These are all of the energy and environment bills proposed in the 2021 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

HB21-1034 Consumer Right To Use Natural Gas Or Propane [Woog (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Prohibit any laws, regulations, or ordinances at any level of the state from limiting or prohibiting the installation of any system or appliance that uses natural gas or propane for cooking, hot water, space heating, or electrical generation, except for safety purposes. Also cannot otherwise limit a customer’s ability to use an existing system or appliance for these same purposes, again except for safety reasons.

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Some cities and counties in the state are eyeing banning new natural gas installations, as are state regulators
  • Natural gas is an integral part of Colorado life: around 70% of buildings in the state are hooked up to natural gas, about ¼ of our energy comes from natural gas, and we are home to the 2nd largest reserve of natural gas in North America
  • Natural gas is better in some ways than electricity for the end consumer. Natural gas stoves are easier to cook with—the heat comes on faster and is easier to control, and natural gas is cheaper than electricity, up to 30% on utility bills

In Further Detail: There is a growing movement to replace natural gas in new buildings with electricity by mandate. That is, even if you wanted natural gas heating or a natural gas stove, it would not be allowed. Denver is considering such a measure, as is Boulder county, and state regulators have openly discussed it. Natural gas is in an integral part of Colorado. The vast majority of our buildings use it, ¼ of the energy we generate comes from it, and we have a large industry that supports a lot of economic activity and jobs—including the second largest reserve of natural gas in North America. Consumers like natural gas too—it is cheaper than electricity, up to 30% on average in utility bills, and it is preferred for cooking. The heat comes on faster than electric stoves and is easier to control. If some people want to avoid natural gas for their homes or office buildings to try to help the environment that is their businesses. But we should not allow mandates that may cripple an important Colorado industry and take choice away from consumers.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Natural gas is a contributor to climate change and if we are going to meet our climate targets we will have to do something about greenhouse gas emissions caused by buildings, which includes methane-producing natural gas
  • We have renewable alternatives to natural gas and, like natural gas, we have abundant amounts of them: sun and wind
  • Ultimately this is about allowing governments to make their own choice, this bill would not let them or their elected officials decide for themselves

In Further Detail: Climate change is real and it is happening. We keep piling up record highs and collecting top 5 record warmest years. We have seen increased flooding in coastal areas and more dangerous storms (how many 100 year weather events can we have in the space of a few years?) More and more extreme fires hit our state seemingly every year. If the state is going to reach its carbon reduction goals, which are necessary to slow down climate change, buildings are going to have to be a target. Because right now we are behind. In Denver, for instance, the buildings in the city are a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions, and a chunk of that comes from the methane-based pollutant natural gas. And this is not a case where we don’t have an alternative: we can electrify everything and base that electricity on renewable solar and wind power, which we in abundance of in this state (sun and wind). Induction stoves are a perfectly viable replacement for gas stoves. But all of this will be up to the elected officials and their representatives of local governments and the state. If residents of the city of Denver support such a ban, then we should honor their choice.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1034

HB21-1037 Limit Designated Lands Gray Wolf Reintroduction (Rankin (R), Scott (R)) [Soper (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Gain about $800,000 from not implementing prop 114

Goal:

  • Bar the state from reintroducing grey wolves in counties that did not have a majority vote for proposition 114 (which directed the state to reintroduce grey wolves), unless the county has a subsequent election which approves the reintroduction. Also ban reintroduction in counties where prey of the grey wolf is either on the endangered species list or the state has spent money to reintroduce or restore the species

Description:

Proposition 114 authorized the reintroduction of grey wolves in Colorado in lands west of the Continental Divide that the state determines are consistent with its plan to restore and manage the wolves.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The people who are going to be affected by this voted against proposition 114. It is not fair to those residents that this passed due to the overwhelming influence of the Front Range counties, which of course won’t bear any burden from the measure
  • It is counterproductive for the state to introduce these wolves into counties where they may lower the populations of endangered species or other species the state has spent money on reintroducing

