by Lisa Cyriacks
In its final days for 2019, the Colorado legislature passed the most significant climate change bill in Colorado history. House Bill 19-1261 establishes Colorado greenhouse gas reduction goals that are anchored in science, provides for the development of cost-effective solutions to achieve pollution cuts and makes an appropriation of funds to cover costs of implementation.
Climate stability is the most urgent and challenging policy issue of our time. While the current federal administration is actively un-
dermining climate action, Colorado legislators have stepped up to pave the way to a clean energy future for Coloradans.
Colorado is already a national leader in fighting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants and is in the process of making strides in the transportation sector, which combined represent more than 60% of total greenhouse gas pollution in Colorado.
House Bill 19-1261, titled the “Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution” states that Colorado shall have statewide goals to reduce 2025 greenhouse gas emissions
by at least 26%, 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50%, and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% of the levels of greenhouse gas emissions that existed in 2005.
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.
But the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution is more than that. The bill calls on State regulators
to work hand-in-hand with elected officials and industry leaders to ensure that these solutions are cost-effective.
Legislators and environmental advocates assert that establishing policies to meet our carbon reduction targets will help Colorado’s clean energy economy continue to grow by driving innovation, job creation and further cost savings for consumers. Colorado’s clean energy industry is significant and growing, employing more than 62,000 workers and attracting multi-million dollar investments in addition to saving ratepayers an average of 15% to 50% on energy costs.
Colorado voters in the 2018 election made energy reform and the environment a priority by the choices they made on their ballots.
Colorado faces severe threats from climate change, including worsening summer smog that causes asthma attacks and other serious health problems, catastrophic flooding, waning winters adversely impacting the ski industry, loss of public lands to fossil fuel extraction, intensifying wildfires, and prolonged drought that threatens our farmers and our national and state parks.
The Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution establishes lofty goals, but just as important are the other key energy and environment bills backing it up.
Making progress toward these goals measurable, legislators enacted a bill requiring State regulators to collect climate change data on greenhouse emissions annually and to propose reduction strategies based on their findings.
Colorado’s transportation sector is expected to surpass electricity generation as the top carbon emitter in 2030. This makes transforming the transportation sector critical to combating climate change. Lawmakers voted to extend Colorado’s $5,000 tax credit for those who purchase a new electric vehicle through 2025.
A second bill allows public utilities to provide for charging ports or fueling stations for motor vehicles as regulated or unregulated services and allows cost recovery.
Legislators also passed a bill to reform the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The bill requires the PUC to consider the environmental or “social” cost of carbon in its analysis of utility projects moving forward. This cost—used to measure the dollar value of longterm damage caused by carbon pollution—will allow utilities to evaluate the significant monetary benefits of continuing to invest in clean energy projects.
The Just Transition From Coal-Based Electrical Energy Economy, creates the “just transition” office in the division of employment and training in the department of labor and employment. The office will provide benefits to coal transition workers through grants, workforce training, and re-employment programs.
HB19-1260 requires local jurisdictions to adopt one of the 3 most recent versions of the international energy conservation code at a minimum, upon updating any other building code, and encourages local jurisdictions to update the Colorado energy office on any changes to the jurisdictions’ building and energy codes.
New appliances, plumbing fixtures, and other products sold for residential or commercial use in Colorado will be required to meet energy and water efficiency standards.
While there will be costs associated with these changes—some of which will be passed on to the consumer—the cost of inaction must be factored in as well.
Over thirty years ago the National Energy Policy Act of 1988 was introduced by Senator Timo-
thy Wirth, Democrat of Colorado. In all, 32 climate bills were introduced that year, the culmination of efforts begun by a handful of scientists and activists a decade earlier to prevent catastrophic climate change.
In the years that followed, climate policy became an afterthought, then a partisan issue, then fell as a casualty of Washington’s embrace of industry propaganda denying climate change and positioning global warming as a hoax.
While Washington D.C. politics are currently preventing the federal government from 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.