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.

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

HB21-1162 Management Of Plastic Products PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1233 Conservation Easement Tax Credit Modifications PASSED
HB21-1266 Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1286 Energy Performance For Buildings PASSED AMENDED

MAJOR

HB21-1034 Consumer Right To Use Natural Gas Or Propane KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB21-1105 Low-income Utility Payment Assistance Contributions PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB21-1290 Additional Funding For Just Transition PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1303 Global Warming Potential For Public Project Materials PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

HB21-1037 Limit Designated Lands Gray Wolf Reintroduction KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB21-1045 Invasive Pest Control Administration SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1052 Define Pumped Hydroelectricity As Renewable Energy SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1149 Energy Sector Career Pathway In Higher Education SIGNED INTO LAW VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1189 Regulate Air Toxics PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1238 Public Utilities Commission Modernize Gas Utility Demand-side Management Standards PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1253 Renewable And Clean Energy Project Grants (state stimulus bill) SIGNED INTO LAW
HB21-1326 2020-21 General Fund Transfer Support Department Of Natural Resources Programs PASSED

MINOR+

HB21-1131 Cooperative Electric Associations Governance Requirements SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1160 Care Of Dogs And Cats In Pet Animal Facilities SIGNED INTO LAW VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
HB21-1318 Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program PASSED
HB21-1324 Promote Innovative And Clean Energy Technologies PASSED AMENDED

MINOR

HB21-1040 General Fund Money For Reintroduction Of Wolves KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB21-1118 Backcountry Search And Rescue In Colorado KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB21-1226 More Robust Check Station Aquatic Nuisance Species SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB21-1243 Wolf Reintroduction Funding With No License Fees PASSED
HB21-1269 Public Utilities Commission Study Of Community Choice Energy PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1284 Limit Fee Install Active Solar Energy System PASSED

TECHNICAL

HB21-1156 Fix Defects Related To Severance Withholdings SIGNED INTO LAW

Senate

Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

SB21-033 Conservation Easement Working Group Proposals KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
SB21-072 Public Utilities Commission Modernize Electric Transmission Infrastructure PASSED AMENDED
SB21-200 Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice KILLED ON SENATE CALENDAR AMENDED

MAJOR

SB21-161 Voluntary Reduce Greenhouse Gas Natural Gas Utility KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB21-230 Transfer To Colorado Energy Office Energy Fund (state stimulus bill) SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
SB21-249 Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass PASSED AMENDED
SB21-264 Adopt Programs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Utilities PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

SB21-108 Public Utilities Commission Gas Utility Safety Inspection Authority PASSED AMENDED
SB21-112 General Fund Transfer To Capital Construction Fund State Parks SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-168 Hunting Or Fishing License State Wildlife Area KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

MINOR+

SB21-103 Sunset Office Of Consumer Counsel PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
SB21-105 Implement And Finance Gray Wolf Reintroduction KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB21-135 Prohibit Exotic Animals In Traveling Performances CONFERENCE COMMITTEE AMENDED
SB21-149 Wind Energy Facilities Sited Near Military Operations KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB21-150 Reserve Big Game Hunting Licenses For Residents KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB21-170 Wildland Fire Mitigation Cooperative Electric Association KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB21-246 Electric Utility Promote Beneficial Electrification PASSED AMENDED
SB21-261 Public Utilities Commission Encourage Renewable Energy Generation PASSED AMENDED
SB21-272 Measures To Modernize The Public Utilities Commission SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED

MINOR

SB21-125 Alternate Proposals Air Quality Control Rulemaking KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB21-136 Sunset Forest Health Advisory Council SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-180 Recycling And Composting Enterprise Grant Program KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
SB21-245 Backcountry Search And Rescue In Colorado PASSED AMENDED

TECHNICAL

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

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

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)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

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

Goal:

  • Bar the state from reintroducing gray wolves in counties that did not have a majority vote for proposition 114 (which directed the state to reintroduce gray wolves), unless the county has a subsequent election which approves the reintroduction. Also ban reintroduction in counties where prey of the gray 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 gray 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 gray 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)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require any money spent to reintroduce gray wolves into Colorado be spent from money appropriated by the state to the general fund, the species conservation trust fund, the Colorado nongame conservation and wildlife restoration cash fund, or the wildlife cash fund. State may accept gifts, grants, or donations. This includes money paid out to cover losses of livestock to wolves.

Description:

Proposition 114 was passed last year and requires reintroduction of gray 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 gray 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)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

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

HB21-1052 Define Pumped Hydroelectricity As Renewable Energy (Woodward (R)) [McKean (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow pumped hydroelectric facilities to be classified as a source of recycled energy, which makes them renewable energy under state law for purposes of statewide electricity standards. Must not use fossil fuel to pump water, not be located on a natural waterway, include measures to prevent fish mortality, does not impact any decreed in-stream flow, and does not cause any violation of state water standards

Description:

The state requires each large electricity provider to obtain minimum percentages of their electricity from recycled or renewable energy. Those percentages are set to rise in the future as we try to move toward renewable energy sources.

Commonly called pumped-storage hydroelectricity, pumped hydroelectric facilities convert excess electrical energy into stored energy by pumping water vertically into a storage pond for later use. It is mainly used by electric power grids for load balancing. Low-cost surplus off-peak electric power is used to pump water from lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation. It is frequently paired with renewable energy sources like solar and wind that are intermittent so as to save energy for later.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • A huge part of the puzzle when it comes to renewable energy for electricity is load-management for intermittent wind and solar power. Pumped hydroelectricity is far and away the most viable current option for doing so and critically it is also a clean energy process
  • Energy storage is something we need more of regardless: the events in Texas may not have occurred in Colorado but we did have some shortages and greatly increased pricing
  • The idea of perfect storage where you lose no energy in the process does not exist and would be foolish to try to require—utilities are also naturally going to go for the best process they can: they literally lose money on lost energy

In Further Detail: We absolutely need more energy storage in the state and we need it now, not in five years or whenever batteries are ready to be fully viable solutions economically and physically. While Colorado did not suffer large scale problems the way Texas did during that period of extreme cold weather we did have some of the same problems at smaller scale and could have used more reserve energy to pump into the system. Pumped hydroelectricity accounts for 95% of all utility-scale energy storage so it is a viable solution for right now. No carbon emissions have to be involved with the process, you do need energy to pump the water but that can be renewable. These systems are also built to last and can fire up rapidly. Can be sustainable without impact to outside systems for decades once they are built and can get to full power within 90 seconds of being turned on. Perfect energy storage, where you get out exactly what you put in, does not exist and it would be foolish to try to require it while ignoring perfectly viable storage solutions that do continue to have innovation, even if the underlying technology is older. And we don’t need mandates on efficiency—the more energy is lost in the transfer the more money utilities will lose: they will naturally pick the most efficient processes possible.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Pumped hydroelectricity is a net negative user of electric power. The process of pumping the water through to generate the electricity results in loss. The cycle generally has efficiency levels of 80%, which means we are losing 20% of the energy, and we have to use energy to pump the water. The bill makes no requirement on the amount of efficiency required
  • Water-based storage may not be the best bet for Colorado—we are too prone to drought (even more so in our climate changed affected future)
  • Pumped hydroelectricity can wreak havoc on natural eco-systems, it is not necessarily a green energy source
  • Part of the point of the minimum percentage mandates is to drive our utilities into the technologies of the future that will be necessary to achieve our net-zero goals

In Further Detail: There is no dispute that right now the cheapest and most scalable way to store energy on the scale that public utilities envision is through pumped hydroelectricity. But the process is net negative to a degree beyond just lost energy in storage: you have to use energy to pump all of that water you are storing and of course you lose some stored energy in the process (20%). So if we are thinking about replacing our always-on coal and gas plants with intermittently on solar and wind, energy loss through storage is a huge factor in viability. And the bill makes no requirement on how efficient these plants would have to be (obviously there is variation around the average). Furthermore, it relies on a resource that is extremely scarce in Colorado. Droughts may make it difficult for a utility to access the water it needs. And then you also have to make sure the water doesn’t freeze in the winter. Finally, part of the purpose of the minimum percentage standards is to force our public utilities into the future because that is the only way we will achieve our climate goals that involve renewable sources of electricity. Pumped hydroelectricity is technology from the 1970s. We also have to take care that in our haste to solve one problem we do not create another. Pumped hydroelectricity may be clean to operate, but to create the facility requires building ponds or dams that can negatively impact local ecosystems. Scaling up even further with this technology could create large problems.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1052

HB21-1105 Low-income Utility Payment Assistance Contributions (Hansen (D), Priola (R)) [Kennedy (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Probable savings of ~$3 to ~8 million a year in taxpayer dollars; ~$15 million increase in electricity costs for about 1.7 million Coloradans ($9 each)

Goal:

  • Move the state’s low-income energy assistance program (Energy Outreach Colorado) funding from severance taxes to a $1 $0.75 a month fee paid for by customers of investor-owned energy companies (so not member-owner, like co-ops) in the state. The fee starts at $0.50 in October 2021 and then goes up to $0.75 in October 2022. Anyone receiving assistance from the program does not have to pay the fee. Fee automatically expires in 2029
  • Create a new supplemental utility assistance program for people on food stamp programs (SNAP) by October 2023, that utilizes federal money available for energy assitance (federal program is called LIHEAP). The amount of aid received is determined by federal law
  • Changes the spending requirements for this program so that it spends no more than 50% 45% of what it brings in directly on utility bills for low-income people. The rest must be spent on financing energy retrofits in low-income households except that 2% is to be spent on outreach to qualified communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities
  • Create a voluntary, opt-in low-income water assistance program where utilities can opt to allow donations from their customers to the fund. Money brought in must be kept separate from the power utility funds. It can only be used to pay for direct assistance with water bills and only for customers of utilities that participate in the program

Description:

Currently the state can spend up to $6.5 million a year in severance taxes on this program. Current fiscal projections are that the fund will receive no money in the near-future (it has a lower priority than other things that get severance taxes). Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy are the only two investor-owned utilities in the state and serve about 1.7 million people. The program receives money from multiple sources other than the state government, mostly through donations. State money fluctuates as a percentage of all revenues, but was as low as 25% in 2019 and as high as 39% in 2020.

Requires utilities to include a statement on bills in both English and Spanish that notify consumers of the assistance program.

Bill also changes the composition of the state’s low-income energy assistance commission. It renames it the legislative commission on low-income energy and water assistance and drops its membership from 11 to 7, including making more specific requirements of the energy members of the commission (and dropping two of them), removing the two members of the general public and one of the two members who must have received low-income energy assistance. Exact new composition is in Additional Information. The commission is designated by the bill to serve as a policy advisor to the state’s energy office for dealing with federal grants, to any water utilities that participate in the program, and review the program’s budget.

The public utilities commission (different commission!) can change the $1 fee but cannot lower it below $1 $0.75 fee is tied to inflation.

The water utility program can use up to 5% of incoming donations to pay for administrative costs.

Additional Information:

Bill requires that all retrofits prioritize maximizing customer savings, reducing emissions, and improving indoor air quality.

New composition of the commission is:

  • Representative of department of human services (holdover)
  • Representative of the Colorado energy office (holdover)
  • Representative of Energy Outreach Colorado
  • One who has received low-income energy assistance or represents a entity that serves this population
  • One who represents an electric utility or combined electric/natural gas
  • One who represents a natural gas utility or combined natural gas/electric
  • One who represents a water utility

Bill specifies that tie votes on the commission fail.

Bill also modifies annual reporting requirements on this program to include information on optional water contributions, exactly how much is received from each investor-owned utility, how much was spent in each investor-owned utility’s area, and itemized accounting of the money in the program.


Auto-Repeal: Monthly fee in 2029

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is an extremely successful program that helps keep the lights on for thousands of families in the state every year—because electricity is a basic necessity for modern living and not having it is actively detrimental to all of us
  • This program also helps increase the efficiency of homes across the state, saving money and helping decrease pollution
  • Funding needs only continue to grow, and the fund already cannot serve all qualified applicants. In addition, the backbone of government funding, severance taxes, is a diminishing source that isn’t likely to be able to continue to contribute. The fee created by the bill is barely noticeable but will put the fund on solid ground
  • Water is just as necessary as electricity, starting on a voluntary basis will allow us to see if that model is sufficient to meet needs before jumping to mandatory fees or government funding

In Further Detail: This program was established in 1989 and has successfully helped Coloradans for over 30 years. We recognize that utility disconnections create unsafe housing conditions, increase the likelihood of eviction for renters, and increase the likelihood that someone working from home will not be able to due to a lack of electricity. We also recognize that lowering the energy needs in the future of Coloradans through retrofitting not only saves them money, but also lowers the amount of energy required for the state and decreases pollution, including pollutants that contribute to climate change. But funding needs continue to rise as energy needs and the state’s population grow, and the fund already cannot serve everyone qualified person who applies for help. In addition, severance taxes are diminishing in the state, from a combination of legislative action making fossil fuel extraction less attractive to businesses and various actions lowering the amount of severance tax paid. We need to find alternative funding streams and also provide more funding in general. Thus the $1 $0.75 monthly fee that the vast majority of energy customers will not even notice. That will add up to around $20 $15 million a year which will supplant any need for severance taxes or any other funds from state coffers. We also have the ability to tie into federal aid for assistance that we aren't currently doing. Providing sharper guidelines for spending will ensure we are maximizing our ability to lower future energy bills and help our environment while still helping to pay current bills. And for water, this is just as crucial as electricity. Starting with a voluntary fund allows us to see if we can meet the needs of our citizens without resorting to mandatory fees.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Financially the program already does not get the majority of its funds from the government, so an increase on this scale may be overkill
  • The argument for the water fund, voluntary first to see how it goes, could easily be extended to the electric fund

In Further Detail: This program already brings in the majority of its funds from non-government sources. So if we need to replace the roughly $7 million we’ve been chipping in, jumping right to around $20 $15 million seems like a large leap. Cut that in half and you’re saving Colorado energy consumers $10 million but still committing more to the fund than it was previously receiving at the point we are right now. And the argument that we can try voluntary first with water seems to also apply to electricity. Why not try voluntary contributions first to see if we can get enough, with some sort of safety net backstop of general fund money if we don’t? Some customers may donate much more than $12 a year to offset those who don’t donate anything.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1105

HB21-1118 Backcountry Search And Rescue In Colorado [D. Valdez (D), Will (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $200,000 to do the study

Goal:

  • Require state to conduct a study and develop recommendations on how to address the challenges associated with backcountry search and rescue, including improving coordination among different groups and agencies, workers’ compensation and retirement benefits for people providing search and rescue services including volunteers, compensation and reimbursement of expenses for volunteers, equipment availability, physical and psychological supports and resources, immunity issues and training for volunteers, and need for public outdoor safety education.

Description:

Report due by January 2021. Also requires state to conduct outreach and training on physical and psychological stress injuries and impacts faced by volunteers. May include working with consultants or creating a grant program but is not required to do either.

Additional Information:

Backcountry search and rescue is defined utilization, training, and support of responders with their specialized equipment, coordinated by a sheriff during emergencies or disasters in the state, including volunteer teams:

  • Locating lost or injured individuals in remote areas
  • Accessing individuals who are injured, stuck, stranded, or trapped
  • Recovering the bodies of deceased individuals
  • Assessing and mitigating hazardous terrain or conditions
  • Providing emergency on-scene medical and psychological care
  • Evacuating or transporting injured, stuck, stranded, or entrapped individuals
  • Providing public outdoor safety education
  • Providing for the physical and psychological well-being of first responders involved in backcountry search and rescue
  • Training individuals and teams to provide backcountry search and rescue services
  • Other related services performed on the orders of a sheriff

Study must consult with: county sheriffs, public and non-profit backcountry search and rescue organizations, department of public safety, department of local affairs, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, local governments, and other entities affected by or involved with backcountry search and rescue.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Backcountry search and rescue is obviously important in Colorado and is best accomplished with coordination across governmental agencies
  • Volunteers risk their health in sometimes dangerous conditions and deserve some thought of protection
  • This problem is getting worse as more people use our backcountry and costs and strains on our rural communities are rising. We need an all-hands on deck approach to finding solutions

In Further Detail: Backcountry search and rescue is a vital service ensuring the safety of Colorado residents and visitors and is best accomplished with the cooperation and coordination of local backcountry search and rescue teams, county sheriffs, the Colorado National Guard, other local partners, and state, local, and federal government agencies. And volunteer first responders risk their health in braving sometimes dangerous conditions in backcountry areas to help anyone in need. And the need is rising, as more people move to the state and more people, including visitors, seek to enjoy our backcountry, unfortunately not always safely. As a result, rescues are on the rise, as are costs, which puts strain on our backcountry rescuers and on our rural communities. So we need an all-hands on deck examination of what we can do to make this work better for everyone involved. We can increase public safety, the safety and well-being of our rescuers, and the economic well-being of our rural communities.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We should have more personal responsibility from the person who needs rescue here in shouldering some of the costs involved
  • Volunteers are volunteers—they don’t deserve all of the elements of a job, compensation and benefits

In Further Detail: Right now we generate some state funding for backcountry search and rescue for a variety of outdoors activities but we really should come down more on the side of personal responsibility here. Anyone who has to be rescued should be paying some sort of penalty that begins to address the costs involved with having to save them. And if that is not enough, then we can look into perhaps increasing these other fees. As for the volunteers, they are by definition, there without compensation and of their own free will because they want to help. And that is laudable and noble. But it is not something that deserves compensation, retirement benefits, workers’ compensation, and repayment of expenses. All of those things come with a job, and this is not a job.

HB21-1131 Cooperative Electric Associations Governance Requirements (Winter (D), Coram (R)) [Amabile (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Remove exemption from governance and transparency laws for cooperative electric associations that have fewer than 25,000 members. Make all governance and transparency laws for associations also apply to non-profit generation and transmission cooperative electric associations that provide wholesale service directly to state cooperative electric associations that are also its members
  • Require all associations to post on their website their current rates and net metering requirements. Must also keep and make available upon request to any member of the association all financial audits conducted within the last three fiscal years
  • Allow associations to authorize virtual meetings and virtual voting, so long as the voting system is secure and verifiable
  • Require associations to adopt written policies on compensation and disclosure of conflict of interest for its board members and require those members to fulfill duty of loyalty to association at all times unless they are also on the board of a generation and transmission association

Description:

Cooperative electric associations are private non-profits who are member owned and operated. They deliver electricity to their members. Colorado has two power suppliers and 22 electricity distributors that are co-ops in the state. They cover most of the state’s geographic area.

Written compensation policies must include policies on gifts and per diems. The conflict of interest disclosures must include situations where a decision could provide financial or other material benefit to: the director, their family, or an entity in which the director is an officer or director or has a financial interest.

Bill also defines joint membership, where more than one person is treated as a single member of the association. This could be a house owned by multiple people, for instance, like a vacation condo. Joint members get one vote but any joint member can make that vote.

Secure and verifiable system for elections means one that saves and is capable of producing the records necessary for an audit of the electronic transmission, including a paper record of all ballots.

Additional Information:

Bill changes a few things around board elections. First, election policies must be given to new members and given out on request. In addition to what is already required, the policy must also provide information on who is entitled to vote in an election, how joint members vote, and how members can obtain and cast ballots. Deadline to return ballot posting on website is changed from three months to two months prior to an election. Deadline to file for candidacy for the board is changed from 45 days to 60 days prior to the election. Clarifies that the member list each candidate is required to receive must be in electronic format and contain names and addresses of all members as they appear in association records.

