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2021 Colorado Climate/ Energy/ Environmental Legislation Summary

By Jan Rose, CCLC Spokesperson and Legislative Maven

Posted on June 16th 2021

Without question, this has been the most consequential session of the General Assembly for climate change legislation in history, with 53 bills introduced!  Nearly all the bills we supported passed, and the vast majority of bills we opposed failed.

There were 628 bills introduced this session and 502 of them were sent to the Governor’s desk. That’s a truly historic level of productivity and each and every legislator deserves our thanks and our respect for managing such an enormous agenda in a mere 116 days.

Now, turning to climate legislation, following is the summary of legislation for the entire session.  Bills that passed are presented first and organized by category, and bills that failed are presented at the end for your information.  Bullets are provided to note content and amendments as warranted but are by no means the definitive explanation of the contents of any given bill.

The river that runs through it is the consistent use of the social costs of pollution in climate legislation, be they CO2, carbon-equivalent (CO2e), methane, or GHGs in general.  Those inclusions are historic achievements for our state and our nation, and set Colorado on a course to teach the whole country a thing or two about managing climate change. Additionally, this was the year we tackled emissions from the Built Environment (buildings) with millions of dollars dedicated to weatherization and conversion from natural gas as the consumer chooses, as well as performance standards for large buildings and the implementation of distributed solar generation.

But, as we all know, ’It’s all about the Benjamins’ and we can’t tell you how disappointing it is that the results of climate change received far more funding than addressing the CAUSE of climate change!  Wildfire mitigation alone got more than FIVE TIMES the amount that climate change adaptation and mitigation received and we had historic levels of funds available this year—as if a money tree shook off all its leaves and then died before we could fertilize it.  The state had an historic $34B budget, $800M in one-time money that must be spent, and $3.8B from the feds, and all we got was this lousy ‘keep it in the ground’ t-shirt.

Nonetheless, there is a smorgasbord—a veritable feast—of climate legislation we got through the House and Senate this year, so we present to you all, this year’s SUMMARY OF CLIMATE LEGISLATION

Note that bill names appended by !!! Indicate bills endorsed by CCLC.

2021 Climate/Energy/Environmental legislation

Utilities

SB21-272 | Measures To Modernize The Public Utilities Commission !!! | Concerning the operations of the public utilities commission, and, in connection therewith, modernizing the commission’s statutory directives regarding distributed generation of electricity

  • Provides access to outside experts while limiting conflicts of interest
    • Requires rules for retiring RECs
    • Amended out the ability to establish community solar net metering credits
    • Requires resource plans to include social cost of carbon and CO2e in net present value of revenue requirements

 SB21-261 | Public Utilities Commission Encourage Renewable Energy Generation !!! | Concerning measures to increase the deployment of renewable energy generation facilities to meet Colorado’s energy needs, and, in connection therewith, raising the allowable capacity of customer-sited renewable energy generation facilities from 120% of historic usage to 200%, and giving customers additional options for increasing the scale and flexibility of new installations.

  • Includes master meter operators allowing resale of solar energy on- or off-site
    • Enables multi-family/tenant buildings to share in solar roofs
    • Requires new installs to be GHGs emissions neutral
    • Allows for donations of excess solar produced (eg to LIHEAP)
    • Requires annual offers to install net meters for solar installations
    • Amended to include up to 10MW existing biomass as GHG neutral
    • Amends for max size of 500KW; off site no more than 200KW

SB21-264 | Adopt Programs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Utilities !!! | Concerning the adoption of programs by gas utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Was SB21-161 that Chris Hansen killed to reintroduce this version

  • Became a ‘strike below’ (delete everything but the title and rewrite the bill) AGAIN as Amendment L002
    • The R Co-Sponsor voted against his own bill in committee (cue to L002) and removed himself from the bill on the Senate Floor before final vote.
    • Encourages methane capture from coal mines, landfills, dairy farms, biomass
    • Includes both green (100% clean power sources) and blue (created using fracked gas for power) hydrogen projects and allows mixing of captured methane with extracted methane.
    • Creates Clean Heat Plans that will reduce methane GHGs by 7.5% by 2025 from 2015 levels, of which 1% must be recovered methane, and 22% by 2030 of which 5% must be recovered methane
      • Amended to reduce 7.5% to 6%, 1% to 2%, and 5% to 6%
      • Muni utilities are given more time and drop their reductions to 4% of which 1% recovered by 2030; and small utilities don’t have to meet the percentage reductions but do have to file a Clean Heat Plan
      • Allows fixed leaks from wholesalers, retailers, pipelines and transportation, and consumer combustion to qualify for the ‘recovered methane’ criteria,
      • Allows DSM and BE (Beneficial Electrification) plans to qualify as methane reductions under the Clean Heat Plan
    • Applies to any utility with 90K customers
    • Requires social cost of carbon and social cost of methane except that methane must be calculated on a 100-year scale
    • Can’t raise the ratepayers gas bill by more than 2.5%

HB21-1269 | Public Utilities Commission Study Of Community Choice Energy  !!! | Concerning an investigation by the public utilities commission to evaluate the parameters of an energy policy allowing communities in Colorado that are served by an investor-owned electric utility to choose alternative wholesale electricity suppliers.

  • Added amendments for union labor and DI Communities

 SB21-072 | Public Utilities Commission Modernize Electric Transmission Infrastructure !!! | …creating the Colorado electric transmission authority, requiring transmission utilities to join regional transmission organizations, and allowing additional classes of transmission utilities to obtain revenue through the colocation of broadband facilities within their existing rights-of-way.

