Democrats achieved much in 2019 with their complete control of the Colorado state governance, but of all the policies that Gov. Jared Polis has or likely will sign into law, none is as important as the work lawmakers did to reduce Colorado’s carbon footprint.
There’s a good chance toxic D.C. politics will prevent the federal government from ever responding to the threat of climate change. States and local governments must step up and do what they can, and individuals, for that matter, must start chipping in too.
That’s why we applaud the relatively moderate “climate change” legislative agenda passed by Speaker of the House K.C. Becker, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, Senate President Leroy Garcia and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg. Polis has signed some of these into law already but not all of them.
For starters, House Bill 1261, the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, set statewide goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared with our emissions levels in 2005. The goals are reasonable: a 26 percent reduction by 2025; a 50 percent reduction by 2030; and a 90 percent reduction by 2050.
Those are more modest goals than the executive order former Gov. John Hickenlooper signed in 2017 setting goals based on our emissions levels in 2012 (Colorado utilities reduced their emissions significantly between 2005 and 2012 making Hick’s goals much tougher). But 1261 is still a good step, codifying a goal, even if it’s a less ambitious one.
Reaching those goals will require emissions reductions across the board: electric generation, transportation, oil and gas extraction and refinery emissions, industrial and residential energy use, and gas leaks from coal mines.
While 1261 doesn’t have any real teeth, other legislation passed during the session shows that Democrats have the will to start chipping away at each category.
The oil and gas reform bill, Senate Bill 181, is best known for giving local control to cities and counties over where and how drilling is conducted in their jurisdictions, but it also set the wheels in motion for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to finally begin drafting rules for how much methane drillers can intentionally release.
Senate Bill 96 would require the Air Quality Control Commission to make rules requiring greenhouse gas-emitting entities to publicly report their emissions — the kind of thing you need to know if you’ve got a goal in place.
Lawmakers voted to extend Colorado’s $5,000 tax credit for those who purchase a new electric vehicle through 2025.
And then there’s the most under-covered bill of the 2019 legislative session: the sunset reauthorization of the Public Utilities Commission.
The bill requires the PUC to consider the environmental or “social” cost of carbon in its analysis of utility projects moving forward. That’ll mean that even if a renewable energy project is more expensive than its fossil fuel alternative, the PUC may still approve it if it’s deemed the benefit to future generations tips the scale. Sadly Republicans opposed most of these bills with only a few GOP lawmakers breaking with their party to vote “yes.”
Yes, there is a cost associated with all of this — higher utility bills, a less robust oil and gas industry, finite tax dollars allocated to these efforts — but there’s a cost of inaction too. That bill will be sent to our children and it grows every year we do nothing to address this threat to our globe.
— Denver Post