Members who participate electronically count towards a quorum. Electronic board of directors meetings must allow members of the association the opportunity to address the board as already required by state law.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Co-ops exist to serve their membership, no matter their size, so it does not make sense to exclude smaller co-ops from the requirements of state law which ensure co-ops stay true to their mission
  • This extends to rates and financial information of the co-op: remember every member is also an owner
  • Informal policies around compensation and conflicts of interest lead to trouble

In Further Detail: It is critical to remember that every member of a co-op is also an owner. These organizations exist to serve their members and nothing more. So the state has a set of laws around their governance to ensure that individual members don’t try to take advantage of their fellow owners when the individuals get into positions of power in the co-op. It therefore does not make sense to exclude smaller co-ops (remember the cut-off was 25,000 members which is a lot of people), who are just as susceptible to this kind of potential problem, from these governance and transparency rules. They aren’t onerous. And members should always have access to rate and metering requirements, as well as access to financial records. They are the owners! When it comes to the board, informal and unwritten policies are made to be abused, even unintentionally. Written policies are always preferable. The rest of the bill is mostly modernizing rules around elections and meetings.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Small co-ops simply don’t have the same institutional capabilities as larger ones to handle paperwork and notification requirements, that’s why they are exempted
  • There are material differences that size make in terms of responsiveness: smaller co-ops are more likely to have members that all know each other, or least know of each through small degrees of separation

In Further Detail: We have the exemption for small co-ops because they simply don’t have the same institutional capabilities as the larger ones. They have fewer resources to fulfill the organizational requirements necessary to hold the public meetings, get out agendas, and support strict formal elections guidelines for their boards. And there are material differences that can make board governance issues less likely for smaller co-ops: they are likely to be more geographically compact and the members are more likely to either know each other or be connected through only 1 or 2 degrees of separation.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1131

HB21-1149 Energy Sector Career Pathway In Higher Education (Story (D)) [Jackson (D), Titone (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $5,090,048
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Require the state’s work force development council, in collaboration with its partners, to create a career pathway for students in the energy sector. This would allow them to take advantage of existing programs designed to help high school students achieve industry credentials or work experience in these career pathways that can be translated into college credit and/or better access to jobs that require these credentials and/or experience
  • Creates the Strengthening Photovoltaic and Renewable Careers Workforce Development Program to expand opportunities in this energy sector created career pathway. This includes: expanding capacity of training programs, supporting apprenticeships, training, and education in the pathway. Program must not circumvent any legal training or credential requirements for jobs. Bill creates a fund for this program and appropriates $5 million to it. Program repeals in July 2026.

Description:

Energy sector is defined as electromechanical generation and maintenance, electrical energy transmission and distribution, energy efficiency and environmental technology, fossil energy extraction, processing, and distribution, and renewable energy production.

Specifically the workforce development program can pay for: career and training counseling, career and academic exploration and planning, scholarships, employer-provided training, apprenticeships, career and technical education, work-based training opportunities, need-based services, transportation, equipment and supplies, retention services, training program development and implementation, and workforce development program implementation and adminstrative costs.

The program is to be run by the state board for community colleges and occupational education, in consultation with the department of higher education and funding goes to public institutions of higher education in the state, local workforce development areas, and other partners, including community-based non-profit organizations. Must report annually to the legislature on the program and how money was spent.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This program is an excellent way to fast track students into high paying jobs that are in demand, and the energy sector, already a huge employer in the state, is poised to explode as we push to electrify everything and create huge new sources of renewable energy across the state. It is an ideal choice for these career pathway programs
  • It also makes strong sense to build structural supports for this career pathway and put some money behind it. Given our strong climate push, these are literally the well-paying jobs of the future. This industry grew 15% from 2014 to 2019 and is poised to grow 9% from 2019 to 2024, which may even low-ball growth considering the pace of legislative change and money being thrown at clean energy

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • A different bill in this session is requiring this same council to come up with its top ten jobs, based on demand and wage potential. The energy jobs that are truly going to be in high demand can make that list. This bill will force the inclusion of other jobs that are unlikely to be huge winners ten years from now, in the fossil fuel industry
  • This is an awfully vague way to spend $5 million. There is no grant process, which means no application process and no prioritization. We are essentially handing this board $5 million and telling them to go spend it how they please (including no limit on how much they can spend on administrative costs) on helping create clean energy jobs, then come back and tell us what they did when it is all over
  • We should not be putting our thumbs on the scales like this in favor of clean energy development, which will almost certainly come at the expense of our existing (and large) fossil fuel industry in the state

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1149

HB21-1156 Fix Defects Related To Severance Withholdings (Kirkmeyer (R), Zenzinger (D)) [Lynch (R), Pico (R)]

TECHNICAL BILL

SIGNED INTO LAW

Description: Fixes technical errors and obsolete references in oil and gas severance withholding laws.

HB21-1160 Care Of Dogs And Cats In Pet Animal Facilities (Ginal (D), Coram (R)) [Duran (D), Soper (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Very Signficant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require all animal shelters and pet animal rescues to provide each dog and cat in their care timely veterinary care, to address the behavioral needs of the animals and ensure they are not kept in a manner that fosters obsessive compulsive or self-mutilating behavior. It also requires them to adopt out each dog in cat in its custody, return it to its owner, or transfer to another shelter if the animal either exhibits no sign of illness or injury or if the animal has an illness or injury for which there is a reasonable prognosis for a good quality of life and it is willing to interact socially with humans and it has not exhibited dangerous behavior towards other animal or humans.

Description: Makes it illegal to import or cause to be imported any dog or cat into the state for sale by a pet animal facility unless the animal has a certificate of veterinary health and if the animal is over 6 months old, proof of rabies vaccination.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • In essence, we are banning kill-shelters and rescues where animals can be put to death if they are not adopted out of the shelter in a timely enough manner or if the shelter runs out of space. This practice is already very rare in Colorado and the state has an established and well-organized transfer program to facilitate moving animals and placing them into the community when it is appropriate The bill ensures that no facility is bringing unhealthy animals into the state
  • This bill enshrines this practice into law while also putting safeguards into law to prevent dangerous cats and dogs from being dumped into communities. It also ensures the animals are kept in humane conditions. We have one of the best pet welfare systems in the country and this bill builds upon that tradition

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We need to be careful we aren’t setting standards we cannot keep. There are only so many households in this state and with dogs and cats being imported into the state for sale, we naturally end up with tens of thousands going to shelters. If we must provide these pets with humane living conditions (and obviously we should), what happens if we cannot find room for an animal? The current system works pretty well, as we have one of the lower kill rates in the country and a pretty robust transfer system already. We should leave it as is. The bill has been gutted, instead of enshrining no-kill practices into law it instead just tries to keep unhealthy animals from being brought into the state

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1160

HB21-1162 Management Of Plastic Products (Gonzales (D), Garcia (D)) [A. Valdez (D), Cutter (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $50,000 a year to the state, unknown larger amount to school districts (up to $5 million)

Goal:

  • Ban stores and restaurants from providing single-use plastic carry-out bags (with some exceptions, see Additional Information) and expanded polystyrene food service products to customers at point of sale after September 2022 January 2024 for plastic bags and January 2022 for polystyrene containers. Plastic bag inventory purchased prior to September 2022 January 2024 can be used before April 2023 June 2024 but the customer must be charged at least $0.10 per bag (see below for more detail). Polystyrene inventory purchased before January 2022 2024 can be used until depleted. Stores with three or fewer locations that operate exclusively in Colorado and are not part of a larger chain are excluded
  • Stores must charge customers at least $0.10 per bag if they provide recyclable paper bags instead and must charge the same fee for single-use plastic bags until September 2022. 60% of money goes to city or county store is located in, store keeps 40%
  • Lifts the ban on local governments from enacting their own plastics requirements or bans on in July 2023 so long as they are not less strict than state law Lifts the ban on local governments from enacting their own plastics requirements or bans on in July 2024 so long as they are not less strict than state law

Description:

Stores cannot refund the bag fee to customers in any way but customers who can prove they are in federal or state food assistance programs are exempt. Store must notify customers on receipt of number of bags charged and must have prominent signs indicating the bag fee.

Schools do not have to comply with the polystyrene ban until 2023 2024 if it is anything other than a high school and 2024 2025 for high schools. Farmer's markets and roadside markets are excluded entirely.

Cities and counties (for unincorporated areas) can fine up to $500 for a second violation and $1,000 for third or subsequent violations. There are no state-level punishments in the bill.

Additional Information:

Bags used to contain prescription medicine at pharmacies, to package loose items together at a grocery store (like fruit or vegetables), or contain or wrap frozen foods or bakery goods or prepared foods to prevent contamination of other items or to hold small hardware parts are not included. Also does not include laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bags. Expanded polystyrene is defined as: blown polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, and any other expanded or extruded foam consisting of thermoplastic petrochemical materials utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by techniques that may include: fusion of polymer spheres, injection molding, foam molding, and extrusion-blow molding.

Restaurants that prepare or serve food in individual portions for immediate on or off premises consumption do not have to comply withe the bag ban.

Reusable carryout bag is defined as a bag that is designed and manufactured for at least 125 uses, can carry at least 22 pounds over 175 feet, has stitched handles, and is made of cloth, fiber, or other fabric or a recycled material such as polyethylene terephthalate. Does not include bags made of biologically based polymers such as corn or other plant sources except for hemp


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Plastics don’t biodegrade, they instead cause massive trash problems in our oceans and eventually get into animals and our food chain
  • People simply don’t recycle plastic bags and polystyrene food containers are generally unrecyclable
  • Places all over the world are enacting similar bans because we have ready alternatives
  • The bag fee will encourage people to get reusable bags and other cities that have similar fees see enormous amounts of decreased litter
  • Statewide action makes it easier for companies to navigate—and many of them already have to deal with similar laws in other locations

In Further Detail: Plastics do not biodegrade, they instead photodegrade into smaller and smaller pieces that eventually get into animals and then into our food chain. People simply don’t recycle plastic bags (the estimate from Waste Management is 1% of all bags). And it is estimated that in America we use over 100 billion plastic bags every year. Polystyrene food containers are generally unrecyclable because recycling companies won’t buy it. Forced recycling won’t help here, as already mentioned we have enough trouble getting items than can be recycled properly disposed of. So billions of these end up in landfills and it is not known how long they will take to degrade, but it is going to be a very long time and like a lot of our trash, it ends up in our oceans and hurts natural wildlife. There is also a danger of chemicals leeching into foods at higher temperatures and with certain foods. We are facing some truly scary ocean pollution risks when it comes to plastic, in terms of overall pollution and corruption of the food chain. New York is banning plastic bags and California already has. Hundreds of municipalities around the country have banned polystyrene containers. Entire countries have banned bags and containers, including polystyrene bans in India and China. We have replacements for all of these things, mostly multi-use bags made from other materials, biodegradable paper, and compostable plastics. The $0.10 bag charge should encourage customers to just obtain their own reusable bags. This can not only lead to large decreases in using store bags but also in litter. San Jose found decreases in litter of about 60% in waterways and streets after a nearly identical law change. Research on other similar bag fees around the country confirms that this happens. The honest answer about how much of the trash in our oceans comes what source is we don’t know. Lots of trash sinks to the ocean floor and thus cannot be counted and smaller items become unrecognizable more quickly than larger ones. Our plastic problem is urgent, a true emergency, so we also cannot wait for societal pressures and trends to sort this out over a longer time-frame. Statewide action also makes it easier for businesses to navigate, as they do not have to sort through local regulations. This is something we can do, with ready alternatives, which much of the rest of the world is also doing, and will help the problem.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The vast majority of the plastic waste in our oceans comes from different sources
  • You can already recycle plastic bags and if the issue with polystyrene is recycling companies won’t accept them, maybe that is where state is action is needed
  • Polystyrene is cheaper, so increased costs will likely get passed on to customers, and can retain the heat of the food for longer
  • Except of course for schools, which cannot pass on increased costs and have to eat them instead. This will almost certainly costs our schools millions around the state each year, at least initially
  • Allowing local government to enact even more strict laws could create a patchwork of rules for businesses to navigate

In Further Detail: It is believed the single greatest contributor of plastic to our oceans is fishing gear. Eight million tons of plastic flows into the ocean each year it is believed plastic bags account for much less than 1%, in part because of their size. This just isn’t going to do much to fix the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans and will instead inconvenience Coloradans who don’t want to drag their own bags everywhere. And we do have plastic bag recycling, you can drop them off at many King Soopers for instance. So rather than an outright ban and bag tax, let’s explore less confrontational ways to get people to be responsible consumers. For polystyrene, restaurants use these because they cost less than alternative products and because the material can retain the heat of the food for longer. The increased costs from alternatives are likely to be passed on to consumers. Except for schools (and prisons), which cannot pass these costs on and so have to eat the increase. The estimate from the fiscal note is that we are looking at millions each year across the state, up to $5 million potentially, in added costs. Sure that may come down over time through lowered costs for alternatives as more and more people use them, and the implementation for schools is out in the future so hopefully it does by then, but if not, this is a lot of money. If the issue is that this material is recyclable but that the process is too costly for recycling companies, perhaps that is where the state should step in, rather than on the restaurant/consumer side of things. Opening up local government to enact even stricter laws creates the exact patchwork of regulations that Arguments For touts as a reason for statewide action.


Bottom Line:

  • There are now no punishments in the bill at all for ignoring this law, which goes too far. Yes we want to work with folks to make this work but at some point you have to be able to punish people for willfully violating the law

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1162

HB21-1189 Regulate Air Toxics (Gonzales (D), Moreno (D)) [Benavidez (D), A. Valdez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation:  $480,939
Fiscal Impact: About $1 million a year, but it comes out of the enterprise fund

Goal:

  • Require all petroleum refineries, bulk stations, and terminals, as well as other aircraft parts and auxilliary equipment manufacturing facilities that emit hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, and benzene over a certain threshold to have fenceline monitoring and near-source monitoring of these gases and a plan submitted to the state that identifies its equipment locations, procedures for dealing with maintenance and equipment failures that must include backup plans, methods for disseminating data to the public, governments, and schools in real time, and other air pollutants the monitors can measure. State can add new gases to this toxic category by rule and must re-evaluate both the gases and the qualifying emissions levels every five years. State to create threshold for amounts of pollution that must trigger notification to the community (see below)
  • Beginning by 2023 the state must conduct community-based monitoring for no less than 30 days per quarter in areas within 3 miles of a facility. State to determine locations in July 2022, then post them for public comment. Must allow at least 90 days of comment before finalizing and consider input from local governments and schools. Redo the process every three years thereafter. Facilities must pay a pro-rata share for the state’s cost of this monitoring. State's cost for this monitoring to be paid out of the air quality enterprise cash fund State may use up to $800,000 from the general fund to purchase and equip a van capable of doing this monitoring.

Description:

Petroleum based refineries must have their monitoring systems in place by 2023. All others by July 2024. Plans must be submitted at least a year before monitoring begins, well before those deadlines. Monitoring must be at least as stringent as methods 325A, 325B, and method TO-15A combined (see Additional Information) or the most up-to-date methods approved by the federal government.

All plans made for monitoring must be the two most commonly spoken languages in the affected community (as determined by Census) and must be available to the public on the state’s website. Interpretation services must be provided at the public hearings as needed for the two most common languages. State must allow for at least 90 days of public comment. There must be two public hearings on the plan. State to determine a processing fee for these plans the facilities must pay. Plans must be updated and resubmitted every five years and state may require a more frequent update if it believes there has been a substantial change in the facility’s operations or emissions.

If the fenceline monitoring detects an emissions violation, the facility must immediately notify the state and local communities (via a process already setup for these situations by a bill in a previous year), analyze the source of the violation, and fix it within 15 days. Longer than 15 days and the state may initiate action against the facility.

The online component for the real-time data is maintained by the facility. It must include descriptions of the toxins and their health effects (in the same two languages) and data about any other air pollutants the monitoring system can detect. It must present the data in a manner that can be understood regardless of socioeconomic background.

If state determines a facility is emitting hazardous air pollutants in amounts that may pose a risk to public health it may require the reporting of other air pollutants that monitors are reasonably capable of measuring.

Additional Information:

The thresholds for the toxic gases are: Hydrogen cyanide: 10,000 pounds, Hydrogen fluoride: 10,000 pounds, Benzene: 1,000 pounds

For the plan process, one hearing must be held on a weekend and one must be held on an evening. Facility and state must consult with affected local government on plan. State must respond in writing to all written and oral comments received prior to approving a plan. State must approve or disapprove a plan within 8 months of submission. If it disapproves, it must promptly modify the plan itself to bring it under compliance. Hard copies of the plan must be made available by the state and by the covered facility, which must also make these hard copies available at libraries in the affected community.

Method 325A is the test method called Volatile Organic Compounds from Fugitive and Area Sources: Sampler Deployment and VOC Sample Collection. Method 325B is the test method called Volatile Organic Compounds from Fugitive and Area Sources: Sampler Preparation and Analysis. Method TO-15A is the test method called Determination of Volatile Organic Compounds in Air Collected in Specially Prepared Canisters and Analyzed by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry. All three are approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have facilities in this state emitting deadly amount of these dangerous gases and we simply don’t have the ability to monitor this in real-time
  • Communities around these facilities have suffered disproportionately from asthma, cancer, and heart-lung ailments for decades
  • It is past time to have real-time monitoring at these facilities so we know instantly when there is a problem and longer-term monitoring in surrounding communities so we can track the build-up of these toxins

In Further Detail: We had a release from a Suncor oil refinery in 2019 that resulted in ash falling on cars in the vicinity. Suncor claimed all was well and told people to wash their hands and offered free car washes. Schools sheltered in place and all Suncor could do was refuse to comment on exactly what happened but say there was an investigation underway. This facility emits more than 800,000 tons of greenhouse gases and other pollutants a year. It broke its permitted level of 12.8 tons of hydrogen cyanide (the gas used in Nazi concentration camps for executions) and didn’t think it was necessary to alert the public (to be fair, neither did the state) and wanted to actually raise its permitted level. Even low levels of hydrogen cyanide can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, vomiting, headaches, and thyroid gland enlargement. Benzene and is a known cancer causing gas. Hydrogen sulfide can be tolerated by the body at lower levels but even moderately breaching those levels can cause eye irritation, a sore throat and cough, nausea, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs. Chronic low-level exposure has been linked to fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, poor memory, and dizziness. High-level exposure is extremely dangerous and has a high probability of death. Hydrogen fluoride immediately converts to hydrofluoric acid upon contact with the body. This is highly corrosive and toxic and can cause blindness by rapid destruction of the corneas in addition to severe burns. High levels can cause death. Suncor has a history of releasing large amounts of just about all of these with just about the same “everything’s fine, nothing to see here reaction” each time. The community around this refinery have suffered disproportionately from asthma, cancer, and heart-lung ailments for decades, in part of course because this Suncor refinery isn’t the only heavy polluter in the area. Our air quality does not meet federal health standards and there is no sign of it getting better. This bill is not about Suncor alone (although it is a major catalyst for it) but about any facility that is emitting these extremely dangerous gases into the air. We actually don’t know the long-term effects of exposure to this deadly cocktail of gases (as opposed to the individualized effects of each one, which we do know) but it would seem well within the realm of probability that it isn’t good. It is long past time to crack down on these facilities and long past time to ensure real-time monitoring so we know immediately when there is a problem. The community monitoring stations will enable us to detect longer-term build-ups in our communities. These communities are so desperate they are taking things into their own hands and looking to partner with non-profits to build monitoring. That should not be required, and if, as the Arguments Against section notes, Suncor is so eager to implement community testing than the requirements of this bill should be no problem.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The refining industry is already one of the most regulated industries in the country and Suncor in particular has poured resources into upgrading its refinery
  • Suncor also continues to work with the state and even the state has noted that they are generally proactive in identifying issues and self-reporting compliance problems. They are also talking about developing a community testing program themselves
  • So we don’t need the heavy hand of government with all of these forced rules and fees, which could increase operating costs. Oil refining is a dirty business but it is a key cog in our energy supply chain

In Further Detail: First, the refining industry (which is the clear target of this bill) is one of the more regulated industries in the country. Note that incidents paraded in the arguments for section are all known because these things are heavily monitored. Of course no one can be perfect, but Suncor has poured $1.6 billion into upgrading this refinery in the past 14 years and continues to work with the state government anytime there is an issue (as do all other regulated refineries). State regulators themselves have noted that Suncor has generally been proactive in identifying issues and self-reporting any potential compliance problems. Suncor has said they are planning to hire an independent expert to develop a community testing system on its own. So we don’t need the heavy hand of government cracking down with forced fees and increased overhead (those websites aren’t going to be cheap to create or maintain). These facilities are important to our state economy in creating the energy that we all use, including gasoline. This bill will increase their operating costs in the best-case scenarios and in the worst-case, force shutdowns of plants. People work at those plants and they are key cog in our energy supply chain, so any closures could have ripple effects in the oil and gas industry. By its very nature oil refining is a dirty business, if we want to have gasoline we can afford to put into our cars we cannot simply waive away all oil refineries.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1189

HB21-1226 More Robust Check Station Aquatic Nuisance Species (Coram (R), Donovan (D)) [Esgar (D), Will (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Strengthen the laws around checking boats for aquatic nuisance species by requiring people to stop at check stations during their hours of operation for inspection and clarifying that officers have a right to check any boat at a check station

Description:

Also directs the state to investigate methods other states are using with respect to location and operation of check stations.