  • Amendment L002 defines the makeup of CETA and bonding for its projects.
    • Establishes labor standards and the role of local governments in land use decisions, includes environmental protections,
    • Revised the response time of the PUC from 180 days to 240 days (thanks to Leslie G!)
    • Clarify that CETA cannot be used to delay or avoid Clean Energy Plans
    • Amendment L033 allows for collection of up to 35% Net Present Value Savings for the first 2 years, 25% in year 3 and 20% in years 4 and 5

HB21-1324 | Promote Innovative And Clean Energy Technologies | Concerning measures to facilitate the use of innovative energy technologies by investor-owned utilities in Colorado, and, in connection therewith, authorizing the public utilities commission to review and approve investor-owned utilities’ applications for low-emission innovative energy technologies based on meeting specified criteria.

  • Allows projects that never go into effect and projects that are knowingly not cost-effective to be charged to ratepayers
    • Prevents any solar/wind/L-ion battery projects from being used
    • Specifies only zero-emissions technologies may be used
    • Allow cost recovery via Clean Energy Plan Rider but limits cost recovery to maximum achievable by a solar or wind facility
    • Includes provision for encouragement of site location in an area affected by energy generation transition (eg coal plant retirement)

SB21-108 | PUC Gas Utility Safety Inspection Authority !!! | Concerning gas pipeline safety, and, in connection therewith, increasing and clarifying the rule-making and enforcement authority of the public utilities commission.

  • Defines a fee/fine structure large enough ($200K/day) to add up to 20 more inspectors for our gas gathering and transmission pipelines

GHGs Pollution

 SB21-260 | Sustainability Of The Transportation System | Concerning the sustainability of the transportation system in Colorado, and, in connection therewith, creating new sources of dedicated funding and new state enterprises to preserve, improve, and expand existing transportation infrastructure, develop the modernized infrastructure needed to support the widespread adoption of electric motor vehicles, and mitigate environmental and health impacts of transportation system use; and expanding authority for regional transportation improvements.

  • 128 Amendments!
    • Roughly 80% is for ‘roads and bridges’ and 20% is for EVs and charging
      • 4 new clean transportation Enterprises: Clean Fleet (in CDPHE), Clean Transit (in DOT), Non-Attainment Area (in DOT), and Community Access (In CEO)
    • Establishes social cost of GHGs as a pollutant and sets up fees and reporting using a discount rate of 2.5% or the federal standard, whichever is higher
    • Adds fees for ride shares (unless the vehicle is an EV), gig delivery, Amazon/UPS/etc, which will fund charging stations, e-bikes and scooters, electric buses etc.
    • sets aside compensatory funding for DI Communities and low income households
    • Sets up a multi-modal and impacts mitigation fund within DOT’s Revitalizing Main Streets program
    • 2.5c/gallon fee on gas increasing annually to 8c. In lieu of gas fees, EV users changed $50/year upon registration renewal
      • And EVs pay a road usage equalization fee of $4/yr rising to $96 in 2031 (hybrids pay less since they also buy gas)
      • $182M to state highway fund
        • $22M of which is for multi-modal Revitalizing Main Streets program and
        • $10M/year must be spent to mitigate increased air pollution in non-attainment area amended in L081 to reduce to $5M
      • $161M to Mult-modal fund
      • $36M to highway users
    • Trucks pay additional annual registration fee; the bigger the truck the higher the fee (from $50-$150)
    • Amendment L072 adds Particulate Matter monitoring in DI Communities and a requirement to review alternative transit methods before considering lane widening (this includes the planned I-270 widening)
    • L064 includes provision for hydrogen fuel cell charging, not just battery charging
    • L086 specifies special attention to DI Communities
      • L115 creates the Environmental Justice and Equity Branch in Construction Dept of DOT and requires them to work with DICs on traffic expansion
    • L122 adds CNG vehicles to clean fleet if 90% of CNG is from recovered methane

HB21-1290 | Additional Funding For Just Transition | Concerning $15M funding to provide just transition for coal transition workers and coal transition communities.

HB21-1189 | Regulate Air Toxics !!! | Concerning additional public health protections in relation to the emission of air toxics.

  • HAPs (Hazardous Air Pollutants) defined by quantity removed from the bill and replaced with types of facilities.
    • Includes community monitoring (not just fenceline) via CDPHE mobile van

SB21-238 | Create Front Range Passenger Rail District | Concerning the front range passenger rail district, and, in connection therewith, creating the district, which is from NM to WY and includes connections to Amtrak and the Winter Park Express Train, as well as Northwest Rail Line Corridor with RTD

HB21-1230 | Create User-friendly State Internet Rules Portal | Concerning creation of a user-friendly state internet portal relating to state agency rules.

HB21-1247 | Colorado Department Of Public Health And Environment Contract Pay To Grantees Up Front | Concerning allowing the department of public health and environment to award a percentage of the total value of an annual contract to a grantee of a grant program of the department upon the execution or renewal of the annual contract.

HB21-1322 | Gasoline And Special Fuel Tax Restructuring | Concerning the restructuring of the gasoline and special fuel tax.

SB21-281 | State Severance Tax Trust Fund Allocation | Concerning severance tax revenue.

Built Environment

HB21-1238 | Public Utilities Commission Modernize Gas Utility Demand-side Management Standards !!! | Concerning the modernization of gas energy efficiency programs.

  • Amended to remove disincentives to conversion via rate changes
    • Labor friendly amendment
    • Includes social cost of carbon AND social cost of methane (based on federal std)
    • Specifies mandatory funding for low income and DICs
    • Includes insulation, weatherization, conservation, load Mgmt (demand response), and conversion from gas appliances

SB21-246 | Electric Utility Promote Beneficial Electrification  !!! | Concerning measures to encourage beneficial electrification, and, in connection therewith, directing the public utilities commission and Colorado utilities to promote compliance with current environmental and labor standards.