In Further Detail: The area of the state that will be affected by this, counties west of the Continental Divide, rejected the measure, with the exception of Summit, Pitkin, San Miguel, San Juan, and La Plata counties. It is unfair to them that the Front Range, which won’t at all be affected by wolves preying on their livestock, won’t bear any burden for a measure they are forcing on the rest of the state. Is also makes no sense to bring wolves into an area where they will prey on species that are endangered or that the state has spent money on reintroducing to the area. It forces us to spend money and play on both sides of the predator/prey equation.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is voter nullification. Our system of government works on majority rule, the minority does not get to overturn the election because they do not like the results. This is true no matter how the measure being voted on affects the state
  • A tiny population of grey wolves is unlikely to tip the balance against any species of prey

In Further Detail: This just isn’t how American democracy works. The voters have spoken. You don’t get to nullify their desires by making it impossible to enact their will. It does not matter how a measure affects various parts of the state: we are constantly voting on things that will affect some people more than others. Majority rules, that’s how our system works. As for the prey issue, we are reintroducing a species that is not in the state. Their numbers are going to be small and actively managed by the state. It is not likely to tip the balance against any species of prey.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1037

HB21-1040 General Fund Money For Reintroduction Of Wolves (Donovan (D), Rankin (R)) [Will (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require any money spent to reintroduce grey wolves into Colorado be spent from the general fund. This includes money paid out to cover losses of livestock to wolves.

Description:

Proposition 114 was passed last year and requires reintroduction of grey wolves into Colorado. Its text requires compensation for livestock losses to be paid from the wildlife cash fund to the extent possible, and funding for the entire program to look to the wildlife cash fund first, then other sources if necessary.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This fund is not capable of funding this activity, payouts for livestock compensation in particular need to have a steady source of revenue, without hurting other operations. It relies almost entirely on donations, and brings in less than $200,000 a year
  • The fund is lodged in a state enterprise, which by law must receive 90% of its revenues from sources other taxes or the general fund. We cannot setup a situation where the enterprise status of the entire parks and wildlife department is threatened because this cash fund doesn’t have enough money to fund all that grey wolf reintroduction entails

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is what the wildlife cash fund is designed for, managing or recovering wildlife that is endangered in the state. If the fund needs more money, the state can do that in the budgeting process—it is very, very unlikely it will endanger the enterprise status of the division of parks and wildlife, this is a drop in the bucket for them in terms of their overall $300 million+ annual revenues

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1040

HB21-1045 Invasive Pest Control Administration (Fields (D)) [Young (D), D. Valdez (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Create a fund that the state can use to implement emergency measures to control or eradicate invasive pests, as well as enter into agreements with other parties for the government to provide pest control services (which we can require payment for) and work with the federal government to implement joint programs to fight spread of regulated non-quarantine pests
  • Allow the state to quarantine items that could harbor invasive pests, like organisms, materials, tangible objects, or substances, if that pest has economically unacceptable impacts and if the quarantine may achieve an acceptable level of control

Description:

The fund is called the emergency invasive-pest response fund and can accept gifts, grants, and donations and also can be given excess funds from the state’s environmental protection cash fund at the end of a fiscal year.

Emergency measures can be taken if the state determines any item harbors or is infected with a pest, communicable disease, noxious weed, or arthropod that may cause damage or harm to industries or communities within the state. It does not have to harm the public generally. These measure can include grants, supporting local governments, or coordinating with industry.

The joint federal programs occur to allow the state to treat plant pests that are not regulated by federal agencies as if there were at port of entry into the state.