Someone who knowingly or willfully fails to stop for an inspection commits a civil infraction with a fine of $100.

These checks are done before boats go out on the water, obviously, to prevent contamination from these nuisance species.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Aquatic nuisance species have devastating economic, environmental, and social impacts on Colorado waters so we try to check boats for them before letting them out on the water. This just closes a few loopholes in the laws around that process and directs the state to look for best practices in other locations

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1226

HB21-1233 Conservation Easement Tax Credit Modifications (Donovan (D), Winter (D)) [Roberts (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $461,370
Fiscal Impact: About $23 million in lost revenue each year, $600,000 in spending first year then $500,000 each year thereafter

Goal:

This bill wants to make conservation easements more attractive so that more people donate land for conservation purposes. It does this by increasing the value of the land that people can get credit for, allowing more organizations to donate easements, and allow multiple owners to reach the statutory $5 million cap on amount of tax credits per easement individually rather than cap their personal amount at a lower amount (the bill does not touch any current legal maximums for easements).

Description:

Modifies the method of calculating the amount of the tax credit that can be claimed by easement donors. Changes the amount an easement donor can claim for tax credits from 75% to 90% of the fair market value of the land when the easement was created for future easements. Overall cap of $5 million remains, and the distribution of credits in $1.5 million maximum increments per year also remains. Bill also increases amount of tax credit that can be allocated to each owner of a business with multiple owners from $375,000 to the $5 million overall cap. Also repeals a requirement that conservation easement owners add back on their taxes any federal tax deductions they took on the easement.

Bill allows any non-profit, entities with authority to conduct water activity, and ditch and reservoir companies to donate easements and claim credits, with the full ability to transfer the credits like any other easement owner. The division of conservation is also allowed to hold donated easements.

Requires any easement donated after 2021 to be issued a certificate by the division of conservation to demonstrate the credit’s validity. This eliminates the need for the taxpayer to file the certificate with their tax returns. Anyone who transfers their credits must file a joint written notice within 30 days, rather than submit the notice with their tax returns. The department of revenue must create a system to track these transfers for easements donated after 2013.

For easements donated before 2014, current restrictions on claiming other tax credits in years in which the taxpayer claimed the easement credit are removed.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Conservation easements are a valuable tool to maintain areas of our natural environment and are entirely voluntary. A study found that they have delivered $6 of value for every $1 invested by the state
  • We have a legal cap of $45 million a year of tax credits allowed that we aren’t near reaching. The bill keeps that, and other caps, while making the credits more attractive and more widely available to try to get more people to donate land. To be clear: we want to reach that cap so the lost revenue is not a bad thing

In Further Detail: Conservation easements provide a valuable tool for us to maintain areas of our natural environment while recompensing property owners for their trouble and for the reduced value the easement places on the property. They are entirely voluntary. From protecting Palisade peaches to tourism, a study found that easements have delivered $6 of value for every $1 invested by the state. So what this bill does is encourage more easement donation. It is critical to point out that maximum caps all remain in place, the fiscal note basically envisions that we will reach the legal maximum of $45 million a year due to these changes and no one easement can earn more than $5 million per owner in tax credits. The increase to 90% was also part of recommended changes by a bipartisan working group to the easement process. As part of trying to get more easements in the state, it makes sense to open them up to non-profits and companies dealing with group water rights. Much of the rest of the bill is simple blocking and tackling stuff to make the system work better.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The easement system is not the greatest thing in the world. It binds future owners to the easement, which can lower property values, the appraised value is almost always lower than the initial amount provided to the landowner, and an unacceptably high number of easements get disallowed (which means the tax credits must be returned). We should therefore not be pushing to reach that $45 million cap and instead use the $24 million we are going to lose every year on critical state needs, like our water plan which needs billions of dollars going into the future.

Bottom Line:

  • It is not fair to the owners of previously created easements that new easements will get 90% instead of 75% of value. Yes the overall cap remains, but anyone who was below that cap is losing out on tax credits merely by creating an easement at the wrong time. Program should be the same for everyone, so either more retroactive credits are in order or we should keep it the same going forward.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1233

HB21-1238 Public Utilities Commission Modernize Gas Utility Demand-side Management Standards (Hansen (D)) [Bernett (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Expand the definition of “cost-effective” for programs that reduce demand for natural gas by requiring a precise calculation of the social cost of the carbon dioxide and methane gas avoided by the reduction. Right now the public utilities commission can only approve demand side reduction plans if they are cost effective but the bill also adds a provision that allows the commission to ignore this requirement for a measure that incorporates innovative technologies with the potential for significant impact, such as energy-saving technologies that go beyond what is achievable using energy efficiency measures alone
  • Expand the definition of demand-side reduction programs to include weatherization and insulation (previously just said energy efficiency, so an expansion on that term) and beneficial electrification, which essentially means switching from natural gas to electricity. Asks utilities to “consider” including incentives for so-called behind the meter renewable sources of energy, which essentially means giving the customer access to a renewable source of energy (in other words definitely not natural gas) to serve electric or heating needs. Technology must either reduce cost for the customer, reduce greenhouse gas emissions (pretty much a guarantee), or provide more efficient use of the electric grid. Utilities commission is banned from prohibiting programs or incentives that encourage people to replace gas-fueled appliances
  • Change the current requirements for demand side reduction for natural gas distribution utilities. Right now their target is to spend 0.5% of their revenue on these programs. Bill requires them to develop a strategic demand side reduction plan with savings targets, to be submitted and approved the commission every four years starting in 2022. The budget comes from the targeted savings. Requires at least 25% of expenditures to be targeted to low-income households (except for utilities with less than 50,000 customers, which must do 15%)

Description:

Bill does separate out utilities with less than 250,000 customers, for whom the demand side reduction requirement is voluntary for the commission (if the commission forces it, the utility has to do it). Commission can adjust the low-income percentage requirement beginning in 2026 so long as the result is still a significant amount of the overall spending and makes continued progress toward climate goals.

Carbon dioxide already has a method for calculating social cost. Minimum base must be $46 $68 per ton which rises based on rises in the federal rate, but the commission is directed to use the federal rate if higher. The commission then applies a discount rate (this stuff is always discounted over time) which must be 2.5% or less. For methane, the bill lays out a nearly identical process but sets the minimum base rate at $1,090 $1,756 per ton (again it rises over time in same way as CO2).

Bill allows utilities to petition public utilities commission to adopt rate mechanisms (the PUC sets rates for the utilities) so that the utility does not lose money due to customers using less natural gas. This would be accomplished by assuring the same revenue per customer.

For any labor required to implement demand side reduction, when practicable the utilities may use their own employees but must also publish a qualified contractor list on its website and in its marketing materials to customers. To be on the list, a contractor must partcipate in an apprenticeship program that is registered with either the federal government or Colorado and been so for at least six months. If the work is on a property of at least 20,000 square feet and involves a rebate, the utility must only give the rebate if the customer uses a qualified contractor off the list. The utility must also require that customers use licensed plumbers or electricians for all work

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

  • Natural gas is a contributor to climate change and if we are going to meet our climate targets we will have to reduce our usage of it—through increased energy efficiency and yes, using renewable energy sources instead
  • We have renewable alternatives to natural gas and, like natural gas, we have abundant amounts of them in Colorado: sun and wind
  • The bill grounds the activities around demand side reduction in true costs of pollution, asks for our utilities to do more to increase demand reduction, including investments in energy efficiency that clearly benefit everyone, and to incentivize switching away from natural gas

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, reducing natural gas consumption is going to be a part of it. The first thing this bill fixes is that we aren’t currently considering the social cost of either CO2 or methane when making this demand side cost/benefit analysis decisions. That is clearly wrong, as the societal benefit from decreased emissions is a factor. The second issue the bill fixes is that we are currently asking way too little of our utilities. Remember, this is not entirely about electrification. A lot of what we need is increased energy efficiency, particularly in low-income households that cannot afford to do this on their own. That of course benefits everyone, with less gas used and lower utility bills. The third element of the bill is quite simply an acknowledgement that natural gas is a dirty fuel that puts emissions into our atmosphere at every stage: from extraction to end use. The extent to which we can replace it with clean renewable energy is a positive for our environment and our future. 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). For cooking, induction stoves are a perfectly viable replacement for gas stoves. So while beneficial electrification is not a new thing in state law, adding it specifically into these demand reduction programs as an option should help boost us toward achieving our climate goals. On the cost of pollutants, this is not a figure pulled out of the air. It is based on years of scientific and economic research, input from scientists and agencies around the world, and grounded in actual data. Is the absolute perfectly correct number? Of course not, but it is a very good estimate of the societal cost we bear for every ton of pollution spewed into our atmosphere. If anything, it may be conservative given the difficulty of assigning the exact blame for increased natural disasters like wildfires to tons of pollution.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • 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
  • We should not put so much store in the social cost of pollutants per ton, it is an estimate, and we certainly should not junk cost-benefit analysis altogether in such a vague manner

In Further Detail: 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. What we should not be doing is putting our thumbs on the scales against natural gas. The clear long-term goal of this bill is to drastically reduce the use of natural gas in this state, which is going to have an economic impact. You cannot simply declare that we’ll move jobs from natural gas to renewable energy. It doesn’t and won’t work like that. The social value cost placed on these pollutants is also not as precise as we might want to credit. Yes it is the work of years with the input of many, but it is in the end an estimate. The Trump administration junked the working group that was to provide an updated cost and was using much lower interim costs. Then the bill doesn’t even want to hold to this more tenuous standard and allows the commission to ignore cost-benefit altogether if rather vague terms around significant impact are met. And now it has massively increased the cost per ton of both pollutants in a way that is guaranteed to tip the scales in every case. The spending of our utilities is rightly very heavily regulated because we don’t want them spending money on things that will not bring net benefits to us. We should not be throwing out that standard.


Bottom Line:

We don't need to be guaranteeing profits for the utilities in this manner. How are we going to get customers to install energy saving devices if we are going to turn around and charge them the same amount for less energy?

    How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1238

HB21-1243 Wolf Reintroduction Funding With No License Fees (Donovan (D), Rankin (R)) [Will (R), D. Valdez (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Change the funding stream for the reintroduction of gray wolves as passed by the voters last year from the wildlife cash fund to several different options: general fund, species conservation trust fund, the non-game conservation and wildlife restoration fund and the wildlife cash fund. But specifies that no money from the wildlife cash fund that comes from hunting and fishing license sales can be used

Description:

Bill states lack of general fund money must not hold up reintroduction. Allows gifts, grants, and donations to be used as well.

Proposition 114 was passed last year and requires reintroduction of gray 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 gray 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 HB21-1243

HB21-1253 Renewable And Clean Energy Project Grants (Winter (D), Rankin (R)) [Froelich (D), Gray (D)]

*State stimulus bill, 1% of stimulus funds spend in this bill*

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $5 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $5 million on grants for renewable and clean energy infrastructure projects, with an emphasis on places where such infrastructure is sparse.

Description:

Appropriates $5 million for the state to award grants for renewable and clean energy projects that meet the criteria for the state’s existing renewable and clean energy initiative. State is to prioritize communities where renewable and clean energy infrastructure is sparse and consider geographical diversity. Grants should be awarded by August 15th. State must report to legislature on these grants next year.

To qualify for these grants, projects should achieve renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy conservation efforts, support innovations in renewable energy, achieve multiple objectives and/or serve those with the greatest need, develop plans, studies, and policies that further long-term, large-scale renewable energy generation and energy conservation.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have extremely ambitious clean energy goals to meet and a long way to go to meet them
  • This program is intended for projects that are ready to go now, so this money will act as a stimulant for the economy by providing work for Coloradans across the state
  • In the long term, this not only helps us meet our climate goals, it also helps in many cases to reduce costs for businesses and residents for their energy needs

In Further Detail: In order to combat climate change and avert climate catastrophe we have set extremely ambitious clean energy goals. We have a long way to go to meet these goals and massive amounts of clean energy infrastructure to build. This bill will help us with some of those infrastructure needs, and prioritizes those places currently lacking clean energy infrastructure. It will also be stimulative to the economy, since we are paying for infrastructure work to be done by Coloradans all over the state. Requiring these grants to go out quickly to a program designed for shovel ready projects will bring that impact into our economy quickly. In the long-run, we also will be addressing one of key state goals and in many cases, reducing the costs of energy for businesses and consumers by electrifying their energy needs. We have $700 million (now $800 million) to spend from last year’s budget due to better than expected tax returns (some already spent) so there is plenty of money.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We also shouldn’t be putting our thumbs on the scales of clean energy this much. If someone wants an electric car, fine, no one is stopping them. If someone wants to open an electric car charging station because they think it makes economic sense, good, more power to them. If someone wants to build solar panels or a solar or wind facility, again because they think it makes economic sense, wonderful. But we should not be tipping the scales in the market in favor of clean energy in this manner against the oil and gas industry that provides so much economic production to this state and employs so many people.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1253

HB21-1266 Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community (Winter (D), Buckner (D)) [Jackson (D), Weissman (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $2,696,921
Fiscal Impact: About $700,000 a year

Goal:

Put part of the state’s roadmap for reduction of greenhouse gas emission by sector into law so as to meet the emissions reduction levels required by state law. This includes 80% reduction targets for all utilities by 2030 (on a 2005 baseline), 60% for oil and gas (same baseline), and 20% for industry and manufacturing (on 2015 standard). The bill also sets a price per ton of greenhouse gasses released that are not already covered by the state and uses the money raised to pay for a new ombudsperson and advisory council dedicated to serving the interests of people in communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution. And the bill requires the air quality commission to use the social impact of emissions in its cost-benefit analyses based on a value given per ton of emissions. Get the air quality commission to do more outreach work when making decisions, specifically in communities disproportionately impacted by negative environmental factors (like pollution or waste), and ensure outreach is done before decisions are made with plenty of different types of opportunities for input. Also create a task force to examine how we can better involve the impact on these communities into state agency decision making that affects them.

Description:

The bill requires each wholesale electricity generation and transmission cooperative (which is Tri-State, Xcel and Black Hills, investor-owned utilities, already have this requirement under a 2019 law) to submit a plan to reduce their emissions by 80% of 2005 levels by 2030. If they don’t submit a plan that is approved by the end of 2022, the commission is to require reduction by rule for that utility of 48% by 2025 and 80% by 2030. Plans must deal with actual emissions going into the atmosphere and cannot rely on reductions that have not yet occurred or occur out-of-state. A utility that fails to meet its targets in two straight years or that the commission feels is not on track to meet the goal is subject to additional and more strict emissions limits than the rules require.

By the end of the year the commission must adopt rules that will reduce statewide emissions from oil and gas operations by 36% of 2005 levels by 2025 and 60% by 2030. The rules must include protections for disporportionately impacted communities and more robust monitoring, leak detection, and repair requirements.

By the end of the year the commission must adopt rules that will reduce statewide emissions from the industrial and manufacturing sector of the state by 20% of 2005 2015 levels by 2030. These must include protections for disproportionately impacted communities and a 5% reduction for those industries that already employ best available emission control technologies (as determined by commission).

Allows the commission to setup a trade system, where companies can meet their compliance requirements through purchasing, creating, or exchanging greenhouse reduction credits. Before setting up the system, the commission must create a comprehensive and centralized accounting system to track these credits and transactions which must prevent double-counting and identify sources of emissions that impact disproportionately impacted communities.

Requires that if the existing biannual climate report to the legislature shows the state is fallings short of its climate goals, the state has six months to propose additional requirements to the commission to make up the gap.

The commission is to consider the social value of emissions in any rule-making proceeding for cost-benefit purposes, utilizing a value that is no less than the federal rates. Must include carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide costs. The bill also requires the commission to establish a fee per ton of greenhouse gas emitted by businesses. This is similar to an existing requirement for these businesses to pay a fee per ton of regulated air pollutants, like nitrogen oxide. The fee is to be a sufficient amount to cover the costs of the state’s programs that pertain to greenhouse gasses (the existing fees already go toward this), and the bill adds two new programs for the fee to cover (at current levels of $36 per ton for other pollutants, it is estimated the fee will bring in $15 million a year).

One of the new programs is an environmental justice ombudsperson, appointed by the executive director of the department of public health and environment. They are to have experience or training in environmental justice and be either a resident or have worked directly with a disproportionately impacted community. Duties include being an advocate for these communities and serving as their liaison to the government, increasing flow of information to these communities and conducting outreach in them which includes in-person meetings, serve as a place to receive complaints about environmental justice from the community, enable meaningful participation in the state’s decision-making process, serve in an advisory capacity to other state agencies and to work collaboratively with the environmental justice advisory board (see below).

The environmental justice advisory board and associated environmental mitigation grant program is the second new program the bill establishes. The program is for projects that avoid, minimize, measure, or mitigate adverse environmental impacts in disproportionately impacted communities. This can include health effects and health disparities. The program is funded by a new cash fund the bill sets up, which is to receive 20% of the existing fines for violating pollution laws and rules and fees on industry (right now 100% goes to general fund) this year, then 40% next year, 60% in 2023-24, 80% in 2024-25, and 100% thereafter.

The advisory board is to develop guidelines for the grant program and award grants. It consists of 12 members, of which 11 are voting members who receive a $200 per diem (tied to inflation) and can be reimbursed for expenses (non-voting member can also be reimbursed for expenses. The board is also to work with the ombudsperson, including in outreach efforts; study, research, and advise the state on matters the board deems are important to enable the state to interact with disproportionately impacted communities; and address any other matters relating to adverse environmental impacts on disproportionately impacted communities referred to it by the state. Board set for repeal with sunset review in 2027.

Requires the state air quality control commission to strive to find new ways to gather input from communities across the state, using multiple languages and formats, when it is considering rulemaking. When reaching out to disproportionately impacted communities, the agency must schedule variable times of day and week for public input, including at least one weekend day, one evening, and one morning; provide notice at least 30 days prior to any public input opportunity; utilize several methods of outreach including schools, clinics, social media, social and activity clubs, local and tribal governments, libraries, religious organizations, civic associations, community-based environmental justice organizations, and other local services; provide multiple methods to give input such as in-person, virtual and online meetings, online comment portals or e-mail, and call-in meetings; consider a variety of locations for meetings, including urban and rural and in disproportionately impacted communities; and create materials in the top two languages spoken in a community in plain language on the entire process.

The bill also creates the Environmental Justice Action Task Force to recommend and promote strategies for incorporating environmental justice into state agency actions. This includes addressing the human health and environmental effects of programs policies, practices, and activities on disproportionately impacted communities; improving cooperation between all levels of government; ensuring meaningful involvement and due process in environmental law and policy decision-making; and helping build healthy, sustainable, and resilient communities.

The task force is specifically tasked with:

  • Developing a state agency-wide strategy and plan to implement the strategy, including: implementing equity analysis into all significant state agency actions, potential for requiring such an analysis for certain actions likely to affect disproportionately impacted communities; potential requirement that negative impacts on disproportionately impacted communities must be avoided or mitigated; potential tying of permit issuance to impacts on disproportionately impacted communities; potential requirement that these communities have a role in any project that is undertaken with settlement money related to violations occurring in these communities; and creating measurable goals
  • Adopting a plan to address lack of data and data sharing between state agencies about environmental hazards and improve data collection efforts in disproportionately impacted communities
  • Assisting with outreach to these communities as part of state air quality commission actions as required by the bill
  • Evaluating the definition of disproportionately impacted communities in law

Task force to consist of 19 23 27 members and hold at least six meetings with final report issued to legislature by November 14, 2022.

Disproportionately impacted communities are defined in the bill as: proportion of households that are low income (200% of federal poverty line or lower) is greater than 40% or proportion of minority households is greater than 40% or proportion of households than spend more than 30% of income on housing is greater than 40%. Individual communities can also be approved by state agencies if the community has a history of environmental racism through redlining, anti-indigenous, anti-Hispanic, or anti-Black laws or the community has multiple factors including socio-economic stressors, disproportionate environmental burdens, vulnerability to environmental degradation, and lack of public participation may act to cumulatively affect health and the environment.

The bill also requires the existing just transition office to develop a long-term budget to adequately finance the just transition plan (helping communities and workers move away from coal and oil and gas related industry).

The bill changes the state energy office's mission by removing the mandate to focus on all energy, requiring the office to focus on the state's transition to a clean energy economy, and promote greenhouse gas reduction in all sectors, promote equitable transition to zero emission buildings, zero emission vehicles, and transportation electrification, and promote clean energy including through financing.