  • Complements 1238 above
    • Requires PUC to define targets for DSM and methane reductions
    • Outlines cost-recovery options and performance incentives

HB21-1284 | Limit Fee Install Active Solar Energy System | Concerning modifications to the limitation on the aggregate amount of fees—max $500 for residential and $1K for commercial—that may be assessed by governmental bodies for the installation of active solar energy systems.

HB21-1286 | Energy Performance For Buildings  !!! | Concerning measures to improve energy efficiency, and, in connection therewith, requiring owners of large buildings to collect and report on energy-use benchmarking data and comply with performance standards related to energy and greenhouse gas emissions and modifying statutory requirements regarding energy performance contracts.

  • Limited to buildings in excess of 20K sq ft which is presently approx 3,000 buildings
    • Must demonstrate compliance with performance standards every 5 years

SB21-230 | Transfer To Colorado Energy Office Energy Fund | Concerning a transfer of $40M from the general fund to the energy fund to finance programs of the Colorado Energy Office

SB21-231 | Energy Office Weatherization Assistance Grants | Concerning a transfer of $3M from the general fund to the energy fund to finance the weatherization assistance program of the Colorado Energy Office.

HB21-1253 | Renewable And Clean Energy Project Grants | Concerning a general fund transfer of $5M to the local government severance tax fund to fund grants to local governments for renewable and clean energy infrastructure projects

HB21-1303 | Global Warming Potential For Public Project Materials | Concerning measures to limit the global warming potential for certain materials used in public projects.

  • Concrete and asphalt are 14% of the total GHGs emitted!  This bill addresses that and our bill is the most comprehensive in the nation

Climate Impacts

 HB21-1266 | Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community !!! | Concerning efforts to redress the effects of environmental injustice on disproportionately impacted communities. Click here for amendment adding much of SB200

  • L009 added in Senate Finance which incorporated SB200 except transportation and buildings
    • Provides for the first time a legislative definition of Disproportionally Impacted Community (DIC or DI Community)
    • Creates an Ombudsman at CDPHE to assist DICs in rulemakings and complaints and a task force to go into DICs (along with the money to fund it) and actively solicit participation including child care, nght/weekend hours, multi-language, snacks, transit access etc.
    • BUT “nothing in this act alters the GHGs reductions goals previously enacted in either amount or timing” and
      • Adds that AQCC may promulgate rules that increase the previously enacted targets
      • Add GHGs in toto as a reportable emission with fees and reporting/monitoring requirements
    • Establishes the requirement for monitoring in DICs including PM2.5
    • Establishes GHGs as a pollutant and requires fees for emissions thereof
    • Provides recourse for more legislation/rulemakings if Roadmap goals are not met (as reported in odd-numbered years)
    • “Encourages” AQCC to promulgate rules in utilities sector that reduces GHGs by at least 48% by 2025 and 80% by 2030
    • “Encourages” AQCC to promulgate rules in industrial manufacturing sector and the O&FG sector that reduces GHGs by at least 36% by 2025 and 60% by 2030
      • Established a cap-and-trade system for emissions
    • Establishes a social cost of GHGs using a 2.5% discount rate based on the federal standard whoever is higher
    • Requires self-reported monitoring of GHGs in addition to existing pollutants (HAPs/CO2/NOx/VOCs/etc)

HB21-1274 | Unused State-owned Real Property Beneficial Use | Concerning the beneficial use of unused state-owned real property, and, in connection therewith, directing the department of personnel to inventory such property and use such property to promote affordable housing and renewable energy development.

HB21-1312 | Insurance Premium Property Sales Severance Tax | Concerning taxation, and, in connection therewith, narrowing the scope of the home office insurance premium tax rate reduction

HB21-1162 | Management Of Plastic Products !!! | Concerning the management of plastic products.

  • Amended out the provision to allow local government preemption for the ban of more types of plastics, then amended it back in again!
    • Amended to exclude from the bag ban any business with less than 3 locations
    • 10c on paper and plastics no mo’ starting 2023
    • Lunch ladies win so schools get to keep using styrofoam until 2025.

HB21-1052 | Define Pumped Hydroelectricity As Renewable Energy !!! | Concerning the inclusion of pumped hydroelectric energy generation in the definition of “eligible energy resources” for purposes of meeting Colorado’s renewable energy standard.

HB21-1131 | Cooperative Electric Associations Governance Requirements !!!

Concerning governance requirements for cooperative electric associations.

HB21-1141 | Electric Vehicle License Plate | Concerning the creation of a license plate for plug-in electric motor vehicles.

HB21-1149 | Energy Sector Career Pathway In Higher Education | Concerning supporting an energy sector career pathway for Colorado.

Addressing Wildfires

HB21-1208 | Natural Disaster Mitigation Enterprise | Concerning the creation of an enterprise that is exempt from the requirements of section 20 of article X of the state constitution to administer a fee-based natural disaster mitigation grant program. $4.2M

HB21-1008 | Forest Health Project Financing | Concerning increased options for financing forest health projects, and, in connection therewith, financing wildfire mitigation treatments. Sponsors: Arndt/Catlin, Cooke/Hansen. Up to $50M in bonds

SB21-113 | Firefighting Aircraft Wildfire Mgmt And Response | Concerning state funding of firefighting aircraft to respond to wildfires. $30.8M for the “Firehawk” helicopter

SB21-054 | Transfers For Wildfire Mitigation And Response | Concerning transfers from the general fund to cash funds to be used to address wildland fires, and, in connection therewith, making an appropriation. $13M

SB21-221 | Projects Under Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program | Concerning projects under the forest restoration and wildfire risk mitigation grant program. Removes the $1M limit

SB21-258 |  Wildfire Risk Mitigation | Concerning the administration of state assistance programs to mitigate the risk of wildfire, and, in connection therewith, creating the wildfire mitigation capacity development fund and the hazard mitigation fund $31.6M next 2 years.

Agriculture/Carbon Farming

HB21-1242 | Create Agricultural Drought And Climate Resilience Office | Concerning the creation of an agricultural drought and climate resilience office in the department of agriculture.