State can contract with individuals or with local governments to provide pest control. Any payment for these services goes into the fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Invasive pests do tremendous damage to the state in multiple ways and once they are established in the state it is nearly impossible to eradicate them, so it makes sense to have a centralized response available to try to stop any invasion before it gets going
  • Many rural areas of the state may struggle with qualified pest control, so it makes sense to fund this effort in part with contracting out these expert services across the state

In Further Detail: Weeds, beetles, aquatic species, and other pests can do a tremendous amount of damage in the state. A 2014 research paper on noxious weeds estimated an annual cost of $14 million to the state of just the top ten noxious weeds. The total damage from all invasive pests is hard to quantify, but we know it is enormous. One of the most high-profile examples of invasive species in the state are the beetles that have killed so many evergreens in the mountains, which greatly raises the fire danger in these areas. Having tools to try to stop these invasions before they become widespread is critical because once an invasive pest gets a secure hold, it is nearly impossible to eradicate. One potential danger area in combatting these invasions is inadvertently causing a brand new problem via the solution—planting certain kinds of ground cover for instance. So having a centralized response available which can act quickly and with expertise makes sense. Allowing this entity to be potentially self-sufficient by leveraging its expertise to help people who may be struggling to contract with pest control companies in their area will also potentially allow us to provide these emergency services without needing state tax money. It is a big state, and in many rural areas it may be harder to get qualified pest control services.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This puts the state government in direct competition with a multitude of for-profit pest control businesses, a competition the state will win because it doesn’t need to make a profit on its services
  • This gives too much control to the commissioner of agriculture, who makes the decisions about emergency measures and quarantine

In Further Detail: The state should not be directly competing with for-profit businesses unless there is an extremely compelling case for doing so. Raising money so we don’t have to use taxpayer dollars is not one. There are no geographic or competitive restrictions in the bill, so the state would be free to offer cut-rate pest control services in any part of the state. This also gives the commissioner of agriculture sole say in determining what is and is not something that needs emergency quarantine, which can have negative aspects on businesses. There needs to be some sort of appeal or group decision process here.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1045

SB21-033 Conservation Easement Working Group Proposals (Sonnenberg (R))

Appropriation: $5 million taken from tax credits for easements this year
Fiscal Impact: One-time loss of $149 in refunded tax credits, rest not yet released

Goal:

  • Properly compensate taxpayers who were improperly denied tax credits between 2000 and 2013 for conservation easements, based on the value accepted by the IRS with some adjustments and create an ombudsperson to handle disputes related to easements that were transferred to someone else.

Description:

The credit due to the taxpayer is based on the value accepted by the IRS, reduced by any amount that was subsequently allowed or reinstated to the taxpayer. Bill provides a process for resolving who gets the credit if it was transferred to another taxpayer. Compensation is limited by number of available unused credits from 2013-2019. If that is not sufficient to pay everyone who is owed money, the ceiling is boosted by 50% and future years are reduced by the same amount (so the total spent remains the same over time). Claims paid out in order received. State must notify every taxpayer who had a claim denied in these years. Claimants have until the end of next year to apply for their credits.

The ombudsperson may be an employee of the state or another professional with knowledge of conservation easement transactions. If the parties cannot come to an agreement with the ombudsperson’s assistance, then it may be referred to an arbitrator for final judgment (state pays for this).

Additional Information:

State must have information on the program and how to apply online by August 15, 2021. Taxpayers applying for compensation must include the following: a copy of the federal tax form used to substantiate the federal tax deduction and if the amount was adjusted, documentation confirming the amount ultimately allowed by the IRS. If more than one person has claim to these credits they can work together. Applicants must attempt to notify anyone who would be eligible for a portion of the credits and anyone who receives this notice has 90 days to file an objection. Objection must state the alternative compensation proposed. Ombudsperson to sort these objections out. State must release funds 30 days after final resolution (or if there was no objection, 30 days after objection deadline expired). Taxpayers have until October 2022 to apply.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The state owes people money, plain and simple, and we must pay them. This is the fairest way to do it
  • Separating the payment issue from the easement program going forward allows us to take of this long-festering problem now while we work on the rest

In Further Detail: The state did great damage to a number of property holders between 2000 and 2013 by arbitrarily disallowing easement tax credits to landowners who were doing everything right on their end. To the tune of more than $144 million over those 14 years. This bill is a bipartisan agreement following careful study of how to remedy that harm and allow the easement program to move forward into a new era that will allow it to serve its mission of protecting our natural resources while rewarding property owners who participate. As for leaving out the rest of the recommendations of the study group mentioned in Arguments Against, we need to make these folks whole now and separating out the repayment issue allows us to finally take care of it. We can tackle the rest of the recommendations separately.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Where is the rest? The bill last year that took the recommendations of the study group had a lot more to it: increased tax credits for new easements, an entire process to investigate abandoned easements.