Additional Information:

Industrial and manufacturing sector includes: combustion by industry of coal, diesel, gasoline, heat, liquified petroleum gas, natural gas, refinery feedstocks, and residual fuel oil; cement manufacture; electric transmission and distribution equipment; iron and steel production; lime manufacture; limestone and dolomite use; ozone depleting substance substitutes; semiconductor manufacture; soda ash; and urea consumption.

Task force memberships is as follows. Nine members appointed by governor:

  • Three representatives from department of public health and environment, one with expertise in air quality, one with expertise in water quality, and one with expertise in health equity
  • One representative of the department of natural resources
  • One representative of the department of transportation
  • One representative of the state’s energy office
  • One representative of the public utilities commission
  • One representative of the department of agriculture
  • One representative of the governor’s office

Two members appointed by Native American tribes, one by the chair of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and one by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

Eight 12 16 members appointed by Senate president, Senate minority leader, House Speaker, and House minority leader. Each leader is to appoint one person from each of the following category: Someone who represents disproportionately impacted communities (with appointees spread across the state as much as possible) and one from an organization that carries out initiatives relating to environmental justice, represents business interests, represents worker interests, or represents interests of people of color and collectively must apppoint three members who carry out initiatives related to environmental justice, one member that represents worker interests in disproportionately impacted communities, four members representing interests of people of color, one member representing the renewable energy industry, one member representing the non-renewable energy industry, one member representing local governments in disproportionately impacted communities, and one environmental toxicologist.

Executive director must consult with advisory board, legislature, representatives of disproportionately impacted communities, and other relevant stakeholders prior to picking the ombudsperson.

The advisory board members must to the extent possible reside in different areas of the state, reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the state, and have experience with a range of environmental issues, including air pollution, water contamination, and public health impacts.

Seven members are to be appointed by the governor, four of which must be from disproportionately impacted communities, one from an organization that represents statewide interests to advance racial justice, one from an organization that represents statewide interests to advance environmental justice, and one that represents workers in disproportionately impacted communities. Four members are to be appointed by the executive director of the department of public health and environment with no specific requirements. The executive director serves as the non-voting member of the board. Board must meet at least quarterly.


Auto-Repeal: September 2024 for task force, September 2027 for board with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • On the whole the hard targets in this bill merely put into state law the already existing roadmap to meet our already existing climate goals, with industry specific modifications such as recognizing that power generation is basically already on track to meet 80% of reduction by 2030 and targets and rules for industries we can actually regulate in this manner (transportation and buildings are to some degree, handled by other bills in this session)
  • We need to do all of this to avert climate catastrophe—current conditions in the state with massive wildfires and mega droughts are already bad enough, we cannot afford for it to get worse
  • Given the recent news about the state illegally granting noxious gas permits to industry, we can’t afford the informal “working with industry” stance we currently have toward these targets
  • For the disproportionate community section of the bill, the #1 indicator for placement of toxic facilities in this country is race. 78% of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-powered plant (56% of non-Hispanic whites). Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites. These communities lack the power to fight back against polluters in an effective way and lack the power to get proper redress for wrongs done to their environment
  • On the cost of the pollutants, these are not numbers pulled out of the air, they are scientifically derived and if anything, undercount the social impact given how hard it is to decide how much blame exactly resides for things like increased natural disasters

In Further Detail: In a large sense, this is merely putting into law the state’s existing roadmap for reaching our climate goals. Power generation is being given targets it is basically already on track to meet, which are higher than the overall state targets because we’ve got trouble in other sectors. Oil and gas reductions should be helped by natural reductions in their usage due to increased clean energy use, so they should be able to meet the target. We are leaving out transportation and buildings because we cannot really regulate them in this manner. They are also the targets of other massive legislation in this session designed to drive down emissions in these sectors. And why are we doing all of this? To avert climate catastrophe. 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. Droughts last longer and are more intense. Our current climate situation is bad here in Colorado, we cannot afford for it to get much worse. So drastic and immediate action is required. The less confrontational way mentioned in Arguments Against seems to be a problem as whistleblowers just in this past month revealed that the state was illegally approving noxious gas permits for industry without performing required environmental modeling or monitoring and even worse, falsifying data to get permits through. So cooperation between the state and industry seems to be a failure we cannot afford. Waste management, including toxic waste sites, and high pollution sites tend be located in minority dominated and poor areas (since the better connected and wealthy don’t want them in theirs). The number one indicator for placement of toxic facilities in this country is race and 78% of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-powered plant (56% of non-Hispanic whites). Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites. The high profile national examples like the water in Flint actually pale in comparison to daily damage being done in many communities, including in Colorado, including something as simple as where the highways run (through poor and minority based communities) and therefore higher air pollution from vehicles. These communities lack the power to fight back against polluters in an effective way and lack the power to get proper redress for wrongs done to their environment. This bill provides them with a seat at the table when decisions affecting the air quality in their communities are being made, in addition to getting some more concrete recommendations on actions we can take to ensure decisions made at the state agency level are taking these impacts into account as well as ensuring we have the definition of disproportionately impacted communities correct. On the cost of pollutants, this is not a figure pulled out of the air. It is based on years of scientific and economic research, input from scientists and agencies around the world, and grounded in actual data. Is the absolute perfectly correct number? Of course not, but it is a very good estimate of the societal cost we bear for every ton of pollution spewed into our atmosphere. If anything, it may be conservative given the difficulty of assigning the exact blame for increased natural disasters like wildfires to tons of pollution. As for the state's energy office, yes, we want a future free of oil and gas pollution. It is a neccessity in fact. There is a huge transition involved and the office has a role to play there, but the time is long past for propping up the oil and gas industry.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The achievements in our power sector point the way: no hard cap and yet we have an industry poised to greatly overperform our reduction goal. Through legal requirements at times yes, but never a hard cap on emissions
  • Illegal activity by state employees isn’t fixed by new laws it is fixed by getting rid of the employees
  • Social value costs of pollutants is not an exact science and the Trump administration was using much lower costs
  • We seem to be potentially conflating two things here. It may be true that most disproportionately impacted communities are indeed low-income or minority communities but it is not necessarily so nor is it necessarily so that all low-income or minority communities are disproportionately impacted
  • We must not simply dump the state's massively important oil and gas industry, as the bill wants the state energy office to do. About 1/4 of our energy comes from natural gas, and we are home to the 2nd largest reserve of natural gas in North America and we are 7th in oil production in the country

In Further Detail: Note what we’ve achieved in the power sector to this point: they are on track to hit 80% reductions by 2030, way ahead of our legal overall emissions reductions requirements. Achieved in large part through working with the industry, although some of it has been spurred on by new laws. But at no point did we institute a hard cap on emissions. We can achieve similar results in other industries. As for the alleged illegal actions of state regulators with noxious gas permits, the key word here is illegal. The problem is with that state agency and its personnel, so passing new laws isn’t going to solve it. It just would provide more laws for people to break. The social value cost placed on these pollutants is also not as precise as we might want to credit. Yes it is the work of years with the input of many, but it is in the end an estimate. The Trump administration junked the working group that was to provide an updated cost and was using much lower interim costs. The oil and gas industry is a prime economic driver in this state, not only in terms of direct employment and supported jobs but also in terms of property and severance taxes helping fund state schools and water. These are good paying jobs that help lower household energy costs. We are 6th in natural gas production and 7th in oil production in the US. So the state's energy office should not ditch all support of this vital industry and focus on driving it out of the state. We seem to be potentially conflating two things here. It may be true that most disproportionately impacted communities are indeed low-income or minority communities but it is not necessarily so nor is it necessarily so that all low-income or minority communities are disproportionately impacted. It is true that one of the roles of the task force is to examine this definition, but it awfully important because it determines where the power this bill is attempting to create resides. It would seem to make more sense to use a data-driven approach of actual environmental impacts to determine these communities, rather than shorthands of income and race.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1266

HB21-1269 Public Utilities Commission Study Of Community Choice Energy (Donovan (D)) [Hooton (D), Kipp (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each of next two years

Goal:

Have the public utilities commission do a thorough study of the feasibility of implementing community choice energy in Colorado. CCE is a mechanism that allows cities or counties or groups of them to combine their purchasing power and choose alternative wholesale electric suppliers. The bill contains a very long list of items for the commission to investigate and a list of specific stakeholders it must consult with.

Description:

Requires the public utilities commission to examine the feasibility of implementing community choice energy (CCE) in Colorado. CCE means a mechanism that allows cities or counties, or groups of cities and counties, to combine their purchasing power and choose one or more alternative wholesale electricity suppliers while the incumbent utility continues to own and operate its transmission and distribution systems and deliver the electricity. Must exclude areas served by municipally owned electric utilities or cooperative electric associations.

The commission must gather testimony and documentation from stakeholders, experts, regulators from other relevant states, and staff. Report due to legislature by December 15, 2022.

Commission must consult with:

  • Local governments with declared goals regarding carbon emissions or energy supply choices
  • Business groups
  • Environmental advocates
  • Consumer advocates
  • Electric utilities
  • Independent power producers
  • Power marketers
  • Renewable energy developers
  • Consultants and experts in energy product financing and energy efficiency and distributed energy resources
  • Representatives of operational authorities that use the CCE model
  • Members of general public

Must explore the following topics:

  • Whether commission needs more statutory authority to create CCEs
  • Appropriate scale of regulatory oversight of CCEs, including those regulations that utilities must face, such as resource adequacy planning, compliance with renewable energy standards, assurance of reliability and how this is paid for, demand-side management requirements, and time-of-use rates or other rate requirements, and standards for requests for proposals
  • Appropriate considerations for establishing reasonable exit fees that provide cost recovery for utilities but does not unduly burden CCEs users, including potential variance by time or location, expiration periods, pitfalls encountered by other states and how these could be avoided, and any other mitigation strategies
  • Appropriate conditions, limitations, and procedures for people to opt out of CCEs
  • If any other consumer protections would be required
  • Strategies for overcoming credit challenges for CCE startups
  • Issues that have come up in other CCE states
  • If utilities should be provider of last resort for people who opt out of CCEs
  • Appropriate process for approval of a CCE on behalf of customers in a jurisdiction
  • If CCEs should be allowed to offer demand-side management programs that either expand upon or replace programs offered by investor-owned utilities
  • Regulatory and policy considerations for a CCE that does not currently belong to a regional transmission organization or participate in the wholesale electricity market and possible solutions, including legislative modifications required and if open access and fair prices for transmission services should be guaranteed
  • Minimum requirements needed for independent power producers and power marketers who want to supply energy to a CCE
  • Any data sharing requirements needed for utilities
  • If CCEs would facilitate or impede development of increasing integration of distributed energy resources and vice-versa
  • Risks a CCE might face such as resource price risks, contract risks, or load defection
  • Potential impact on state climate goals and communities (including low income communities) and jobs in the electricity sector, including how it impacted California
  • Impact CCEs have had in communities that have joined them and in states that have implemented the wholesale, opt-out model
  • What options would ensure new energy projects built to supply CCE authorities are done with union labor

Any implementation resulting from this study cannot have a negative effect on rates for customers outside the area implementing a CCE.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2024

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Dozens of communities across the state have committed to obtaining 100% renewable energy, some by 2025 and other by 2035. These communities cannot reach their energy and climate goals unless they are given greater control over their wholesale electricity supply. Right now they are limited by the timeline of their electric utility. Multiple states have adopted this model, but there have been challenges in implementation that we need to learn from. So we need a really deep dive into this issue from multiple angles to see if we can come up with a model that works for Colorado. Because a well-designed program would introduce an element of wholesale competition and community choice into the supply of electricity, potentially driving lower rates and cleaner energy while maintaining the viability and strength of the state’s existing investor-owned utilities without imposing undue costs on anyone. No one is saying we have to jump into using CCEs if it turns out that we cannot avoid the problems that have occurred in other states.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This has been a disaster in California, the state where the energy market setup is closest to Colorado, where these entities are not as well-regulated and costs spiked for CCEs (called CCAs there) due to exit fees from utilities, causing ping-ponging of customers between utilities and CCEs which nearly ruined the state public utilities financially. The utilities have decades of experience in procuring lost-cost and reliable electricity. And our utilities in this state are moving, fast, toward more renewable energy sources because state law requires them to do so. We are also in the process of legislation in this session to require utilities to enter regional transmission organizations that seems likely to pass and multiple other pieces of legislation pushing toward more adoption of renewable energy by our utilities. We need to let that process play out and not try to dive-into a different, dubious, model.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1269

HB21-1284 Limit Fee Install Active Solar Energy System (Hansen (D), Priola (R)) [A. Valdez (D), Van Winkle (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Lowers the fee cap for permitting for solar or thermal device installation for non-residential applications from $2,000 to $1,000, allows fees to be raised a maximum of 5% a year until caps are reached, and allows going over the non-residential cap only with written proof that it is necessary to cover costs.

Description:

Requires that the fee charged by government agencies and local governments for permits for installation of active solar or thermal energy devices not exceed $1,000 for non-residential applications (was $2,000). Bill leaves the $500 cap for residential applications intact. Bill allows fees to be raised by a maximum of 5% a year until the cap is reached.

For non-residential permits, the fee can go over $1,000 only if the government can prove that their costs exceed $1,000. This must be done in writing to the applicant.

Bill also extends the repeal of the law around these fees from July 2025 to January 2030.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2030

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Fees associated with permits by local governments are for one thing only: to cover costs. They are absolutely not to be additional sources of revenue for the governments. We’ve had some instances of governments circumventing these requirements and this bill is intended to stop that behavior while still allowing the flexibility to go over the fee cap when it is absolutely necessary

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This removes some flexibility for governments who weren’t doing anything wrong before, in particular the 5% cap on fee raises. We already have an overall cap, why also limit annual increases?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1284

HB21-1286 Energy Performance For Buildings (Priola (R), Pettersen (D)) [Kipp (D), A. Valdez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Lose about $500,000 a year at full implementation

Goal:

To create energy performance standards for most large buildings where they must reduce their energy usage over time or face fines. This involves reporting annual energy usage to the state then measuring improvement every five years. The bill sets initial improvement standards and then directs the state to adapt them as necessary requires the air quality commission to create rules after a stakeholder process in order to achieve a 7% reduction by 2026 and a 20% reduction by 2031 compared to 2021. State is to keep all energy data in a publicly accessible database.

Description:

Requires the state to implement energy performance standards for large buildings (more than 50,000 square feet of gross floor area, with some exceptions, see below) that go into effect in 2026. A task force is created to meet beginning this year to help guide creation of these standards. A 2/3 vote of the task force is needed to endorse recommendations The air quality commission is to use the task force's recommendations to create rules which will achieve reduction of 7% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2026 compares to 2021 and These must be designed so as to achieve in aggregate a 20% energy and greenhouse gas reduction in emissions by 2031 compared to 2021. Set of rules for achieving 2026 goals must be created by commission by May 2023. Every year until 2047 As necessary the commission must modify rules so as to keep up with the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2050. These reductions must not include savings from system-wide decarbonization of electricity or natural gas grids. The rules must not unduly burden high-performance buildings, tenant-owned multi-family residences, residential buildings primarily used to house low-income households, properties built before 1950 that have been designated historic properties, or buildings owned by a local government.

To achieve this, qualified buildings must report their annual energy usage to the state and the state must then every five years hold the buildings to performance standards based on a baseline of 5 years ago (so the first baseline is 2021, then in 2031 we compare to 2026, etc.) This must include meeting at least one of the following standards: an Energy Star score of 75 or higher (scale is 1-100) or a score at least 15 points higher than the building’s most recent baseline year; weather-normalized energy use reduced by 15% compared to the baseline year; energy-use intensity (energy used per square foot) met or surpassed state targets for that sector and climate target (or if such targets have not yet been set, met 25% percentile of national standard targets; or in mixed-use buildings, that the overall building met the energy-use intensity targets. If the building can demonstrate that for at least four of the previous five years it got more than 50% of its energy from renewable sources, the standards are relaxed to 65 Energy Star score or 10 points higher than baseline, a 10% reduction in energy use, or just being within 10% of the intensity targets.

In 2027 the air quality commission must examine these requirements and modify them as necessary to achieve the 2031 targets. Anyone who violates any of the reporting rules (see below) is subject to a civil fine of $500 for the first violation and up to $2,000 for each subsequent violation. Anyone who misses their energy targets is subject to a civil fine to be determined by commission of up to $2,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation. Repeat violators also get fined $0.02 per square foot per day that the violation continues. Government owned buildings are exempt from fines, as are schools. Fines go to the climate change mitigation and adaption fund created by this bill. This fund is run by the state energy office and it can use it to finance and administer programs and policies to mitigate or adapt to climate change in the state (there are bunch that already exist).

Building owners can substitute a year within two years before or after the baseline year (so could do anywhere from 2019-2023 for the first baseline for instance). Owners of multiple buildings on a campus can submit just one set of figures for the entire campus if the buildings are part of a master meter group without submetering or it is a correctional facility or a institution of higher education.

There are several exceptions to 50,000 square foot rule. Storage facilities; airplane hangers; stand-alone parking garages that lack heating and cooling; buildings where more than half of the gross floor area is used for manufacturing, industrial, or agricultural purposes; biomedical research labs; and single-family, duplex, or triplex homes are all exempt.

Buildings can also get waivers for financial hardship for individual year reporting (this is just reporting its data, see below for more detail on this process). To qualify, one of the following conditions must be met: property has been on a government annual lien tax sale list within the previous two years, property is an asset subjected to a court-appointed receiver that actually controls it; property is owned by a financial institution due to default by a borrower; property was acquired by a deed in lieu of foreclosure; property is subject to a notice of default, or due to a disaster declaration by the governor, the property generated annual rental income or revenue that was 60% or less in at least two years out of previous five than the five-year average prior to the disaster declaration. Additionally waivers can be given for individual years if the building was unoccupied for at least 30 days, a demolition permit was issued for the entire building, or the building owner cannot get the energy data needed due to tenant refusal (see Additional Information for more detail on this).

A building can get a waiver from needing to meet performance standards if it got reporting waivers in at least two of the five previous years, if it is a tenant-owned multi-family residential building, if at least 80% 66% of the tenants have a household income of less than 80% of median area income, or two more complicated cases. The first is if the building has been designated a historic building and was built before 1950. In this case the owner must submit proof that they cannot perform any additional energy efficiency upgrades due to the historic designation and that the building was either commissioned or recommissioned as historic since the most recent baseline year (so 2021 would be the first one) in accordance with national standards. The other more complex case is if the owner can prove the building was constructed to meet or surpass one of the following efficiency levels: one of the two most recent editions of the International Code Council, the national energy standards for the building type (either low-rise residential or not). Also for buildings owned by the state, the covered owner only needs to comply with the performance requirements if they have commenced work on a construction or renovation project that costs at least $500,000 and impacts at least 25% of the building's square footage.

Buildings can also get time extensions on their annual report if the owner can prove the failure or refusal of their utility or tenant made it impossible to make the deadline. Time extensions for the performance standards can be given if the primary function of the building changed since the previous year, the building changed ownership since the most recent baseline year (2021 at first), or if the benchmarking tool (see below) went through a large-scale recalibration making the Energy Score comparison impossible.

After June 2029 and before June 2030 the state must consider lowering the 50,000 square foot threshold.

In order to get the data, by the start of June 2022 utilities must set an aggregation threshold for which it can lump multiple customers in the same building together to provide the building owner with usage data without requiring individual customer consent. The threshold must be at the most 4 customers. Utilities must then provide this aggregated data to building owners through an easily navigable portal on their website or via online request using up-to-date standards for digital authentication within 30 days of request by the building owner.

These building owners must use the Energy Star Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool, and utilities must provide the data in a format that can be uploaded into the tool. The building owner must then use this tool to submit their report of their data for the year before June 1 of the subsequent year.

The state is to then take the submitted data and create a database and map. Both must be publicly accessible. The database must include annual data for covered buildings and must not include any contact information that is not publicly available. Each qualified building must pay an annual fee of $100 to fund this. Local governments are exempt from the fee.

Anytime a qualified building is put up for sale or any portion is put up for lease, the owners must include a copy of the data from the previous calendar year to any prospective buyers or leasers, any brokers who enquire about it, and any major commercial real estate listing services. Those listing services must include the Energy Star score, if it is in the report, and the energy-use intensity on the listing.