SB21-234 | General Fund Transfer Agriculture And Drought Resiliency | Concerning creation of the agriculture and drought resiliency fund, and, in connection therewith, transferring money from the general fund to the fund – $1.2M

SB21-235 | Stimulus Funding Department Of Agriculture Efficiency Programs | Concerning additional funding for programs of the department of agriculture to support increased efficiency in agricultural operations – $5M

Climate Legislation that Failed

 SB21-200 | Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice | See HB21-1266

 SB21-114 | Minimum Setback New Schools From Existing Oil And Gas

Concerning the establishment of a minimum setback requirement from existing oil and gas facilities for new public school building sites.

  • Appeared to be an O&G bill but was in fact a bill to prevent the construction of any new public schools in Weld County.
    • Time for local and state regs on “reverse” setbacks of new buildings from existing O&G fields.

HB21-1246 | PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Divestment From Fossil Fuel Companies !!!

HB21-1199 | Consumer Digital Repair Bill Of Rights | Concerning a requirement that a manufacturer of digital electronic equipment facilitate the repair of the equipment by providing persons other than authorized repair providers affiliated with the manufacturer with the resources needed to repair the equipment.

SB21-034 | Water Resource Financing Enterprise | Concerning the creation of an enterprise that is exempt from the requirements of section 20 of article X of the state constitution to administer a fee-based water resources financing program.

 SB21-125 | Alternate Proposals Air Quality Control Rulemaking | Concerning the submission of alternate proposals to rules being considered by the air quality control commission.

  • Tried to prohibit enviro groups from offering alternate proposals to bad rules

 HB21-1205 | Electric Vehicle Road Usage Equalization Fee | Concerning a road usage equalization fee for plug-in electric motor vehicles. | Note this bill came back as a provision in the Transportation Bill (SB21-260)

 SB21-149 | Wind Energy Facilities Sited Near Military Operations | Concerning limitations on the construction of wind energy facilities sited near military resources.

SB21-161 | Voluntary Reduce Greenhouse Gas Natural Gas Utility | Postponed by the sponsor and replaced with SB264

 SB21-163 | Cost-benefit Analysis For Rules Additional Requirements | Concerning additional requirements for a cost-benefit analysis performed in connection with a state agency’s adoption of rules.

  • Tried to make costs (loss of revenue) a decision-making factor in the implementation of GHGs reductions rules.

SB21-180 | CONCERNING A REPORT TO BE SUBMITTED TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY BY THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT REGARDING POST-CONSUMER RECYCLED CONTENT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PACKAGING.

 HB21-1034 | Consumer Right To Use Natural Gas Or Propane | Concerning a guarantee of customer choice in the use of gaseous fuels to produce thermal energy.

2021 Climate Legislation Summary

Action Alert: Tell Colorado’s Senators: No Climate, No Deal!

President Biden’s original infrastructure proposal (more formally, the American Jobs Plan) included major investments related to mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis.  However, the compromise bill designed to make infrastructure spending more palatable to Senate Republicans contains very little in the way of climate initiatives.  Colorado’s Senators need to hear from us: “No Climate, No Deal!”

Please write to Senator Michael Bennet and Senator John Hickenlooper to let them know that infrastructure programs must include a focus on the climate crisis. A sample e-message is provided below; please personalize.

Dear Senator XXX:

Please oppose any infrastructure compromise that does not include major investments in mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis.

The original American Jobs Plan included funding to make the electric grid 100% carbon-free by 2035, to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric-powered vehicles, and to make buildings and other structures more resilient to climate-related hazards.  This represents a good first step for our nation in doing its part to respond to the climate crisis, although much more will be required in the years to come.

The Senate majority should not cave in to the Senate minority’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis.  Spending at the scale needed to address the climate crisis must be approved through reconciliation before any compromise infrastructure bill designed to gain support from climate change deniers is approved. No climate, no deal!

Sincerely,

Your Name

‘Wait and See’ Won’t Work on Climate

Published in the Boulder Daily Camera on May 27th, 2021

We would like to urge Governor Polis to sign SB21-200 into law when it gets to his desk.

In 2019, the Colorado state legislature passed the landmark climate bill, HB19-1261, which set the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Scientists have made it clear that we must meet these targets in order to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. Unfortunately, we’re not currently on track to meet these goals.

Earlier this year, Governor Polis released a promising Colorado Climate Roadmap with sector-specific objectives to reach HB-1261 targets. The only way we can successfully meet these goals is to hold industries within the electricity, oil and gas, transportation, and building sectors accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time we close loopholes that let habitual polluters off the hook. SB-200 wll help us accomplish that.

Moreover, low income and BIPOC communities will continue to experience environmental inequity if we do not meet our science-based climate objectives. SB-200 would create desperately needed environmental justice staff, allocate funding, require actions that would engage disproportionately impacted communities, and ensure that our climate policies will work toward community benefits and restorative justice.

Our counter arguments for the administration’s opposition to SB-200 are as follows:

  • Not enough time for rulemaking: We’re behind because HB-1261 does not have an enforceable deadline for processes. SB-200 fixes this problem by setting a reasonable timeline for rulemaking. AQCC will have almost another year to complete the process set out two years ago and the bill provides additional resources for AQCC to complete its work.
  • The goals are too hard to achieve: These goals are challenging because we have missed the earlier time windows to address the climate crisis. Therefore, we must take every step to ensure that we will achieve our goals by making them enforceable. Backing down and claiming defeat will bring unimaginable ramifications.
  • AQCC is an “unelected” entity and we should leave it to the legislators: Congress entrusts air pollution regulation to the EPA through the Clean Air Act. In the same vein, Colorado’s elected legislators have the power to entrust rulemaking authority to the government agency in charge of regulating air quality, with appointed commissioners supported by subject experts and career employees. We need certainty that we will meet our climate goals and AQCC is the entity best positioned to provide that certainty. AQCC won’t be doing this crucial work alone in a dark room, it will coordinate with other entities in and outside of the government and work with the public to achieve our climate goals.

