were found to have lead in their water.

“Lead in drinking water is extremely damaging to health, especially in young children, and research shows that there is no safe level for lead exposure,” said Daniel Nicklas, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We must take every precaution to prevent children from consuming lead, and that starts with providing schools with the tools they need to take the first step.”

“School district budgets are in crisis across the state with the ongoing cut to schools known as the Negative Factor expected to increase in the coming school year” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association. “Rural school districts are struggling to keep teachers, so we certainly cannot expect them to divert precious resources away from the classroom to test drinking water. This bill provides necessary funding to give schools the help they need to ensure the health and safety of students.”

“From a public health perspective, lead poisoning can affect children throughout their whole lives and create impacts on the whole community,” said Brian Turner, MPH, President of the Colorado Public Health Association. “We must empower schools with tools to keep kids safe and ensure that they live healthy and fulfilled lives.”

“A safe environment should be the right of every child,” said Kristin Green, Water Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “Unfortunately, lead poisoning remains a problem in our state and across the country. It is our obligation to make sure that every kid is drinking clean water. This bill is an important move in the right direction.”

HB 1306 is co-sponsored by Reps. Barbara McLachlan and Tony Exum. Funding will come from an existing water quality improvement fund. It prioritizes testing for older schools and for schools with younger children. Schools that discover lead in their drinking water have several routes for securing more funding to mitigate the issue.