Additional Information:

Data submitted must include: physical description of the building, its name, primary uses, gross floor area, years of Energy Star certification and most recent date of certification (if applicable), energy star score (if available), monthly energy use by fuel type, site and source use intensity (energy per square foot), weather-normalized site and source use intensity, annual maximum electricity demand in kilowatts, monthly peak electricity demand (if available), and greenhouse gas emissions including indirect and direct emissions.

For buildings where the utility aggregation threshold is not met, individual consent must be obtained in written or electronic form, can be in the lease document itself, and is valid until revoked by the customer. Utilities with less than 5,000 customers do not have to comply with this bill.

If a building changes ownership, part of the deal must be transfer of all energy use data from the past, customer consent documentation, and any other information needed to meet the requirements of this bill.

The bill does not restrict the ability for any utility to provide incentives or other energy efficiency programs for qualified buildings or the ability for an investor-owned utility to take credit for energy or greenhouse gas emissions savings from these buildings. Local governments may also impose more strict requirements.

All business owners must use the automated data checking tool in the benchmark tool before submitting their data to the state.

National standards for building codes come from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) or their successor organizations.

Task force must make recommendations related to: workplace availability and development related to building energy performance; financial and non-financial costs and benefits of upgraded building energy performance; availability of programs, technical assistance, and incentives to support building owners, utilities and local governments; opportunities to improve commercial building energy use; and future actions the state should take to implement the standards modifications to the standards that would lower emissions. Task force expires in July 2025.

Task force is to consist of 12 14 18 members: director of the state's energy office (who also appoints all appointees), director of environmental programs in the department of public health and environment, one two owners of a commerical building and one owner of a multi-family residential building, one member who is a building systems operator, one member who represents an affordable housing organziation two people with direct experience with or members of organizations that represent mechanical or plumbing or electrical work, two one two person representing design professionals or building engineers or construction organizers or building contractors or developers, two members of environmental conservation or environmental justice organizations with experience in energy efficiency or the built environment, one member representing an electric utility, gas utility, or combined utility, two members with relevant building performance expertise, one member from a local goverment that has recently enacted a benchmarking or building energy performance standard, and one member from a local government who has not enacted such standards.


Auto-Repeal: July 2025 for task force

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Buildings are currently our third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and on track to move into second by 2025—if we are going to meet our climate reduction goals we must sharply reduce energy consumption in buildings and especially larger ones
  • Only the building owners can make the changes required to make them energy efficient but the good news is that there are a bunch of different state, federal, and utility programs out there to help pay for the changes (in part or even in full)
  • Energy efficiency results in financial savings for the building owners over the long-term, so to the extent they are forced to do anything it is to potentially spend very little money so as to save large amounts of money in the future
  • We need to do all of this to avert climate catastrophe—current conditions in the state with massive wildfires and mega droughts are already bad enough, we cannot afford for it to get worse

In Further Detail: Buildings represent the final piece of the puzzle in our battle against greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Oil and gas emissions, transportation emissions, and power generation emissions are all covered by different efforts but there is no statewide mandate to cut down on emissions from buildings. And buildings of all sorts (so including smaller buildings and houses not covered by this bill) are the third largest source of emissions in the state. By 2025 it is projected they will become the 2nd largest (after transportation, with power generation declining sharply). Oil and gas production emissions are a distant 4th. To meet our climate goals we are going to need massive reductions in energy usage in this area. Large buildings represent an understandably large part of this problem, but they are somewhat unique in that generally the owners of the building don’t occupy it and so the direct users cannot do much other than adjust their thermostats (and sometimes not even that). So it is on the building owners to make the changes necessary to meet our goals (and to be clear: these goals aren’t crazy and don’t require technology that doesn’t exist). And quite frankly there are a lot of state and federal programs to help building owners do this either for free or for extremely reduced costs. Many public utilities offer programs of their own. Some businesses pay for improvements through performance contracting with energy service companies that leverage future savings via energy efficiency. And that word savings is real important too. Becoming more energy efficient in the long run saves money. We are well past the point where upgrades needed for energy efficiency are extremely costly, even if for some reason you end up paying for it yourself. The bottom line: the time for excuses is over. So yes, these buildings will be “forced” into becoming more energy efficient (possibly at extremely reduced cost) and then reap the savings from these efficiencies for years to come. And why are we doing all of this? To avert climate catastrophe. 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. Droughts last longer and are more intense. Our current climate situation is bad here in Colorado, we cannot afford for it to get much worse. So drastic and immediate action is required. The change to bill is basically to pull out the regulator regime the bill creates and instead defer to the air quality commission to create the exact rules. Targets remain the same and the commission is required to create the rules, the bill now just more properly defers to the commission when it comes to exact structure of the plan.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Hard caps with big potential fines are not the way here, we should instead do a better job of publicizing existing programs to help building owners see the economic savings
  • The bill wants to put energy usage out in the public eye and also, in some situations, expose individual tenant energy usage to building owners
  • This is also a particularly bad time for many of these owners as a lot of the businesses that went remote during the pandemic aren’t going to come back. The bill’s exclusion provision related to the pandemic may not cover what could take a decade to sort out
  • Building owners in some cases have limited control on tenant energy usage
  • All of this means we should be incentivizing buildings to go green and leave it at that, don’t worry about individual building energy usage just worry about if the building itself is energy efficient and uses renewable energy where possible

In Further Detail: Hard caps with potentially heavy fines for violators (the per day violations could add up for a big building) are not the way to go here. We’ve gotten this far in sectors like power generation through working with the industry and the same can be true of large buildings. Let’s do a better job of promoting existing programs (and those coming online) to these owners to help them see the economic savings in action. The alternative that this bill proposes is a pretty big invasion of privacy on multiple levels: tenant in non-aggregated situations and the building owners themselves. We are going to take their annual energy usage and dump it out in public for everyone to see. Then if they don’t meet our hard caps for improvement we are going to fine them like crazy until they do. This is all, by the way, coming in a time where we may see serious financial difficulties for these buildings as many businesses that went remote due to the pandemic decide not to come back. That may have a much longer effect on finances than the bill envisions, long after the disaster declaration (the only way to use reduced income to get out of this requirement) is over. We could be looking at a serious glut of office space for a decade. And in many cases, as Arguments For obliquely points out, owners don’t have control over one of the biggest sources of potential problems in an office: the thermostat. When tenants can decide they need it to be 66 degrees on hot summer days or 75 degrees on cold winter ones, that can make a huge difference versus keeping it 70 all the time. Tenants also have varying electricity needs and routinely evade things like space heater bans that can eat up electricity. All of this is to say, we should punish owners for some things that are beyond their control. If we can get buildings to install energy efficient appliances, do energy efficient upgrades to their buildings (like windows for instance), and use renewable energy where possible, that should be enough without getting into precisely how much energy each building is using. And it can be done without the draconian measures the bill envisions.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1286

HB21-1290 Additional Funding For Just Transition (Fenberg (D), Rankin (R)) [Esgar (D), Will (R)]

*State stimulus bill, 2% of total stimulus funds spent in this bill*

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $15 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Fund the existing just transition program, which is designed to help communities transition away from coal-based power but needs funding to finalize its plan and start actually spending money in these communities, with $15 million. $8 million to go to communities and $7 million to workers. Also tweaks the definitions in the plan to create two tiers of coal communities and workers, with tier 1 being the higher priority.

Description:

Appropriates $8 million to the existing just transition program, which is designed to help communities transition away from coal-based power but needs funding to finalize its plan and start actually spending money in these communities. The bill amends the just transition program definitions to add two tiers. A tier 1 community is one that is already experiencing significant economic disruption or is at risk of doing so, because of the closure or conversion of a coal-power plant or declines in the coal market generally (this would affect mining or supply chain communities). Tier 2 communities are all coal-dependent communities that have not yet met the requirements to be a tier 1 community.

The money is to be spent to implement the final just transition plan and to provide supplemental funding to existing state programs that can help these communities. Heavy emphasis must be placed on tier 1 communities and programs that support targeted economic development, assist with regional capacity for coordination of economic development programs and worker assistance programs, support infrastructure projects and workforce development programs, or are consistent with the goals and strategies of the just transition plan. Existing just transition advisory committee is to consult on these decisions and money can only be transferred to other state agencies with the approval of the department of labor and employment (where just transition office is housed), department of local affairs, and the office of economic development. State must spend at least 70% of the $8 million by next July and all of it by July 2023. It can use up to 5% for administrative costs.

The bill creates a new separate fund for workers (previously they were tied together with communities) and appropriates $7 million to the fund. Money must be spent on coal worker assistance programs that directly assist transition to new jobs including those that expand or establish registered apprenticeships, aid implementation of the just transition plan, provide tuition reimbursement, provide job search assistance, provide individualized financial and transition planning, or provide other services authorized by federal law such as on-the-job training or subsidized employment. Again 70% must be spend this fiscal year and all of it by July 2023. Any money that hasn’t been accounted for yet by March must be spent to support family members or other household members of coal transition workers and on a pilot program to test innovative coal transition work support programs. State is encouraged to limit pilot to 40 workers but there are no other conditions or guidance. Again state can use up to 5% of the $7 million for administrative costs.

As with the communities, the bill also tweaks definitions of coal workers for the plan, again creating two tiers. For workers, tier 1 is someone who lost their coal-related job on or after January 1, 2017, or is reasonably likely to be laid off in the future and the cause was either the closure of a coal-powered plant or the decline in coal markets.

Previous definitions for communities required specific number of lost jobs in coal industry and for workers required lost coal-related job on or after May 28, 2019, and did not specify that the job had to be lost for any reason.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Coal is dying and will likely be basically dead by 2030 as an industry in Colorado. This presents an enormous transition challenge for the many communities that rely on the industry for jobs. So we created the just transition plan in 2019 to help
  • But the plan lacks funding, so this bill provides it but also tweaks the program to make it easier to administer and easier to prioritize communities that need the most help

In Further Detail: When we created this just transition plan in 2019, coal provided more than ½ of our net power generation, while natural gas provided ¼. 1,300 workers were employed in state coal mines, and many more at power plants. But coal is dying as a power generator, even without more stringent action by the national government or states, as wind and solar become cheaper to produce than coal energy, even when storage is accounted for. And many states in the country, including Colorado, are not just sitting back when it comes to clean energy. Ever increasing clean energy requirements with the eventual goal of eradication of coal-produced energy are basically here. In Colorado, by 2030 we are likely to get near zero of our net power generation from coal. The effects could be devastating to these communities. These are high-quality jobs and have been among the best in many of these communities for decades. And they will not be easy to replace. But the plan was not funded at the time, so it has been stuck in limbo, unable to start until it has the funding to do so. Now we have an opportunity to easily provide the money the program needs thanks to the massive state stimulus money. The bill does that, with $15 million, but also tweaks the program slightly to make it easy to operate and easier to prioritize communities that need the most help right now.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The economy kills industries all the time, big and small, and we do not step in as a government to say we need to hand out money to the workers and communities affected. Technology in particular can be a cruel double-edged sword. Computers, cars, electricity, all of these major inventions displaced existing economies and forced companies, workers, and communities to adapt. And they will adapt again, without millions of dollars of taxpayer money lavished on them

Bottom Line:

  • Considering that wage replacement remains a part of the just transition plan (the goal in the plan is three years worth of subsidies to boost wages up to what they were at the coal job) this may not be nearly enough money. We basically have one shot at these stimulus funds, we cannot turn around next year and decide we didn’t spend enough because we’ll back to regular budgets with little excess money (even in 2019, a pretty flush year pre-pandemic, this program was not funded)

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1290

HB21-1303 Global Warming Potential For Public Project Materials (Hansen (D)) [Bernett (D), McLachlan (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $75,342
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year to create rules, unknown impact on construction costs

Goal:

Set maximum acceptable global warming impacts for a variety of materials used in construction projects. All contractors are to start submitting environmental product declarations or similar life cycle assessments for their materials in their bids (this information largely already exists, it basically says what the environmental impact of the material is from extraction to end of use). State is to keep revisiting maximum levels and potentially revise them downward over time (they cannot be revised upward).

Description:

Requires the state to set rules for the maximum acceptable global warming potential for asphalt, glass, post-tension steel, reinforcing steel, structural steel, wool structural elements, concrete, and cement when used in a public project. For non-road or bridge projects, the state architect is to be in charge of the rules, for road and bridge projects, the department of transportation (these must involve just asphalt, cement, concrete, and steel). Both can set sub-categories if they need to differentiate different levels of acceptable warming potential. Both are to base rules upon industry average of facility-specific global warming potential for the material based upon nationally or internationally recognized databases of environmental product declarations. Both can consult with any other state agency as needed. Architect must set rules by 2024, department of transportation by 2025. In 2026 and then every four years after architect must review these averages and may adjust downward if the industry average has changed (department of transportation starts in 2027 and then every four years after). It may not adjust upward.

Beginning in 2022 all contractors must submit an environmental product declaration or similar life cycle assessment for each of the materials in this bill used in their public construction project. State can exempt materials for which there is not reasonable data on environmental impact for. This states quantifiable information on the environmental impact of the product from extraction to end of use. These must not exceed the maximum acceptable number set by the state. Government can ask for bids that utilize even lower numbers if the awarding entity wants. No material in this bill can be used on a public contract without submitting a product declaration. When the rules are in place the winning contract must adhere to them, unless a particular product has a waiver. State must report to legislature by 2026 on any obstacles to implementing this bill and how effective it has been in reducing global warming potential, as well as all of the developed rules.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We are in a climate crisis and need to avert catastrophe. Current conditions in the state with massive wildfires and mega droughts are already bad enough, we cannot afford for it to get worse
  • We have not yet addressed the emissions from manufacturing building materials. It is estimated that this accounts for more than 11% of global emissions
  • The way to measure these impacts already exists, so we don’t need to create anything new
  • We can use the enormous purchasing power of the state to push the entire industry to lower emission standards

In Further Detail: We are the midst of a climate crisis. Sea levels are rising, temperatures are rising, draughts are increasing, and catastrophic climate events are increasing in frequency, including wildfires. As a state we have taken numerous tacks to address the crisis, from reducing emissions to encouraging green sources of fuel. What we have not yet done is take the enormous purchasing power of the state and put it to work on improving the climate impact of materials used in major construction projects. It is estimated that the emissions from manufacturing building materials accounts for more than 11% of global emissions. There is the potential for great quantities of emissions to be released during the manufacturing and transportation of these materials and the business community has already come up with a way for these impacts to be measured through environmental product declarations. So as a state we can improve outcomes and accelerate usage of materials created and transported in more environmentally friendly ways. By requiring this in state projects we can nudge companies toward using these products in all of their projects.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We have no idea how much this will impact costs: we don’t want to drastically increase the price of all public construction projects
  • More study is required before taking this big of a step, since implementation is several years off in the bill, we have plenty of time

In Further Detail: The fiscal note prepared by the non-partisan legislative staff basically says it all: this may increase costs for future public construction projects but it is not possible to determine by how much. We need to look before we leap here, because while the goals of decreased emissions are laudable, we better make sure it isn’t going to cost taxpayers large amounts of money to achieve them. More study first to get an estimate of potential economic impacts, then we can see about requirements for public contracts. Since the bill doesn’t ask for implementation of these rules until 2024 at the earliest, we have plenty of time to study first.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1303

HB21-1318 Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program (Garcia (D)) [Herod (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: None, just moving money around
Fiscal Impact: No new impact, less money in the school capital construction fund

Goal:

Create a grant program to give grants to try to reduce barriers to the Colorado outdoors among low-income Coloradans, minorities, and those with disabilities. Program is to be run by a board the bill creates and funding by diverting money from state lottery proceeds that go right now to the public school capital construction fund, a few million dollars each year (the fund gets over $130 million each year, mostly from other sources).

Description:

Creates the Outdoor Equity Grant Program, which is to distribute grants to reduce barriers to the Colorado outdoors, create pathways for formal or informal conservation, and offer environmental and Colorado outdoor-based educational opportunities. Grants are to go to government entities, non-profits, for-profits, or Native American tribes and must be used to engage racially or ethnically diverse eligible youth who are either from low-income families, are LGBTQ, Native American, or have disabilities so as to build sustainability and capacity for these communities to participate more in the state’s outdoors.

The program is to be run by the Outdoor Equity Board (which the bill creates), housed in the division of wildlife. Voting members of this board are appointed by the director of the division in consultation with the executive director of the great outdoors program. In addition to awarding grants, the board is to create an outdoor equity website, establish application and reporting requirements for the grant program, create a conflict of interest policy for board members to prevent them from benefitting from the grant program, and report annually to the legislature. Board members are paid both a $200 annual stipend and a $200 per diem for meeting attendance (both indexed to inflation) and can be compensated for expenses.

The program is funded by diverting state lottery money that would otherwise go to the public school capital construction fund. For the first year, the first $750,000 goes to the equity program, the next $3 million to the public school capital construction fund, and of remaining money 50% to the public school capital construction fund, 25% to the wildlife cash fund and 25% to the parks and outdoor recreation cash fund. Next year, the equity fund gets the first $1.5 million, then the rest of the breakdown stays the same. In 2022-23, the equity fund gets the first $2.25 million, then the rest of the breakdown stays the same. In 2023-24 and every year going forward, the equity program gets the first $3 million, then the rest of the breakdown stays the same. Although it involves some projection to determine exactly (since it is based on lottery proceeds), the net effect of this should be for the capital construction fund to lose $1.5 million this year, $1.9 million next year, and $2.3 million in 2022-23 (no estimate provided beyond that), with the wildlife cash fund and parks and recreation cash funds each gaining $387,500 this year, then $200,000 next year, and $12,500 in 2022-23.

Additional Information:

Low-income is defined in the bill as household income that is less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty line. Youth is under 26.

The board consists of nine voting members which include: one person personally impacted by and with experience in racial justice issues, one person personally impacted by and with experience in environmental justice issues, one person personally impacted by and with experience in disability-accessible outdoor programming, one person personally impacted by and with experience in equity for LGBTQ individuals, one person with experience working on conservation issues, one person with experience providing outdoor education programs, and three youth members from communities eligible to be served by the grant program.

There are three non-voting members of the board to provide assistance: director of the state outdoor recreation industry office, director of the division of parks and wildlife, and the executive director of the great outdoors Colorado program. Non-voting members can be reimbursed for expenses.

Nominations for the voting members must be done through an open and public process that engages non-profit and public organizations that have a focus on racial equity, environmental justice, conservation and stewardship, youth activity and engagement, education, disability advocacy and accessibility, advocacy and accessibility for LGBTQ people, advocacy for Native Americans, and other relevant areas of focus. To extent possible board members should have experience providing educational experiences to underserved youth and reflect the diversity of the state (including geographic diversity).