Wildfires and drought are getting worse each year in Colorado, a sobering reminder that the climate crisis is already upon us. To avoid the worst impacts and protect future generations, we need the administration to be a champion for public health and pass bold policies that cut carbon pollution.

We strongly believe the current “try our best and see” approach is not good enough. 

Failure isn’t an option when it comes to addressing the climate crisis, and every day of delay jeopardizes our health and the environment, and in particular harms our low income and BIPOC communities who are most at risk. We need certainty that we will hit our state’s climate targets. We urge the Governor to sign SB-200, which does that by equitably implementing his Climate Roadmap.

Battling climate change is a cooperative and global effort. Colorado is capable of leading the way, but we have to start right now and proceed with full determination. We have reached a point of history when true leadership is essential, and it’s our sincere hope that Governor Polis will answer the call. Our children and future generations are counting on that.

Join us this Saturday at The Green on 1056 Canyon Blvd. at 11am for the climate march and noon for the climate rally!

Sani Field and Ning Mosberger-Tang belong to the Boulder-based Blue Wave Postcard Movement.

This piece is co-signed by:

350 Colorado

Arvadans for Progressive Action

Blue Wave Postcard Movement

Call to Action Colorado

Catholic Network US

Center for Biological Diversity

Clean Energy Action

Climate Together Nederland

Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate

Colorado Small Business Coalition

Colorado Businesses for a Livable Climate

Colorado Friends of Democracy

Colorado Rising

Colorado Working Families Party

Conservation Colorado

Defend Our Future

DeSmog Denver

EcoCycle

Empower Our Future

Forever Indivisible

Indivisible Ambassadors

Indivisible Aspen

Indivisible Colorado Action Network

Indivisible Colorado Environment

Indivisible Colorado Legislative Table

Indivisible Denver

Indivisible Front Range Resistance

Indivisible Highlands Ranch

Indivisible Mountain Resistance

Indivisible South Boulder

Jeffco CAN

Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety and Environment 

LOGIC Action

Longmont Area Democrats

Longmont Leads with Love

Moms Clean AIr Force, Colorado Chapter

Mothers Out Front

Mountain Mamas

Natural Resources Defense Council

New Era Colorado

North Range Concerned Citizens

Progress Now Colorado

Resilient Denver 

Signal Tech Coalition

Sunrise Movement Colorado Springs

Sustainable Resilient Longmont

Unite North Metro Denver

WildEarth Guardians

Action Alert: Tell Governor Polis That Colorado Needs to Take Meaningful Action on the Climate Crisis

Governor Jared Polis recently threatened to veto SB21-200:  Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice, which would require the Colorado Air Quality Commission to move more quickly toward putting rules in place to meet Colorado’s GHG emissions reduction goals.  Please send Polis a message telling him not to get in the way of passing this important legislation.  A sample message, contact information, and a link to a Colorado Sun article on Polis’ veto threat follow:

  1. Sample message (please personalize)

Subject: Please do not veto SB21-200

Dear Governor Polis:

I was shocked by your recent threat to veto SB21-200: Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice.”  This bill, while not perfect, would help ensure that Colorado does its part to address the climate crisis by meeting its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals for 2025 and 2030.

Your claim that the bill would give “dictatorial authority over our economy to one unelected board” rings hollow for several reasons.  First, the board you referred to, the Air Quality Control Commission, was given rulemaking authority concerning GHGs in a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by you two years ago.  Second, commission members are appointed by you and approved by the State Senate.  And third, the rulemaking process is open to all state residents, who broadly support taking action on the climate crisis.

Achieving 26% GHG emissions reductions by 2025 and then 50% reductions by 2030 is doable, but will require a serious effort by all Coloradans.  SB21-200 will help us succeed in this task.  Please do not obstruct passage of this important legislation.

2. Contact information: To send a message to Governor Polis, use the contact form available on his website here: https://www.colorado.gov/governor/share-comments.

3. For more background on the Governor’s veto threat, see this Colorado Sun article: https://coloradosun.com/2021/04/28/senate-bill-200-jared-polis-veto-threat/.

Coal Burning Not the Right Path to Secure Pueblo’s Future

Published in the Pueblo Chieftain on April 23rd, 2021

Let me be clear. I stand in strong support of the Pueblo community and the bright future that I believe you are on track for.

It is highly unlikely, however, that attempting to burn coal at Pueblo Unit 3 (a.k.a. “Comanche 3”) for another 19 years will be a successful strategy.

In short, the US coal industry is in structural decline and Xcel or anyone else who suggests that coal will just “fall out of the sky” until 2040 is not paying attention.

Knowledge is power. Facts matter. Here are a few facts to consider.

First of all, there is no indication that the Comanche people (the Nermernuh or Nʉmʉnʉʉ) were consulted or would want a coal plant named after them, so I will refer to the plant as Pueblo Unit 3.

The large surface mines in Wyoming that provide coal to the Pueblo plants, including Pueblo Unit 3, are playing out and are quickly becoming defined by their large reclamation obligations rather than by the value of the remaining coal.

For many years the Pueblo coal plants were supplied by the Belle Ayr mine in the Powder River Basin (PRB) south of Gillette in northeast Wyoming. The Belle Ayr mine is now largely depleted and has changed hands at least four times in this century. The last two times the Belle Ayr mine changed hands, the seller paid the buyer to take the mine. Yes — the seller paid the buyer – because the buyer was, in theory, assuming the very large reclamation obligations for the mine.