In Further Detail: We had a bill last year that was derailed by COVID and the resulting budget crisis that was the full recommendation of the bipartisan working group on this subject. It had this repayment as part of it, but that was only half the bill. The rest dealt with increased tax credits from 75% to 90% of the land’s value for new easements and an entire complicated process for dealing with easements that may be abandoned.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-033

SB21-068 Concerning the enactment of the Colorado Revised Statutes 2020 as the positive and statutory law of the state of Colorado (Gardner (R), Lee (D)) [Soper (R), Snyder (D)]

TECHNICAL BILL

Description: Enacts the 2020 revised Colorado statutes as the law.

SB21-112 General Fund Transfer To Capital Construction Fund State Parks (Garcia (D), Simpson (R)) [McCluskie (D), Will (R)]

Appropriation: $20 million of general fund money
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Transfer $20 million of general fund money from the current fiscal year for infrastructure spending on state parks, with 12 specific parks targeted.

Description:

Specific parks are: Boyd Lake State Park, Lake Pueblo State Park, Fishers Peak State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, Ridgway State Park, Steamboat Lake State Park, North Sterling State Park, Chatfield State Park, Jackson Lake State Park, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Navajo State Park, and Cameo Shooting and Education Complex. Fishers Peak is the new state park just created by law last year.

Any unspent funds after three years revert back to the capital construction fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Our parks infrastructure needs a lot of help to keep up with exploding demand, especially a brand new park that has none, and we were planning to do that before COVID hit
  • We now have a huge surplus thanks to state and federal relief efforts to combat COVID and can spend even more than we planned last year to fund a critical part of Colorado’s economy
  • Fees are not an appropriate source for this revenue as we are interested in one-time infrastructure updates, not on-going revenues

In Further Detail: Before COVID hit last year, we were set to spend $10 million on park infrastructure including a sizeable amount to build up from scratch at Fishers Peak. Instead we spent $1 million and nothing at all on Fishers Peak. Even that $10 wasn’t going to be enough, state park usage has continued to dramatically climb, 2.2 million more visitors in 2018-19 than in 2014-15 and an explosion of 30% more during the pandemic. Now we have $1.8 billion in surplus funds thanks to much higher than expected tax revenues from last year. We already drastically increased a lot of parks and hunting and fishing fees just two years ago so we can’t simply go to that well again for more money and this is a one-time capital investment, not an on-going monetary need, so we don’t want a permanent flow of funds. This is quite simply an investment in a critical Colorado industry that generates $1.2 billion a year for our economy and an investment in what many love about our state (estimated additional $250,000 a year).

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We already have a wide array of fees that fund parks, including entrance fees. Those should be used if the parks need more money. With so many visitors each year small increases will cover it

In Further Detail: When we owe our schools hundreds of millions of dollars and have billions of dollars in transportation backlogs, we can’t simply spend 20 million dollars on our park system. The parks already charge fees to enter them, and we have other recreational activity fees we can leverage to raise more funds. If the money is so desperately needed, raise on the backs of the people using these parks and save the state funds for more critical areas. If the fee increases last year were not sufficient, then raise them some more. If 11 million people are visiting state parks each year, then it won’t take much of an increase to raise the $20 million required.


Bottom Line:

  • The bill last year let the parks system spend the money on any of the state’s 43 parks. We shouldn’t restrict spending to these 12, even if they are the ones needing the most help right now

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-112