Reporting from grantees should be qualitative and quantitative and should include ethnic and racial makeup of programs funded, ages and localities of program participants, and types of programming funded. All of this information must be in the annual report.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have a definite equity issue with access to our beautiful outdoors: the majority of these folks are white and affluent
  • Part of this is geography, minority and low-income households are more likely to live in nature deprived places, part of this is historical residue of discrimination, part lack of outreach, and part lack of programmatic capacity
  • All of this has consequences. Research has shown nature provides mental health benefits, improved health and cognitive functions, reduced stress, enhanced social skills, and higher academic outcomes
  • The school construction fund this is diverting from gets the vast majority (98%) of its funding from elsewhere and will not be harmed by the bill

In Further Detail: A 2019 study showed that about half of Americans participate in any outdoor recreation and those folks are generally white and affluent. Black people comprised only 1% of visitors to national forests and Latinos only 6% (according to US forest service data). There is no reason to think Colorado is bucking this trend, although we don’t have state specific data that is recent. Given that the minority population of the state is 32%. Part of this is simple geography: there are fewer forests, streams, parks, and other natural places near underserved communities. Communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to live in nature deprived places and 70% of low-income communities are nature deprived, 20% higher than moderate or high income Americans. Part of this is an echo of historic discrimination: our country’s parks and natural environment openly discriminated against communities of color in the past and people of color continue to be underrepresented in people who work in our parks, which helps create an atmosphere of unwelcomeness which can be unintentional, or in the famous case of Christian Cooper who had the police called on him for what become known as #BirdingWhileBlack, intentional. We also need more outreach into these communities and programs designed for them (which is what the bill does). And all of this has consequences. Nature provides mental health benefits. Studies have demonstrated that children who spend time outdoors in natural environments experience improved health and cognitive functions, reduced stress, enhanced social skills, and higher academic performance. We should also be clear that the capital school construction fund gets the vast majority of its funding (98%) from elsewhere. This will not harm this fund.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Losing over $1 million a year in school construction means over $1 million in school construction projects not being funded
  • The program taking that money is too vaguely defined: there is a big range of potential ways to get people more in the outdoors and the bill does not really distinguish which ones it is interested in
  • The board is composed in a such a way to make conflicts of interests extremely hard to avoid and lacks the expertise you typically see in grant programs
  • It is not the state’s job to ensure outdoor recreation and leisure activities are done equitably, anyone who wants to go to a state park is free to do so by paying the entrance fee

In Further Detail: Break it down into percentages all you like, but losing over $1 million in funding means losing over $1 million in opportunities to help our schools with capital construction projects. So what are we going to do with this money? It is quite vague—the goal is to get more low-income and minority communities in the outdoors, but how is that to be accomplished? What specific things are going to be done with the millions of dollars put into this program, because there is a vast range of potential from simply trying to build more natural spaces in these communities to paying people to bring the underserved out into state parks. The way this program is setup is also ripe for conflicts of interest. The board is supposed to create a policy against this, but it is also stacked with folks who are involved with the very programs this grant program is going to be giving money to. The board is also unbalanced, generally boards strive to keep a balance of expertise and lived experience so as to ensure we are spending our money wisely and appropriately. This board is tipped toward lived experience. And we should be clear about something else here too: whatever the case was historically, right now if anyone in Colorado wants to go to a state park, all they have to do is pay the entrance fee, just like everyone else. It is not the state’s job to ensure outdoor recreation and leisure activities are done equitably by all Coloradans.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1318

HB21-1324 Promote Innovative And Clean Energy Technologies (Rodriguez (D), Hisey (R)) [Pelton (R), Roberts (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Allows investor-owned utilities (Xcel and Black Hills) to apply to the public utilities commission for approval of an innovative technology project, these are projects that have minimal or no greenhouse gas emissions, have no nuclear or other hazardous material waste or byproducts, and don’t use solar or wind or lithium-ion batteries. They must also not be widely deployed in the country. The bill limits the amount of energy a utility can create for all of their innovative projects to 300 megawatts.

Description:

Allows investor-owned utilities (Xcel and Black Hills) to apply to the public utilities commission for approval of an innovative technology project. These must be presented as part of the utility’s electric resource planning process and must address: how the project will be developed, if the project is changing an existing generation source to meet the innovative definition or if it involves a new resource, how the project mitigates the impact of transition away from fossil fuels in affected areas of the state, and if applicable, how the project furthers the efforts of workforce transition plans for those areas.

Any approved projects count toward the utility’s emission reduction requirements but utilities are capped at 300 megawatts for all such projects.

An innovative technology project is defined as a generation technology or storage technology that (alone in combination with other technology): has minimal or no greenhouse gas emissions, does not produce nuclear or otherwise hazardous waste or byproducts, does not send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, has not been widely deployed at any time in this country, and does not include stand-alone wind or solar or lithium-ion battery storage resources or wind or solar paired with lithium-ion battery storage. The bill leaves it up to the commission to define widely deployed but suggests evaluating the number of commercial projects for electricity generation in the country and how long they have been in operation.

These projects are eligible for rate recovery mechanisms (where the utility recovers its costs from customers through higher rates) and for extra profit for the utility if the commission finds the project provides net economic benefits to consumers.

Program expires in January 2025.

Additional Information:

Utilities can construct, own, and operate these projects themselves or partner with other energy developers or independent power producers. The bill allows them to use special purpose entities or other affiliated partnerships or corporations, including public-private partnerships. Utilities are free to set their own terms and use appropriate means to solicit partners, including requests for information and proposals or bilateral negotiations. Of course any project still must be approved by the commission.

Utilities may use their own employees but if using contractors, must only use contractors that have registered apprenticeship programs except for design, planning, and engineering, management functions, or any work included in a warranty.


Auto-Repeal: January 2025

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The market for clean energy is only going to continue to grow and new technologies are going to continue to be developed, so it makes sense to try to position Colorado on the forefront of this movement. It helps our environment by replacing dirty energy with clean energy, which may help us avert climate catastrophe, may help recruit new businesses to the state, bringing jobs of the future with them, and may help areas of the state reliant on fossil fuels for their economy transition away. Because that transition is coming, whether they like or not. Coal is dying fast and oil and gas are likely to be next. The bill ensures that any experiments by utilities will be small, as we are likely to have some failures. That is inevitable on the cutting edge and should not be a reason for the state to stand back and wait for other places in the world to be the proving grounds for these technologies. Because if we wait, we are likely to let those places establish themselves as the economic homes for those technologies and may have a hard time bringing those industries to Colorado in any real way

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This bill offers a no-risk blank check to utilities to experiment with our money. If the experiment fails, the utility simply collects all of their costs from consumers, with the state’s blessing. If the experiment succeeds, the utility gets to collect some costs and then reap the benefits of developing emerging technology that may become a blueprint for others

Bottom Line:

  • We don't need to be guaranteeing profits for the utilities in this manner, if a new technology provides a net economic benefit to consumers let the consumers keep the benefit rather then ensuring the utility still gets the same amount of money

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1324

HB21-1326 2020-21 General Fund Transfer Support Department Of Natural Resources Programs (Story (D)) [McLachlan (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: $25 million (federal funds)
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Transfer $25 million of federal stimulus money to various state parks funds to support staffing, maintenance, infrastructure, backcountry search and rescue, the state wildlife plan, and the newly created outdoor equity program.

Description:

Transfers $17.5 million to the parks and outdoor recreation fund, of which $3.5 million is for staffing and maintenance projects and $14 million for infrastructure and state park development projects. Transfers $2.25 million to the search and rescue fund to support backcountry search and rescue efforts. Transfers $750,000 to the state avalanche information center fund to support backcountry avalanche safety plans. Transfers $3.5 million to the wildlife cash fund to implement state wildlife action plan and conserve natural species. Transfers $1 million to the outdoor equity fund, which is being created by a different bill in this session (HB1318).

Although this bill is supposed be funded using federal stimulus money, it is currently drawing money from the general fund.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a very small part of the federal stimulus money we are receiving and will help our state parks and recreation bridge the gap before the changes made in SB249 take hold and bring in the extra $20-$30 million a year we need to fully fund the maintenance required to help our stressed parks system. Even though the funding is one-time, since we know the funds from SB249 are coming, we should be able to make the transition fairly seamless. 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. We desperately need the funds to support one the state’s chief attractions in an industry that generates $1.2 billion a year for our economy

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1326

SB21-033 Conservation Easement Working Group Proposals (Sonnenberg (R), Winter (D)) [Roberts (D), Will (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Minor

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 disallowing easement tax credits to landowners. 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:

  • The bill does not make enough of an attempt to distinguish between people who really got cheated out their credits and people who were properly denied. A working group in 2018 actually found most of the denials we are focusing on here were proper
  • Some of this was bad enough that the IRS added syndicated conservation easements as one of its "dirty dozen" tax scams

In Further Detail: Although the bill does provide each claim to be examined by the state, it is more in the line of making sure this was a claim that was rejected during the time frame, not whether or not the easement itself was properly rejected the first time. The working group that came up with the plan this bill is based upon was actually not the first group to study the issue. In 2018 a different working group came to a different conclusion: the vast majority of denials during this period were legitimate. At the beginning of this program the fact is that some people bought up cheap farmland, got it appraised at inflated values, and then put it under conservation easement to dodge taxes at the inflated value. It was so bad that the IRS deemed it syndicated conservation easements and included such schemes as part of its "dirty dozen" tax scams. The most egregious examples were so-called "gravel pits": farmland that were bought for $400 to $500 an acre, subdivided into 40 acre lots and then reappraised as gravel pits. One such piece of land would have had to generate 40 years of gravel production for the entire county it was located in just to match the single year projected value. Another piece of land turned $776,000 at purchase price into $8 million in claimed easements. The people behind these schemes do not deserve this money.


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

SB21-072 Public Utilities Commission Modernize Electric Transmission Infrastructure (Hansen (D), Coram (R)) [A. Valdez (D), Catlin (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $500,000 next year, slightly more than that annually afterward

Goal:

  • Require certain investor-owned most utilities in the state to join a regional transmission organization (RTO) organized wholesale market (OWM), which can be a regional transmission organiztion (RTO) or independent system operater (ISO) by January 2030. This requirement can be waived or delayed by the public utilities commission (see Description for reasons why). The commission may allow these utilities to recover costs of participating in a OWM through increased consumer rates if the utility is losing more money than it is saving in costs by being in the RTO and must allow the utility to retain up to 35% of the savings realized from joining the OWM in years 1-2, 25% in year 3, and 20% in years 4-5 (none after that). The utility has the burden of proof for demonstrating to the commission the value of the savings
  • Create the Colorado Electric Transmission Authority as in independent authority authorized to select a qualified transmission operator to finance, plan, acquire, maintain, and operate eligible transmission and interconnected storage facilities. The authority cannot enter into a project if an electric utility or other private person is willing to provide what is needed to meet the identified need. It can issue tax-exempt bonds, exercise eminent domain to acquire property or rights-of-way when needed for projects, but it cannot take the property of an electric utility and cannot materially diminish electric service reliability.
  • The authority is not to own or control facilities itself unless the facilities are leased out to an electric utility or other person approved by the public utilities commission or the facilities do not affect electricity rates or reliability in Colorado. If a lease is broken or breached, the authority can hold the facilities for 180 days. It can sell facilities to utilities
  • It can also collect reasonable rates, fees, interest, or other charges for services rendered on utility projects. The authority is exempt from control or regulation by the public utilities commission except for rate increases without commission approval
  • The authority can work with any sort of electric utility on projects. Utilities can recover their costs in these projects from the public only if they have received a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the public utilities commission (or if they are municipal owned or coops, approval from their boards) and if the project costs are prudently incurred and the project is useful in serving its customers
  • Authority must report annually to the legislature, including complete financial and operating statements

Description:

Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO) are an electric power transmission system that coordinates, controls, and monitors an electric grid that spans several states. As of 2020, there are four RTOs in the US and all but 13 states (including Colorado) have some part of their state in a true multi-state RTO. RTOs buy power from generation stations and sell it to distribution utilities and may not earn profits. ISOs are extremely similar. In Colorado, our investor-owned utilities are Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy. Both own the generation and distribution facilities and have their rates controlled by the public utilities commission. They are allowed to earn a percentage profit on anything they build. Only utilities that do not have to join an OWM are municipal owned utilities, public utilities that do not own their own facilites, and cooperatives that are not networked.

To qualify for the requirement to join an OWM, the utility must own or operate lines capable of transmitting electric energy at a voltage of 100 kilovolts or more.

Bill does give the commission an out on OWMs. In order for a utility to join, the OWM must be approved by the federal government; effect separate control of transmission facilities from control of generation facilities; implement policies and procedures to minimize pancaked transmission rates ( in Colorado; improve service reliability in Colorado; achieve open and competitive electric marketplace, elimination of barriers to entry, and preclusion of bottleneck facilities; operates to substantially increase economical supply options for consumers; has governance structure that is independent of entities that buy and sell electricity in the region; promotes positive performance; has an inclusive and open stakeholder process, promotes and assists new economic development in Colorado; and is capable of maintaining real-time reliability of the electric grid, ensuring comparable and non-discriminatory access and services, minimize congestion, and further address real or potential system constraints. The commission can also drop the requirement if it determines requiring the utility to join is not in the public interest.

Commission is also tasked with representing the state in cases of managing physical connections, sharing of data, and interpretation and implemenation of tariff and business practices among differnt OWMs that meet in Colorado.

Also requires the public utility board to approve proposals that are deemed to meet cost-effectiveness, can reasonably accommodate future expansion (including that required for participating in a OWM) and renewable and clean energy standards and targets within 180 240 days. Any proposal not approved within 180 240 days is deemed accepted.

For the authority, the bill creates a board of governors consisting of seven members (see Additional Information for more detail).

The authority is to identify corridors for the transmission of electricity through the state and establish interstate transmission corridors. Before undertaking any project, the authority must post notices and give anyone with an interest the chance to object on the grounds that the authority cannot do the project because it is being done by someone else already (full details in Additional Information).

Authority must give priority, to extent possible, to contracts that will transmit or store energy to be sold and consumed in Colorado.

On another note, the bill requires that courts, when evaluating right-of-way claims for an interstate transmission line, evaluate the public purpose of the line including benefits outside the state.

Additional Information:

Requires the construction of any approved proposal to either use its own employees and/or contractors that give access to registered apprenticeship programs. Only design, planning, or engineering of the transmission facilities, management functions to operate the transmission facilities, or any work included in a warranty is exempt.

Commission may use its authority to manage physical connections, coordinate management, facilitate sharing of data, and require consistency in interpretation and implementation of tariffs and business practices between RTOs whose boundaries meet in Colorado.

Authority board composition is: the director of the Colorado energy office, two members appointed by the governor and approved by the senate, two three members appointed by the speaker of the house and two three members appointed by the president of the senate. For the governor’s appointments, one must have expertise in financing major electric transmission projects and the other must represent the interests of customers residing west of the Continental Divide. For the members appointed by the legislature, one must have utility experience (to be appointed by House Speaker), one must represent interests of wildlife conservation and land use (appointed by Senate President), one must represent interests of organized labor, one must represent interests of residential utility customers, one must represent interests of commercial or industrial utility customers and one must have knowledge of renewable energy development. Members must not represent a person that owns or operates energy facilities. Members serve four-year terms and receive no compensation. They can be reimbursed for expenses. They are subject to open meetings laws except for proprietary technical or business information. The board can hire a CEO and authorize hiring of additional staff. The authority can use reasonable funds for administrative costs and is provided a maximum of $500,000 annually from the public utilities commission. Board is create bylaws for its activity.

The authority can sue or be sued, maintain an office in Colorado, acquire or sell or lease real and personal property, receive gifts, grants, and donations, enter into contracts, enter into partnerships with public and private entities, and use the services of state agencies upon mutually agreeable terms and conditions. Authority is to provide information and training to any employees on one of its financed projects regarding any unique hazards, safe work practices, and emergency procedures.

Notice for projects must be provided to each utility in the state, the public utilities commission, and at least once in a newspaper with general circulation in the state, and at least once in a newspaper that circulates in the area where the facilities will be located. The authority must keep a notice continuously available on its website.

Anyone has 30 days to object. The authority must then hold a public hearing within 30 days but must give public notice of the hearing in all of the same places and give two weeks notice. Final decision rests with the authority. Anyone participating in the hearing can appeal within 35 days, jurisdiction is Denver.

The challengers have 90 days to prove they are willing and able to provide the services. If the challengers don’t do anything for six months after prevailing, the authority may proceed on its own.

Authority is given complete control to set terms of its bonds, other than a maximum of 30 year repayment. The board and employees of the authority are not personally liable for the bonds. The bill creates two funds for the authority, one for bonds and one for operations. Any funds earned by the authority must go into its bond fund. The state auditor is required to periodically audit the authority, including this fund.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Joining a OWM will allow Colorado to take advantage of our abundant potential wind and solar energy by exporting it to other states, bring greater reliability to our grid, and potentially save our consumers money on energy bills
  • The bill lays out strict standards for joining a OWM, so if we won’t get the benefits out of it we aren’t going to join
  • We need a massive amount of investment in energy projects in the state to meet our climate goals and we have massive untapped potential in solar and wind in southern Colorado for places that simply aren’t connected to the grid and need massive amounts of transmission line construction to work
  • The authority created in the bill is a broker of last resort, if an existing entity wants to do the project instead than the authority must bow out

In Further Detail: We cannot get to our climate related energy efficiency goals without wider electric grids and massive investments in clean energy. Right now we have fiefdoms in the state, which can share energy but more akin to asking to borrow something from your neighbor than an integrated system. That means two things: one, the potential for wasting energy in one sector that could be used in another is high and two: consumers are at the mercy of the electricity provider in their fiefdom. It also means we don’t have a centralizing authority pushing to build the infrastructure we need. Some believe we will need something on the order of $700 billion in investments across the entire western grid that Colorado belongs to over 20 years. Not all of that will be in Colorado of course, but Colorado is uniquely positioned to be a net exporter of clean energy. We have abundant wind and solar. But we can only do that if we are part of a OWM—otherwise all that extra energy is either going to be wasted or kept within Xcel or Black Hills’ fiefdom (both operate in other states). The other huge benefit to a true OWM is system-wide reliability. We say “true” because technically Texas operates an OWM inside its state that just had a catastrophic meltdown, but it does not cross state boundaries and thus is totally unregulated by the federal government. The potential for system-wide savings is enormous, in the billions of dollars. The concern about loss of local efficiency due to our utilities now having to buy and sell energy in the OWM misses the wider picture. First, right now utilities need to keep about 16% of generation in reserve. With a OWM, you can lower that number down to more like 10%. That’s worth more than $100 million per year. And Xcel could build a massive solar and wind farm in southern Colorado and sell all of that energy, beyond what it needs for its own customers, into the OWM. And of course the competition from all the utilities in the OWM should work to drive prices down. Finally, the bill painstakingly lays out very precise conditions for joining a OWM. In essence, if joining a OWM won’t deliver all of these benefits than the utility doesn’t have to do it.

That massive solar and wind farm brings us to part two of the bill. The problem with building all of that massive energy production in southern Colorado is there are no transmission lines to bring the power into the market. You get below Pueblo and you got nothing. That is the driving purpose behind the authority created by the bill: to fill in the places where our utilities are not willing to make the investment. Because that $700 billion needed will have to come from more places than just our utility companies. The accelerating impacts of climate change, which drive wildfire and drought in Colorado, demand fast action. The authority is designed to be in essence a broker of last resort: it is explicitly forbidden for the most part from owning its own facilities, is forbidden from starting projects others are willing to do, and it is forbidden from using eminent domain on other utilities.

As for the existing power sharing agreements and wider pact mentioned in arguments against, the state works better if the entire grid is integrated. If we leave things as they are, we are going to have a seam in the middle of the state, with parts integrated with one system and parts with another. We didn’t have failures like Texas did, but there were parts of Colorado’s system that failed during the severe cold weather. It is natural that the investor-owned utilities would resist this, we are threatening their monopoly. As for infrastructure concerns, we are all going to benefit from clean energy infrastructure built in other states. We need to stop thinking parochially about power grids.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This can harm our existing utility companies financially and in terms of efficiency: they currently own the means of creating the energy and the means of distributing it, in a OWM they have to sell their energy and then buy back energy for customers—if this means they lose money they can and will pass that on to consumers
  • Many of our energy providers are already integrated and planning to join regional pacts
  • We are giving a massive amount of power up to this unelected authority that can make markets when we already have energy goals our existing utilities must meet and a public utility commission to regulate them

In Further Detail: All of this sounds wonderful in concept but massive coordination on the scale the bill envisions is extremely complicated and involves basically blowing up our state’s model for investor-utilities. If they have to join a OWM they are no longer creating and distributing their own energy. They create energy, sell it to the OWM, and then buy back energy from the OWM. You can easily see where the inefficiency may come that could raise electricity prices for Colorado consumers (since the bill allows the utilities to pass on net losses to us all associated costs on to us). Many of our major energy providers are already integrated with power-sharing agreements and are already planning to join an efficiency and cost-saving pact called the Western Inbalance Market. Some are planning to join others. Going into a pact that is not a full-blown OWM allows us to keep regulation here at the state level, instead of relying on federal government regulation (which does not care about operating budgets at all), and ensures we aren’t paying for infrastructure upgrades in other states. As for the seam issue, the bill only affects investor-owned utilities. Municipalities and co-ops are not forced to join, which has the potential to create the exact same seam the Arguments For was concerned about.