Recently, Xcel has turned to the Black Thunder mine in Wyoming for much of the coal used in Pueblo. The Black Thunder mine is also being rapidly depleted. Moreover, the owner of the Black Thunder mine, Arch Resources, has said they want to get out of mining coal in Wyoming. Consequently, the Black Thunder coal mine is not likely to be a reliable source for the Pueblo coal plants either.

There are other coal mines in the Powder River Basin but they all face challenging geology and a troubled financial future. Mines in other areas of the United States are also playing out and are generally not profitable as witnessed by the flood of bankruptcies that have engulfed the US coal industry in recent years.

In short, advocating for burning coal to secure Pueblo’s future and provide tax revenues for the next 19 years is not a strategy that is likely to work due to coal supply issues — independent of all the moral and environmental reasons to stop burning coal as quickly as we can.

I don’t favor a coal-dependent strategy for Pueblo, but I stand in strong support of Pueblo receiving transition funding from Xcel. There are many ways this could be done.

As one example, Xcel in Colorado (Public Service Company of Colorado) reported $588 million in after-tax net income in 2020. If Xcel were to pay the approximately $17 million in property taxes that Pueblo is receiving from Pueblo Unit 3, they could still have over $570 million in profit left over. That is way more than adequate!

A scheme could be worked out to phase out transition payments over the next 10-20 years, including reducing payments when Pueblo receives property taxes from new solar developments while Pueblo learns to budget for the post-coal era.

Solar developers are clamoring to build solar projects in the Pueblo area (ask Xcel to see “JFH-5 in 21A-0096E” to see a map). Pueblo has the solar resource and the transmission capacity. That is a golden combination — in all senses of the word!

Clearly there are ways to help Pueblo through the transition that don’t require advocating to burn coal for another 19 years!

The problem with elected officials trying to protect property tax revenues by burning coal for another 19 years is that it is highly unlikely to work. Full stop. Under a coal-dependent strategy, Pueblo will be left with a much-shortened time frame to plan and budget for the post-fossil fuel era.

We’ve seen the effects of blind reliance on coal in the Powder River Basin communities of Wyoming. It isn’t a pretty sight — and certainly not something I would want for the community of Pueblo which I care deeply about!

Pueblo has already positioned itself to be the renewable energy capitol of Colorado. The Pueblo community deserves tremendous credit for this accomplishment and for the great civic pride that is now apparent to anyone who visits your City! Kudos! Keep going!

Don’t drive backwards into the future — it doesn’t work well! Don’t rely on the false promise of endless supplies of coal. They won’t show up. Negotiate with Xcel from a strong base of knowledge. Keep looking to the sun and wind and 21st century solutions for your community.

Pueblo’s future is bright indeed as long as you keep looking forward. I believe all of Colorado is cheering you on!

Leslie Glustrom is a Senior Advisor to Clean Energy Action which is based in Boulder and which works throughout Colorado and the US to accelerate the transition to the post-fossil fuel world.

PERA Should Divest from Fossil Fuels for the Climate as well as for Better Returns

Published in the Boulder Weekly on April 22nd, 2021

Colorado legislators and Colorado’s state pension fund — Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) — should be paying close attention to the fact that a bill, HB21-1246 PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Divestment From Fossil Fuel Companies, didn’t move forward in committee at the state legislature on April 19. To not divest from fossil fuels not only fails to take bold action to address the climate crisis but also fails beneficiaries in choosing to ignore the mounting evidence that funds that have divested are outperforming those that have not.

It is vital that Colorado continue to lead the fight against climate change in every way possible. It is our moral imperative to do so as climate change is a real and serious threat to the health, welfare and prosperity of all Coloradans, all U.S residents, and all people on the planet.

Maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production will unquestionably lead to a self-created catastrophe. Therefore the State of Colorado has an ethical responsibility to take steps to avert this disastrous result. Attempting to profit from investments in companies whose profits depend almost exclusively on the continuation of practices that cause climate breakdown (and adding insult to injury, losing money on those investments) is unacceptable and puts Colorado on the wrong side of history.

Colorado has codified into law HB19-1261, Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 26% by 2025, at least 50% by 2030 and at least 90% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Continuing to invest our public funds and pensions in fossil fuels does not serve us in achieving these goals.
The fossil fuel sector continues to struggle, with profits dropping, cash flow down, long-term debt loads rising and growth opportunities limited. A 2021 report by BlackRock examined hundreds of divestment actions of funds worldwide and concluded that portfolios experienced no negative financial impacts as a result of divesting from fossil fuels. In fact, they found evidence of improvement in returns for those funds.

The fossil fuel industry is suffering a prolonged downward trend, facing increased climate-related financial risk, and mounting concerns over the growing climate crisis. The number of lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages from the biggest contributors to climate change is growing. All of this significantly impacts the value of oil and gas companies and investment returns for PERA.

PERA should be actively working to mitigate climate-related financial risk, taking into account that at least two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves will not be monetized if we are to stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, which we must do in order to avert the worst climate impacts. According to the International Energy Agency, stranded asset estimates range from $304 billion to $100 trillion by 2035. Attempting to beat the market by holding these investments until the last possible moment is a high-risk strategy that doesn’t help our planet or PERA’s beneficiaries. As Bevis Longstreth, former SEC Commissioner, has stated: “It is entirely plausible, even predictable, that continuing to hold equities in fossil fuel companies will be ruled negligence.”

Legislators should take responsibility since PERA is currently not doing so. Our public money should not be invested in companies that are adversely impacting our collective health and further exacerbating the climate crisis.

Deborah McNamara is the campaign director for 350 Colorado. Kevin Cross is a spokesperson for the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate.