For the authority, we are giving a lot of power up to an unelected board selected entirely by one political party (at least for now). Eminent domain is one of the most powerful tools that exists in our laws: the ability to force someone to sell you their land. Billion dollar bond projects with whatever bonding instrument this board wants at whatever rates it wants. In essence we are talking about creating a gigantic entity that can make markets, even if it is somewhat restricted in terms of direct competition with our existing utilities. All of our publicly regulated utilities have to meet our clean energy goals, so that is going to require some massive investment. Let’s trust them and the already existing public utilities commission to do it right.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-072

SB21-103 Sunset Office Of Consumer Counsel (Fenberg (D), Winter (D)) [Esgar (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $453,941
Fiscal Impact: About $600,000 a year from the expanded scope of office

Goal:

  • Continue the officer of the consumer counsel (OCC) and the utility consumers’ board (UCB) for seven more years, with sunset review in September 2028
  • Clarify that the counsel can represent its consumer interests in front of state agencies other than the public utilities commission Allow the office to appear before the commission in matters addressing telecommunications. Require the office to consider statutory climate goals, just transition away from fossil fuels, and environmental justice when representing consumers Allow the office to do its own lobbying of the legislature on matters that affect public utility rates, provision of services, certificates of public convenience and necessity for facilities, and other matters that affect interests the office represents
  • Gives the office the power to inspect records and depose witnesses of public utilities via subpoenas through the public utilities commission
  • Change the structure of the consumer’s board from a type 1 to a type 2. This means that instead of being a governing body with presumed authority over the consumer counsel it is instead advisory and cannot tell the counsel what to do, just give advice

Description:

The office of the consumer counsel is tasked with representing consumers of investor-owned utilities in matters before the public utilities commission. The board provides guidance to the counsel.

Change the name of the office to the office of the utility consumer advocate and name of head of office from the consumer counsel to the director. Removes cap on employees the office can house (was 16).

Repeal requirement that members of the consumers’ board annually review the office’s performance and confer with the executive director of the department of regulatory agencies regarding hiring and performance evaluation. Also repeal requirement that members of board represent all congressional districts and instead Also require greatest degree of diversity possible in board appointments.

Ban the office from recommending any action that would interfere with utility employee wages, insurance, or retirement benefits if they were negotiated through collective bargaining.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2028 with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This implements the recommendations of the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review report
  • Rate payers are increasingly impacted by matters that appear before other agencies, in particular things that deal with climate, and deserve to have their voices heard This office used to be able to represent consumers in telecommunications matters, it is a natural extension to let it do so again
  • The name of the counsel is extremely confusing and does not really describe what it actually does
  • The board is a volunteer-based advisory board that is constructed for broad stakeholder input, not expertise. It is therefore inappropriately constructed in law in several ways the bill removes
  • The congressional district requirement actually can be fulfilled without representing the true geographic diversity of the state in several cases. Plus the district requirements makes it hard to fill vacancies Requiring the office to consider climate goals and environmental justice removes one of the chief complaints that the office simply always reflexively is against anything that would raise rates even one cent

In Further Detail: From the sunset review report: “In the end, the OCC, and the UCB, are necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare, and the OCC performs its duties both efficiently and effectively, as evidenced by the savings realized by consumers and the OCC’s adjudicatory success rate. While the regulatory landscape in which the OCC primarily operates has changed, the need for the consumer voice offered by the OCC is more necessary than ever. For all these reasons, the General Assembly should continue the OCC for seven years, until 2028.” It makes sense to allow the counsel to represent rate payers in front of bodies other than the public utilities commission because rules that touch on electricity rates are coming up more and more often in front of these bodies. The office used to be able to represent consumers in matters dealing with telecommunications and it makes sense to once again allow them to do so. This is very similar to electric and gas utilities. For the name change, the current name is just bad, it doesn’t describe what the office really does and includes the confusing idea that the head of the office must be a lawyer, which is not true. For the board, it is just plain wrongly constructed in statute. It is setup as a volunteer board to give advice to the counsel but is given statutory authority over the counsel. This is not appropriate and not really functional either. It is also totally inappropriate and impractical for the board to be involved in budgets or hiring decisions (which is probably why it hasn’t been, even though it’s allowed in law). The current congressional district restraint hurts the board in filling open slots and actually can easily be worked around so that the state is not truly represented. It is possible, for instance, to not have a single member of the board that lives in the mountains or the western slope yet represent all the districts. Requiring the office to consider climate goals and environmental justice will make it more of a true advocate of consumer interests. One of the chief complaints about the office right now is that it simply always opposes anything that will raise rates, no matter what else it does.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This office’s job, as it construes it, is to narrowly advocate for lower electricity and gas rates, which is fine in front of the public utilities commission but is just going to get in the way in other settings where the goal may be much broader than just electricity rates. We all know what the office will say to any measure that would improve the climate but increase utility rates
  • The composition of the board is actually flawed and should not be focused on representing the entire state. Investor-owned utilities is basically Xcel and Black Hills. Much of the geographic area of the state does not get energy from those two

Bottom Line:

  • Perhaps we need a statutory rewrite of what the counsel is supposed to advocate for if all it ever does is argue for lower rates. The interests of utility consumers extend beyond just rates. A cleaner climate is also an interest and if the language of the law that gives the counsel life gave more emphasis to other factors, perhaps the counsel would not be so narrow-minded

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-103

SB21-105 Implement And Finance Gray Wolf Reintroduction (Coram (R)) [Will (R)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • In developing their draft plan to reintroduce gray wolves as required by proposition 114, require at least one public hearing in each congressional district and three hearings in district 3 (the Western Slope). Then additional public hearings are required in close proximity to each of the locations identified for reintroduction to present the draft plan for public comment. Then finalize the plan and present it to the legislature during the 2023 session
  • Must create a plan for funding reintroduction and present it to the legislature. This must include ways to provide money to assist livestock owners and compensate them for direct and indirect losses due to the wolves, and consideration of ways to provide owners for loss of poultry and other alternative livestock not covered by proposition 114
  • For 10 years after implementation, must hold at least three public hearings every year, two of which must be near locations where the wolves have been reintroduced

Description:

There must be at least 30 days notice prior to any hearing and the draft plan hearings must be at least 60 days apart. They must allow testimony from the public and be of sufficient length to let everyone speak without unnecessary limitations, and in the draft plan stage there must be consultation with local officials. There must be an online portal during the draft plan stage that accepts public comments until January 31, 2023. After implementation public comment must be accepted for at least 90 days after each hearing. These hearings can also hear testimony from expert witnesses.

The state must collect and report to the public data on gray wolves in the state during all phases of planning and implementation.

Bill also requires the state to delist the wolves from the list of threatened or endangered species as soon as practicable when litigation contesting the validity of their delisting is resolved (if in favor of delisting of course). It also requires the state request the federal government do an environmental impact analysis of the reintroduction of wolves on lands that are owned by the federal government before any wolves are reintroduced on those lands.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The people have spoken, but this was an extremely close victory for gray wolf reintroduction and the areas that will be directly affected mostly voted against. We owe it to these areas to proceed very carefully. Proposition 114 called for public hearings, this bill merely fleshes that out
  • Proposition 114 did not select a reliable long-term funding source for reintroduction, so the bill directs the state and the legislature to solve that problem

In Further Detail: Look, this was one of the closest contests in the last election and reintroduction won mostly on the backs of Front Range citizens who will not be directly affected by this. The proposition itself called for public hearings, so this bill just fleshes that process out to ensure it is transparent and thorough. Which is also what is required of funding of this program, proposition 114 selected the wildlife cash fund as the main vehicle for reintroduction and it is just not capable of handling this. We need to figure something else out.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • At some point enough is enough. Yes we need public hearings. Do we need more than 10 before reintroduction and three a year after? Way too much, these hearings will cost money to conduct
  • HB1040 is already solving the financing problem

In Further Detail: Yes, the proposition requires public hearings so it is perfectly reasonable to flesh that out. But the requirement to hold a hearing near each potential reintroduction site, plus the 8 that are required around the state, is overkill. So is three hearings a year for 10 years after reintroduction. These cost money to put on. As for the financing, house bill 1040 is already solving this problem (without the need for study and hearings!)

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-105

SB21-108 Public Utilities Commission Gas Utility Safety Inspection Authority (Story (D)) [Bernett (D), Cutter (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $423,448
Fiscal Impact: Unknown from increased penalties, increased costs of around $250,000 a year

Goal:

  • Add intrastate liquified natural gas facilities and operators of liquid gas petroleum distribution systems for pipeline safety rules and inspections and allow the state to adopt stricter rules than the federal government
  • Restrict the ability of the state to reduce penalties for violating gas pipeline safety rules by putting floor on the reduction ($5,000) and double the maximum amount of those penalties from $100,000 per violation with a maximum of $1,000,000 to $200,000 and $2,000,000

Description:

Specifically the bill says the state can have more strict rules around qualifications and verifiable credentials for people engaged in pipeline construction and repair; reduction of risks posed by abandoned gas pipelines; expansion on annual reporting requirements for pipeline operators; and requirements for investigation of specific types of pipeline damage and pursuit of civil remedies for that damage.

Previously there was no lower limit to damage reduction, it could go to $0. Bill also allows the commission to recover court costs. The bill also gets more specific about the conditions under which an agreement with reduced damages can be reached. It requires consideration of objective metrics and factors set forth in rules (did not exist before). It expands on the considerations the commission can make. For gravity of the violation, the bill adds consideration of actual or potential effect on public safety or pipeline system integrity and the extent to which the violation and any underlying conditions may have contributed to the severity of the violation being remedied. It rewrites good faith effort to remedy problem or prevent future ones as extent to which the violator agrees to spend a specified dollar amount on commission-approved measures to reduce risk instead of paying the part of the penalty. It also removes consideration of business size as a factor.

Requires the commission to map all pipelines within its jurisdiction (can incorporate existing maps) and allows for more strict rules than federal standards for pipeline inspection.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We are at all-time highs for households hooked up to natural gas and this expansion is overrunning our ability to keep up with safety and the ability for gas line operators to utilize skilled maintenance personnel
  • The Firestone explosion in 2017 drove home the dangers of close proximity of homes and gas wells and pipelines, in particular this bill will allow us to inspect rural gas gathering pipelines which are exempt in federal regulations
  • We need defined rules to follow when deciding if a penalty on a violator should be reduced and increasing the size of the penalties will help us fund better oversight

In Further Detail: Natural gas has become a bigger and bigger part of our homes and businesses and so the maze of pipes under the ground to deliver it have become more complicated. This puts stress on our regulators to inspect all of it and stress on maintenance crews to keep these lines safe. It was the failure in one of these lines that blew up a house in Firestone in 2017, killing two Coloradans. In particular this bill allows us to exceed federal standards, which allows us to inspect rural gas gathering pipelines which are exempt under federal regulation. For the penalty section, we need a defined process that takes specific items into account rather than the loose structure we have now to determine if a penalty should be reduced. And the size of the business should not matter. Increasing the size of the penalties helps fund the commission’s efforts to do all of the inspection and oversight required to keep us safe.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Federal rules are sufficient in this area, the rural inspection exemption allows us to focus more of our limited resources on more developed areas
  • The relationship between the commission and the companies it regulates is important to keep these companies proactive and encourage self-reporting

In Further Detail: We don’t need to go beyond federal rules, the rural exemption allows to better focus our resources, which Arguments For notes are limited, to areas where there are greater concentrations of people. For the penalties section, the relationship between the commission and the companies it regulates is actually pretty important. It encourages partnership which encourages those companies to be proactive and self-report problems. A more adversarial tone with strict rules may damage those relationships.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-108

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

SIGNED INTO LAW

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

SB21-125 Alternate Proposals Air Quality Control Rulemaking (Cooke (R))

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Create a more robust series of rules around alternative proposals submitted to the air quality commission for rulemaking. Requires the commission to set rules around these proposals, including: a deadline for submission prior to the hearing (can be no later than requested proposals), how they are submitted, assignment of a hearing officer to be sure the submission complies with commission rules, and ensuring that any party to the upcoming hearing has sufficient time to review the proposal
  • Alternative proposals must include an initial economic impact analysis, a description of the classes of people that will be affected, and a statement as to whether the proposal was developed in consultation with those people and if not, why not. Once approved as complete, alternative proposals must then provide a complete economic impact analysis

Description:

Hearing officer has 10 days to determine if the alternative proposal is complete. If so, they must then file notices with all parties on the alternative proposal. Bill also clarifies the commission has the flexibility to announce rulemaking hearings more than 60 days in advance (right now the language is shall give at least 60 days notice).

Under current law alternative proposals must be filed at least 20 days prior to the hearing. Commission already must consider alternative proposals.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This just brings some clarity to an already required process. If we are going to require the commission to consider alternatives (and it is a good thing to allow, the best plan should win) then we need some more structure around this process to as to allow the commission and designated parties time to digest them and to make sure we aren’t wasting anyone’s time with a half-baked proposal

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-125

SB21-135 Prohibit Exotic Animals In Traveling Performances (Ginal (D), Zenzinger (D)) [Froelich (D), Duran (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal:

  • Ban the use of exotic animals in performances associated with traveling acts. This does not prohibit exhibitions at wildlife sanctuaries, permanent institutions accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, or as part of some environmental education programs, or by a research facility licensed or registered under the federal Animal Welfare Act to conduct research. Penalty for violation is unclassified misdemeanor and fine of $250-$1,000 per violation.

Description:

Performance is defined as having the animal do tricks or otherwise perform for the benefit of an audience or for photography purposes. For environmental education programs, they must be either accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums, permitted by state as wildlife rehabilitator or falconer, certified as environmental educator by Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, or hold a degree in environmental education from an institution of higher education. If these requirements are met, the animals must not be used for more than six months in a year and not kept in a mobile or traveling housing facility for more than 12 hours a day.

Additional Information:

Exotic animals are defined as not pets, livestock, or alternative livestock that is not native to Colorado. The specific list includes:

  • Cetartiodactyla other than bison, cattle, deer, elk, goats, reindeer, swine, and sheep (hoofed animals that bear weight equally on toes and whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
  • Felidae other than domestic cats (wild cats)
  • Wild canidae other than domestic dogs (wild dogs)
  • Marsupialia (pouch to carry young)
  • Nonhuman primates (non-human apes and monkeys)
  • Perissodactyla other than horses, donkeys, and mules (the other hoofed animals
  • Pinnipedia (seals, sea lions, and walruses)
  • Proboscidea (elephants)
  • Ratites (flightless birds)
  • Spheniscidae (penguins)
  • Ursidae (bears)


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Circus animals are treated poorly and frequently with negative reinforcement discipline involving prods or sticks
  • This does not ban circuses, just animal acts in them, which is where the industry is heading anyway, and does not affect zoos, the stock show, or the aquarium, nor animals traveling for legitimate research or breeding purposes
  • The fact that the wild is a dangerous place or that it can be difficult to find appropriate homes for circus animals is no reason to keep treating animals this way

In Further Detail: Circus animals are confined for virtually their entire lives in rough conditions that in no way approximate their natural habitats. They spend most of their time in cages or in chains and frequently travel for long stretches in trucks and box cars with no climate control. When they are allowed out, it is for training (which frequently includes negative reinforcement discipline involving prods or sticks) and performances. Three other states already have similar bans. This bill will not prevent the stock show, the zoo, or the aquarium from operating as they have been, nor will it apply to animals who are traveling for legitimate research or breeding purposes. This of course does not ban circuses, it just bans using animals in them. And that is where we are going anyway, with Ringling Brothers shuttering a few years ago as a prime example. We have wised up that we cannot treat these animals this way, no matter if the wild is sometimes a dangerous place or if it sometimes difficult to find appropriate homes for circus animals. And this is not an insurmountable problem. We can make the effort to rehouse them in good, appropriate homes instead of continuing to subject them to this life. At least, not in Colorado. This will obviously not end the animal circus industry in the United States but it is the best we can do in that direction.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The wild can be just as rough, if not worse, than conditions in a circus
  • There is a legitimate question of what happens to these animals: they cannot go into the wild and the sanctuary community is quite full and has its own issues. We don’t want them owned by private individuals

In Further Detail: The reality of the wild is very different than what many people imagine. It is frequently a brutal place where death can lurk around many corners: from starvation, from other animals, or from human hunters. Animals in circuses are fed, given medical attention, and a space to live, even if that life is not what we would hope for in all situations. There is also a legitimate question of what becomes of these animals after the circus closes or no longer uses them. The sanctuary community is quite full (and we had a nasty incident with the shuttering of an unlicensed sanctuary in this state a few years ago). These animals cannot go back (or into for the first time) the wild. We certainly do not want them owned by private individuals (not all states ban this practice). So we should look before we leap.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-135

SB21-136 Sunset Forest Health Advisory Council (Ginal (D), Coram (R)) [Cutter (D), Carver (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Continue the Forest Health Advisory Council through 2026 with sunset review

Description:

This council is housed in the state forest service and is charged with advising the state on a broad range of issues, opportunities, and threats to Colorado forests.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2026 with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This was the recommendation of the department of regulatory agencies sunset review report

In Further Detail: From the sunset review report: “The FHAC provides important natural resource expertise to the state forester and to policymakers that is necessary to protect the health of the state’s forests. Therefore, the General Assembly should continue the FHAC.”

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Five years seems like too short a renewal for such an obviously critical counsel that seems to be working very much as intended. Sunset reviews consume state resources, so we don’t want to do more than necessary. At least 7 years seems more appropriate if not 10

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-136

SB21-149 Wind Energy Facilities Sited Near Military Operations (Gardner (R))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Require wind energy developers to get federal government approval for any vertical construction over 200 feet tall and ban any construction over 50 feet fall tall within 2 miles of an active federal military launch site or control facility.

Description:

Requires any wind energy developer or owner to notify the federal government of any new construction or expansion that includes vertical construction of over 200 feet tall and only proceed if the government has no objection. If the federal government objects that the project would have an adverse impact on military mission, training, or operations, then the project can only proceed if the developer or owner agrees to mitigation measures identified by the government. Government has 90 days to respond to the notification. Right now the government does examine all such proposed construction, as all of it must be approved by the FAA and the FAA asks the government for comment.

Any construction over 50 feet high within 2 miles of an active federal military missile launch site or control facility is entirely prohibited.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The impetus from this bill comes from the federal government (so they’ve signed off on it and the clearinghouse process the bill envisions already exists and has since 2011). Reviews from 2014-2020 for wind towers resulted in over 95% approval from this clearinghouse. The problem is that right now, anyone who doesn’t get approval from the clearinghouse can go ahead anyway. In two states this has already occurred. The bill obviously fixes that. For the towers near the missile facilities, these are extremely high-security facilities and the federal government doesn’t want towers of any type this close to them, in part because of impingent on helicopter operations. For the higher towers, the problem here is obvious. We have a lot of military installations in the state and we are going to be building a lot of new wind towers in the coming years. The potential problems for wind towers and aircraft are clear and we need to head them off

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The problem with the bill is that you need the clearance from the FAA in order to get insurance (the FAA sends these applications on to the government clearinghouse in the current process), so the bill actually conflicts with the current process of getting approval from the FAA, which includes military review. The bill’s thresholds also conflict with federal law, and the 2 mile buffer completely contradicts federal law which deals with these things on a case-by-case basis instead of a blanket ban. That 2 mile buffer can turn into a pretty large area per missile silo, which can just be a blanket infringement on property rights without a clear reason (the entire 16 square mile area around a silo surely does not need to be clear of obstruction). That sort of blanket ban could hurt the development of the wind industry, which is going to be critical for the future of this state, both in terms of mitigating impacts of climate change and driving the success of our state’s economy

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-149

SB21-150 Reserve Big Game Hunting Licenses For Residents (Woodward (R), Garcia (D))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Loss of $1.3 million in revenue due to insufficient demand for deer and elk licenses

Goal:

  • Require the state to reserve 2/3 of the big game hunting licenses it issues through limited license drawings for Colorado residents

Description:

Active duty military stationed in Colorado counts as a resident. The restriction does not apply to licenses left-over after the drawing.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Colorado residents should get first dibs at enjoying recreational activities in our state. When it comes to a scare resource like big game hunting licenses, we should not be allowing the vast majority of them go to people from out of state while Coloradans are left out

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This could severely damage the wildlife cash fund because there is not sufficient demand for deer and elk hunting licenses. Talk about cutting off our nose to spite our face
  • This could damage tourism in the state. Out-of-state visitors who come here to hunt generate more economic activity in the state than residents. It is a blind lottery, so it all should just come down to luck

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-150

SB21-161 Voluntary Reduce Greenhouse Gas Natural Gas Utility (Hansen (D), Coram (R)) [Arndt (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $500,000 a year

Goal:

  • Allow natural gas utilities in the state to voluntarily join a greenhouse gas reduction target plan of 5% of 2019 emissions by 2025, 10% by 2030, and 15% by 2035 through qualified investments in infrastructure, sequestration of gasses in wells, purchasing offsets (see below), or any other program approved by the public utilities commission. At least 35% of reductions must come from renewable natural gas projects. Large utilities may recoup their costs through rate increases so long as the costs are prudently incurred but if the utility spends 2% of their annual revenue requirement (total amount the utility can collect from customers) they must get commission approval before doing any additional spending in that year. Small utilities have a rate cap to be set by the commission that is the maximum amount they can spend in a year. This can also be recouped from customers. Municipal natural gas utilities may implement a program similar to this bill and if they do, they must make the commission aware but only for informational purposes. No commission approval required
  • Public utilities commission must create a market for tradeable renewable natural gas credits, which can only be used to comply with reduction targets in this bill. In essence, if you produce renewable natural gas and sell it to another utility, you get credit for creating the gas. Bill contains provisions preventing the counting of this production for any other environmental requirements in any other state (no double counting), see Description for more detail
  • Any natural gas utility that participates in this program is not subject to any additional greenhouse gas reduction requirements until 2025 if they file a plan with the commission that contains approvable and cost-effective programs that project to meet the 2025 target of a 5% decrease, follow the rules around cost recouping, and report their reductions in the manner required by the state

Description:

The following investments do not qualify for this program: a single livestock operation that produces more than 250 standard cubic feet of biogas per minute or a single biogas source that produces more than 1,000 standard cubic feet of biogas per minute. Biogas is released from the biological decomposition of organic materials and is mostly methane. Cows of course are famous for producing large amounts of methane. The point of biogas as a renewable source of energy is that it is being produced anyway, regardless of if we are using it for energy or not. The bill here is putting a cap on how much biogas a particular project can emit to qualify, aiming to prevent producing more methane and just use the methane we already have.