Action Alert: Write to House Energy and Environment Committee in Support of Community Choice Electricity

Please submit written testimony to members of the House Energy and Environment Committee in support of HB21-1269: PUC Study of Community Choice Energy before it is heard in committee on Thursday, April 29th. A sample letter, committee member contact information, and a fact sheet on the bill follow:

  1. Sample Letter (please personalize)

Subject:  Please vote ‘yes’ on HB21-1269 (PUC Study of Community Choice Energy)

Dear <Committee Member>,

I am writing to urge your ‘yes’ vote on HB21-1269, “PUC Study of Community Choice Energy,” when it is heard in Committee on April 29.

This bill would authorize a PUC investigation of a promising energy policy that would allow communities to choose their wholesale electricity supplier, while the utility continues to own and operate its distribution system and deliver electricity.  

Communities have their own local energy goals and priorities, and they deserve an opportunity to learn whether CCE might offer them a path to achieve their energy goals, whether those goals involve:

  • procuring cleaner energy faster,
  • lower electricity rates,
  • locally-relevant energy programs,
  • local energy generation, or
  • local economic development and jobs.

This bill does not authorize CCE.  It is only a study bill and does not change the status quo.  Communities deserve an opportunity to learn more about this promising energy option.

Please vote ‘yes’ on HB21-1269.  Thank you!

2. Members of the House Energy and Environment Committee are:

alex.valdez.house@state.co.us

edie.hooton.house@state.co.us

tracey.bernett.house@state.co.us

meg.froelich.house@state.co.us

dominique.jackson.house@state.co.us

andres.pico.house@state.co.us

emily.sirota.house@state.co.us

matt.soper.house@state.co.us

brianna.titone.house@state.co.us

tonya.van.beber.house@state.co.us

mike.weissman.house@state.co.us

perry.will.house@state.co.us

dan.woog.house@state.co.us

3. Fact sheet on the bill for download:

House Finance Committee Rejects PERA’s Divestment from Fossil Fuels

News released dated April 20th, 2021

COLORADO — On April 19th Colorado’s House Finance Committee heard HB21-1246 PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Divestment From Fossil Fuel Companies, which would have required Colorado’s state pension fund (Public Employees Retirement Association) to divest from fossil fuel companies. Proponents of the bill argued that to not divest from fossil fuels not only fails to take bold action to address the climate crisis but also fails beneficiaries in choosing to ignore the mounting evidence that divested funds are outperforming those that have not. Despite strong arguments in favor and a hearing that lasted over three hours in duration, the bill did not move forward.

A 2021 report by BlackRock examined hundreds of divestment actions of funds worldwide and concluded that portfolios experienced no negative financial impacts as a result of divesting from fossil fuels. In fact, they found evidence of improvement in returns for those funds.

PERA maintained that decisions on investments are best decided by the PERA Board of Trustees and the PERA investment team, yet has released a Statement on Divestment citing that PERA will not make decisions on divestment unless told to do so by the Colorado General Assembly. 

“Current market factors and recent support for divestment actions by the world’s largest and most prestigious investment advisor (BlackRock) have shed new light on these concerns,” said Tom Sanzillo, Director of Financial Analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Taken together, the best analysis of current market forces suggests that the arguments for divestment from fossil fuels—and particularly the rationale and methods outlined in HB 1246—are powerful and compelling. They make a clear case that passage of HB 1246 is likely to improve performance, incur modest costs and offer a prudent approach to manage risks faced by the fund and its existing employees and retirees. The oil and gas sector, once the leader of the world economy, is now among the worst performers. This has been true for almost a decade, and its long-term outlook is negative.”

Colorado’s Fossil Free PERA has submitted formal appeals on the matter since at least 2019, outlining the fiduciary imperative to divest from fossil fuels and citing potential losses in returns, increased climate-related financial risk, and mounting concerns over the growing climate crisis and adverse impacts of fossil fuel investments on local communities.

“The fossil fuel industry is suffering a prolonged downward trend, facing increased climate-related financial risk, and mounting concerns over the growing climate crisis. The number of lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages from the biggest contributors to climate change is growing,” says Devon Reynolds, Colorado PERA member, University of Colorado Graduate Student Employee. “All of this significantly impacts the value of oil and gas companies and investment returns for PERA.”  

Colorado’s PERA has come under scrutiny for its fossil fuel investments in Suncor and Extraction Oil and Gas, two fossil fuel companies that have a long history of dangerous pollution violations, particularly near lower-income communities and communities of color. Over 850 letters have been sent to PERA Board, Director, and staff highlighting concerns and calling for divestment. 

“Maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production will unquestionably lead to a self-created catastrophe,” says Deborah McNamara, Campaign Director at 350 Colorado,  “Therefore the State of Colorado has an ethical responsibility to take steps to avert this disastrous result. Attempting to profit from investments in companies whose profits depend almost exclusively on the continuation of practices that cause climate breakdown (and adding insult to injury, losing money on those investments) is unacceptable and puts Colorado on the wrong side of history.” 

In December, New York State became the largest pension fund in the world to take comprehensive climate action, including fossil fuel divestment. The $226 billion state pension fund is reviewing and divesting from the riskiest oil and gas companies within four years and decarbonizing the entire fund by 2040. 

Over 1,110 institutions have now committed to policies black-listing some combination of coal, oil, and gas investments due to mounting concern over climate and litigation risk and adverse public health impacts associated with fossil fuel investments. These include sovereign wealth funds, banks, global asset managers and insurance companies, cities, pension funds, health care organizations, universities, faith groups, foundations, and the country of Ireland. Furthermore, the UN Secretary-General has advised pension funds to divest from fossil fuels. Over 145 pension funds have committed to divestment globally, and that number is growing each year. 

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Support HB21-1246: PERA Divestment From Fossil Fuel Companies

The CCLC voted unanimously to support HB21-1246 PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Divestment From Fossil Fuel Companies. It will be heard first by the House Finance Committee on Monday, 4/19. Please take one or more of the following actions to support passage of this bill as soon as possible.

  1. Please write to members of the House Finance Committee to express your support for this legislation. Email addresses and suggested talking points are provided below. We have also created a brief PERA Written Testimony Toolkit or your reference to make it as easy as possible to submit feedback. You can submit feedback via email or via the General Assembly portal (link in toolkit). It would be helpful to have testimony particularly from PERA members, as well as from reps of organizations.
  2. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor on this issue. Steps and sample language and letters found here – or draw from the talking points provided below.
  3. Send a note of thanks to the bill sponsors: repemilysirota@gmail.com, sonya.jaquez.lewis.senate@state.co.us

House Finance Committee Members:

Shannon.bird.house@state.co.us, adrienne.benavidez.house@state.co.us, marc.snyder.house@state.co.us, matt@matthewgray.us, mary.bradfield.house@state.co.us, janice.rich.house@state.co.us, lindsey.daugherty.house@state.co.us, shane.sandridge.house@state.co.us, cathy.kipp.house@state.co.us, Stephanie.Luck.house@state.co.us, serena.gonzales-gutierrez.house@state.co.us

Suggested General Talking Points: *Please also refer to the PERA Written Testimony Toolkit 

  • The fossil fuel sector continues to struggle, with profits dropping, cash flow down, long-term debt loads rising and growth opportunities limited. Investment risks continue to mount, and the number of lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages from the biggest contributors to climate change is growing. All of this significantly impacts the value of oil and gas companies and investment returns for the fund. 
  • A recent report by BlackRock, the world’s largest investment house, shows that those who have divested from fossil fuels have profited financially. After examining “divestment actions by hundreds of funds worldwide,” the BlackRock analysts concluded that the portfolios “experienced no negative financial impacts from divesting from fossil fuels. In fact, they found evidence of modest improvement in fund return.
  • Bankruptcy filings in the US Oil and Gas sector hit $297 billion in cumulative debt in 2020, and Colorado ranks the fifth highest state in the US for the number of oil and gas bankruptcies since 2015. Fossil fuels are a dying industry, and they are killing our planet.
  • The fossil fuel industry is in a continued downward trend, facing increased climate-related financial risk, and mounting concerns over the growing climate crisis. 
  • PERA continues to invest Coloradans’ public money in problematic fossil fuel companies such as Suncor and Extraction Oil and Gas, both under scrutiny for harming local communities through dangerous pollution violations, particularly near lower-income communities and communities of color. 
  • Our public money should not be invested in companies that are adversely impacting our public health and safety. 

35 Prominent Environmental Groups Submit Joint Letter to APCD Re: 2021 GHG Inventory

Released on March 30th, 2021

DENVER — On Monday, 350 Colorado and the Colorado Sierra Club along with the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, EcoCycle, Clean Energy Action, Resilient Denver and the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council submitted a joint comment to Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) on the 2021 Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. The joint comment applauds the APCD for its work in creating the 2021 Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, while highlighting several critical opportunities to strengthen this foundational climate document.

“The Draft 2021 GHG Inventory is a strong start, but misses several critical opportunities to provide policymakers and the general public with more information,” said 350 Colorado Climate Policy Analyst Duncan Gilchrist.

Organizations and technical experts from across the state echoed a concern of the APCD itself, pointing out that the Inventory Report relies heavily on estimates in place of concrete, Colorado-specific data. 

“Whether the issues are large, such as the stunning uncertainties in leakage from natural gas extraction and distribution, or local such as methane emissions from municipal waste, it is critical for Colorado to capture data on every potential carbon source, and every potential carbon sink. And it is our job as citizens to help Colorado do that well,” said President of Heron Scientific Seth Miller who helped lead the technical analysis of the draft inventory.

Further, signatories of the joint comment submitted to APCD emphasized that the Inventory Report does not accurately reflect the full climate footprint of Colorado’s oil and gas industry. The draft inventory excludes emissions data from our state’s exported, combusted oil and gas.

 “As we work to cut carbon pollution in Colorado, we must recognize the impact that fossil fuels extracted here but transported and burned outside Colorado have on the climate. The state’s greenhouse gas inventory should reflect those emissions so we can meaningfully take action on climate,” said Sierra Club of Colorado Deputy Director Emily Gedeon. 

Further signatories requested an explanation as to why the current Inventory Report assumes that oil and gas emissions will dramatically decrease over the next decade, while simultaneously assuming production will dramatically increase.

The joint comment also raises concern that in place of a ‘business as usual’ emissions scenario, the Draft Inventory simply uses Colorado’s aspirational emissions reduction targets as future projected emissions. Given that our state has yet to adopt policies that would achieve emissions cuts at necessary speed and scale, presenting aspirational emissions reductions as our current trajectory gives policymakers and the public at large the impressions that we are on track to meet our targets. Multiple ‘emissions gap’ analyses by Colorado climate groups indicate that this is not the case.

Groups expressed appreciation to Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division for their important work on this front and hope that the final draft will incorporate the recommendations that were made. 

If you are interested in reviewing the 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory you can do so here. If you are interested in reviewing the Joint Comment, you can do so here

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Quote deck:

“As we highlight in this report, national surveys show that 5% of oil and gas extraction operations release 50% of the sector’s methane emissions. Colorado needs to do more than simply estimate what ’typical’ oil and gas operators emit; we must monitor every site if we are to establish an accurate accounting of our state’s contribution to climate change.”

  • Seth Miller, President, Heron Scientific 

“As Jews and Christians celebrate Passover and Easter, we recount sacred stories of loss, resistance to a life-destroying systems, and eventual freedom for human communities and Creation. Improving Colorado’s GHG Inventory procedures is challenging. Yet, accurately counting the loss—all the harmful GHG emitted—empowers Colorado to transition to more life-giving, sustainable ways of living that frees future generations from the worst ravages of climate change.”

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