Any renewable gas that has an adverse impact on state water or is out of compliance with state pollution or hazardous air pollution also does not qualify.

For greenhouse reduction from non-renewable sources, reducing methane leaks from transportation, delivery, and pipelines counts as does reducing carbon dioxide emitted by retail customers actually using the gas (except for transportation sector customers which do not count). Reductions due to either thermal oxidation (a way to destroy methane) or electrical generation from gas emitted by abandoned coal mines does count, but only if either the gas is not pipeline quality or building new pipelines or transmission lines would be either economically unfeasible or detrimental to air or water quality. What also does not count is reductions resulting from delivery of natural gas to other natural gas utilities.

Rules set by the commission must allow for future diversion of organic materials from landfills (where it emits methane while rotting).

Large utilities are required to use a competitive bidding process before making any investments in: biogas production that occurs before use of conditioning equipment, pipeline interconnections, gas cleaning, electricity generation from renewable gas, or any other project as determined by the commission. Small utilities do not have to do this.

Costs passed on to consumers must account for any value received by resale of renewable natural gas, which includes environmental credits, and any savings achieved. Both of these would lower the amount the utility could pass on: net costs not gross.

The wells part of this requires Class VI wells, which are used for injecting carbon dioxide into underground rock formations. The federal government has a series of rules around these wells, which are under the purview of the environmental protection agency and require a permit. The bill requires the state to get what is called primacy over these wells in Colorado, meaning they would be regulated by the public utilities commission and not the federal government. Only two other states have such authority right now, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Commission must create a renewable natural gas tracking and verification process to ensure compliance data is accurate. Process must allow for assessment of total amount of renewable gas produced and distributed.

Natural gas utilities buying credits must require the seller to demonstrate the emissions reductions have not already been used to comply with environmental or procurement requirements in any other state. An independent third-party must verify the renewable gas was delivered and that the environmental credits were not sold, transferred, claimed, or used by the facility that generated the renewable gas.

Additional Information:

Large utilities are defined as more than 250,000 customers in Colorado; small is less than 250,000 (there is no medium). Right now that means Xcel Energy and Black Hills (large) and Atmos Energy and Colorado Natural Gas (small).

Renewable natural gas must come from one of the following sources:

  • Biogas blended with or substituted for natural gas
  • Hydrogen gas derived from renewable energy sources
  • Methane gas derived from biogas, hydrogen gas or carbon oxides from renewable energy sources, waste CO2, coalbed methane resulting from human activity, naturally occurring coalbeds, solid waste landfills, waste tire or solid waste pyrolysis, or biogas recovered from manure management systems and anaerobic digesters

For large utilities, in order to count for this program, the gas must either be delivered in Colorado through a dedicated pipeline or be in a common carrier pipeline that is in Colorado or flows to Colorado and the seller or purchaser of the renewable gas demonstrates the capture or production of the gas is greenhouse-gas-neutral and directly results in the reduction or avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado.

The commission cannot prohibit any utility from making a capital investment in a non-public utility.

All utilities must only use contractors that have registered apprenticeship programs except for design, planning, and engineering, management functions, or any work included in a warranty.

Reporting requirements from utilities to the commission must include public disclosure of the location and quantity of all renewable natural gas procured by each utility.

Commission must report to the legislature by 2026 on if the 2030 and 2035 targets are achievable and if they should be modified in any way (up or down).


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Natural gas is a key contributor to climate change. Methane is one of the worst greenhouse gasses and is a key component of natural gas, so targeting reductions in this industry is extremely important
  • Methane also occurs naturally in some areas and is emitted by our rotting trash—renewable natural gas can therefore avoid some of the problems associated with our alternative fuels in creating enormous land impact problems. In fact the tradeoff of renewable natural gas is so good it is considered carbon negative despite the fact you still have to burn the gas to use it
  • Because we are in a crisis, we need to give reduction adoption a push and that means incentivizing utilities rather than waiting for the market to work its will

In Further Detail: Climate change is real and it is happening all around the world. We keep piling up record highs and collecting top 5 record warmest years around the world. We have seen increased flooding in coastal areas, more dangerous storms (how many 100 year weather events can we have in the space of a few years?), and more dangerous fires. The extraction of natural gas causes environmental problems, including emissions generated during the process, particularly disastrous if there is a methane leak. Renewable natural gas, which is created so as to operate in any system that uses natural gas, can actually have the opposite effect. Methane, one of the worst greenhouse gasses, naturally occurs in many areas and also is emitted by our own rotting trash. And because we are not turning live plants into fuel, we do not run into the same problems that alternative fuels such as ethanol or biodiesel do when it comes to the environmental impact of land use. The bill also carefully avoids incentivizing creating more methane to “comply” with the reductions. We can literally turn trash into energy and at the same time prevent some of the worst greenhouse gasses from reaching our atmosphere. This is such a good trade-off that even though burning renewable natural gas causes similar environmental pollutants as regular natural gas fuel, it is still considered carbon-negative. Because we are in a climate crisis, we have to act quickly. We cannot wait for clean energy to provide all of our energy need and we cannot wait for the market to work its will, we have to give it a push. And that push means incentivizing utility companies to take big swings by cushioning their downside risk. If we succeed at just a few of these projects, we will not only be helping save our climate but we will also be creating the next generation of energy that the entire world will use. The more we can locate that energy in Colorado the better positioned our state economy will be. As for allowing the utilities to recoup their costs, that is how our utilities operate. They deliver us the base power or water or whatever at cost, and then they recoup costs on their infrastructure investments. This would be no different.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Renewable natural gas still burns dirty, just like regular natural gas. It also not yet clear how scalable any of this is. California did a study which found that it could supply only 2.5% of statewide gas consumption based on in-state sources. In Colorado, about ¼ of our energy comes from natural gas. If many other states follow suit, we may have difficulty producing enough without large increases in technology (hydrogen gas for instance, cannot really be done yet at a commercial scale). So rather than expend resources on renewable natural gas, we should be replacing natural gas altogether with clean renewable electricity.

Bottom Line:

  • This bill offers a no-risk blank check to utilities to experiment with our money. If the experiment fails, the utility simply collects all of their costs from consumers, with the state’s blessing. If the experiment succeeds, the utility gets to collect some costs and then reap the benefits of developing emerging technology that may become a blueprint for others. We also have large amounts of natural gas here in Colorado, the 6th largest reserves in the nation and more than ¼ of total US coalbed methane reserves. Moving toward standards that require less natural gas may have an impact on jobs and economic activity, particularly if we get some of the renewable natural gas from sources outside the state.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-161

SB21-168 Hunting Or Fishing License State Wildlife Area (Woodward (R))

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

NOTE: The state created a new pass for non-fishing and non-hunting for access to these areas a week before the bill was killed.

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Prohibit the state wildlife commission from requiring a fishing or hunting license to enter, use, or occupy any portion of a state wildlife area unless the person is doing so to take wildlife or to hunt or fish

Description:

Last year the commission created a rule that does precisely this, requires a hunting or fishing license to enter any state wildlife area.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The rule change this bill would ban could have serious negative impacts not just on people’s enjoyment of our outdoors but on outdoor recreation companies—multiple popular river-rafting segments pass through state wildlife areas
  • Many popular hiking trails also go through these areas and the fact you access them for free helps bring the ability for more Coloradans of all income levels to enjoy the outdoors

In Further Detail: These areas are intertwined pretty deeply with outdoor recreation in the state, whether that was the initial intention or not. Multiple popular river-rafting segments pass through them as do many popular hiking trails. So requiring a permit may damage more than just some people’s enjoyment of outdoors, it may hurt recreation companies relying on those routes. Being able to access these areas for free also brings the outdoors within reach of Coloradans with low-income levels.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • These areas are solely supported by revenue from hunting and fishing licenses and the state is staring at massive potential shortfalls in the future
  • These areas were created to protect wildlife habitats and for hunting and fishing, not outdoor recreation. We have other state parks for outdoor recreation (which have entrance fees)
  • People floating through on boats or driving through without stopping don’t need licenses

In Further Detail: These areas are solely supported by the revenue generated from hunting and fishing licenses and right now the state is projecting a $30 million a year shortfall by 2025. And these areas are created solely for hunting and fishing. So while it’s great people want to enjoy our outdoors, we in essence had a lot of people free-riding in areas that weren’t intended for outdoor recreation. People are backpacking, camping, paddleboarding, and driving off-road vehicles in areas that are managed for wildlife. We have other parks all over the state that are for recreation. For the concern over passing through an area, boats floating through or cars driving through don’t need licenses under the current rule. If there is need for any sort of exceptions for folks who are just putting in a boat at a dock or something similar than that can be explored. But let’s keep these wildlife areas to their intended use.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-168

SB21-170 Wildland Fire Mitigation Cooperative Electric Association (Hisey (R), Ginal (D)) [Arndt (D), Lynch (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require cooperative electrical associations (these are non-profits owned by their members) to prepare wildland fire protection plans by June 2022 and then every three years after. To be submitted to public utilities commission. Association must then submit a report every year beginning in 2023 on its compliance with its plan
  • Bill grants immunity from liability to cooperative electrical associations from damage or injury resulting from wildfires if the association follows its submitted plan, or a landowner fails to control vegetation outside a powerline easement on the owner’s land, or if the association is denied or delayed access to an easement by the government that is on government property to perform vegetation management or fire mitigation, or if the landowner or occupier prevents the association from maintaining its easement or removing hazardous vegetation outside the easement

Description:

Plans must include:

  • Description of the areas where the co-op has powerlines that are at heightened risk of wildfire
  • Description of the procedures, standards, and time frames the co-op will use to inspect and operate its powerlines
  • Description of the procedures and standards the co-op will use to perform vegetation management around its powerlines
  • Description of proposed modifications or upgrades to powerlines and preventative programs it will implement to reduce risk of facilities starting a wildfire
  • Description of procedures to de-energize facilities to mitigate potential fires, which must take into consideration: ability of the co-op to reasonably access the powerline, ability of the co-op to modify its protective devices to address wildfire concerns, balance of risk of fire with need for electricity, and any potential impact to public safety, first responders, and communication infrastructure
  • Description of community outreach and public awareness efforts
  • Description of potential coordination with other co-op protection plans
  • A certification that the plan as been reviewed and approved by the co-op’s board of governors

Plans are informational only, the commission has no power to do anything with them and no hearings are to be held on them.

Co-ops may, but are not required to, remove or partially remove vegetation around powerlines as necessary following a major weather event or emergency. This includes vegetation likely to cause serious damage to powerlines before next routine vegetation cycle. To remove hazardous vegetation in ordinary times, co-ops must notify owner or occupier of land at least 14 days prior to removal unless it is an emergency. This must be done as close to the ground as possible but co-ops are not responsible for stump removal. If any vegetation that is trimmed by a co-op dies, the owner may request the co-op come remove it at the co-ops expense. Co-ops must do this or pay to have this done within 90 days.

Bill also makes co-ops only liable for actual economic damages due to fires if they do not achieve the liability waivers in the bill. No non-economic, punitive, or exemplary damages.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This codifies into law best practices that many co-ops already undertake and it also should help provide some impetus into already existing plans to bury more lines underground where they are not at risk of starting or exacerbating fires
  • Co-ops also have very real fears of liability for fires started by their lines, their insurance liability coverage is plummeting downward, so we want to reward good behavior and quite frankly we also need to keep our co-ops solvent. California’s camp fire in 2018 was started by transmission lines and PG&E ended up in bankruptcy due to $30 billion in liabilities
  • We also need to address vegetation management on other people’s property, which the bill does by clearly stating a process and holding the co-ops harmless if they are prevented from performing this critical task

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • To be clear there is a distinction between bankruptcy and closure, we should not provide this much of a liability shield for co-ops, in particular since their plan doesn’t even have to be a good one—they just have to have any plan and try their best to adhere to it

Bottom Line:

  • We should have some sort of backstop authority, which could be partially funded by the utilities, to provide additional financial resources to cover fire-related liability for any one utility—California has an approach like this. That could balance better with looser liability laws that didn’t let utilities off the hook as much
  • We also should be putting money toward burying power lines. It is extremely expensive, especially in rugged terrain, but could bring great benefit in preventing and mitigating wildfires

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-170

SB21-180 Recycling And Composting Enterprise Grant Program (Priola (R), Zenzinger (D)) [Bird (D), Titone (D)]

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $139,775
Fiscal Impact: $147,752 this year

Goal:

    • Create an enterprise (so TABOR exempt) recycling and composting infrastructure program to supply grants to expand recycling and composting programs, create markets for materials, and facilitate education efforts around food packaging. Paid for be a fee on distributors of food service packaging that from 2022 to 2030 cannot exceed 0.3 cents for each unit, then from 2030 to 2035 a fee of 0.6 cents but only for packaging with a recycling or composting rate less than 50%, and after 2035 a fee not to exceed 1 cent only for packaging with a recycling or composting rate less than 75%. Enterprise can also issue revenue bonds to fund itselfCreates a stakeholder advisory committee to conduct a review of post-consumer recycled content requirements for packaging in other states and countries and examine how quickly such requirements could be feasibly implemented in Colorado. This must include methods for determinig responsible parties, methods for determining compliance, methods for establishing mandatory rates, registration, and enforcement. Report due to the legislature by March 2022
    • Grants are to be awarded to: create new or expand existing recycling, recovery, and compost operations (including that of food service packaging); create markets for recycled materials; and facilitate recycling, composting, litter cleanup, and education efforts for recycling and composting. Grant money can only be used to pay for operation costs, equipment costs, or capital improvements
    • Create the Colorado Recycling and Composting Infrastructure Enterprise Board to manage the program. Board must create rules for regulation of the program, evaluate and choose grant applicants and create reporting requirements to ensure accountability from grantees, and set the fees for food service packaging
    • Requires the solid and hazardous waste commission to do an assessment of the state’s recycling and composting infrastructure, including examining food service packaging that must identify opportunities to improve and expand waste collection and processing; analyze the variations between local waste programs, recycling programs, and composting programs and identify barriers to cooperation and standardization across the state, including improving public education programs and messaging; evaluate end-use markets and identify policies to stimulate domestic markets; and analyze economic incentives and policies to maximize and encourage in-state processing and the use of recycled material in food service packaging. Report due by January 2022 July 2023

Description:

Local governments and any business involved in the collection, processing, recycling, or composting of food service packaging are eligible for grants. Food service packaging is defined as a product used for serving or transporting ready-to-eat food, including plates, cups, bowls, trays, and hinged or lidded containers. It does not include prefilled single beverage containers, single-use disposable items or single-use disposable packing used to store or transport from a point of sale raw, uncooked eggs, butchered meat, fish, poultry, seafood, or produce. Ready-to-eat food does not include food or beverages that were prepacked or prefilled before the retailer received them.

To award grants, board must consider: if an applicant’s project will achieve a clear, measurable reduction in waste; if it addresses a specific waste prevention, reuse, recycling infrastructure, composting infrastructure, or market need in the state; if it will remain economically viable after the grant money is gone; and if the applicant possesses sufficient planning and expertise to establish a high probability of project success.

Starting in 2025, the solid and hazardous waste commission must calculate the rates at which common types of food service packaging are being recycled or composted in the state. These must be recalculated every two years and publicly posted online. The board must evaluate these rates for accuracy ever year starting in 2029.

Board may engage services of contractors, consultants, the state, and legal counsel (including the attorney general) for professional and technical assistance. It must prepare an annual report submitted to the governor and the legislature on its activities. Board members serve without compensation but can be reimbursed for expenses.

Additional Information:

Board may use up to 3% 4% of enterprise funds to pay for its costs and may accept gifts, grants, and donations. Must avoid using single-source bids. Board to contract with the state department of public health and environment to use some of its staff for administrative help and for office space. Board must use its best efforts to make decisions on grants within 90 days of receiving an application.

Board report must include: unobligated balance of its funds, number of grant applications received during the past year and the name of each applicant, each grant awarded including the name of the grantee, amount of grant, nature of project, and actions or outcomes of the grant.

Board membership is the director of the department of public health and environment and eight members appointed by the governor which must include: Stakeholder group is appointed by executive director of department of public health and environment and includes one each of the following:

  • Department of public health and environment
  • Two members representing local governments, one from a city or town and one from a county Cities
  • One representing a recycling-related business and one representing a composting-related business Counties
  • One representing the public with scientific expertise and training in environmental protection Trade assocation representing plastics industry and trade association representing glass container manufacturing industry
  • Two representing distributors Private sector waste and recycling company
  • Recycled plastic feedstock users
  • Company that provides curbside recycling service
  • Someone with experience in environmental justice and representing underserved communities
  • Recycled content certification organization
  • Non-profit environmental organization that specializes in waste and recycling issues
  • Plastic converters and manufacturers of resin
  • Manufacturer of plastic packaging
  • Statewide trade organization
  • An association that represents consumer brand companies
  • A consumer oriented organization
  • A statewide association of retailers
  • Advanced recycling technology provider that processes plastic

Members serve four-year terms.


Auto-Repeal: August 2022

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Food service packaging is clearly a part of our wider trash problem and one of the harder packaging materials to recycle. Furthermore Colorado is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to recycling and composting The bill recognizes the reality behind recycling, which is the problem we have right now is demand oriented, not public awareness or infrastructure. There simply is not enough demand for recycled materials and part of addressing that would be to force wider use of these materials in packaging, rather than simply relying on industry to do the the right thing. That is obviously an enormous step and requries careful consideration first, which is what the bill does
  • The program this bill creates could not only reduce our waste problem but also create jobs in the state processing the waste
  • This enterprise is different enough from the front range enterprise program due to focus on the entire state and food service packaging, and funding it based on fees on distributors is not only appropriate, but a good way to encourage use of easily recycled materials (because of how the fee is structured in future years)

In Further Detail: Figures that separate out ready-to-go food packaging are hard to come by, but we do know that food and food packaging makes up almost half of all municipal waste and that in 2014 63% of all solid waste in this country was packaging (any kind of packaging) and only 35% was recycled. In Colorado, our waste diversion rate is one of the lowest in the country at 15% (national average is 35%). There is no statewide oversight or program directed at food service packaging waste. Such a program could not only reduce the amount of waste from these sources but also create jobs in the state. It is appropriate to fund this enterprise with fees on distributors because they are the ones in part creating the problem and the fee structure will provide an incentive to move towards packaging that gets recycled. Grants will help stand-up the infrastructure required to boost recycling and composting and potentially create facilities to do so in the state. This program is different from the front range enterprise program created in 2019 in two key areas. First the front range program only applies to the front range and second it does not apply to food service packaging specifically. It is unlikely to drive the potential change in the food service packaging industry that this bill could.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We already have an enterprise program in the state with the goal of increasing recycling and composting through diversion of solid waste—it is front range only and more generally focused but near duplicative enough It was appropriate to have an enterprise program directed exclusively at food packaging, regardless of other bills or enterprises and the bill should have been kept that way, not gutted
  • There is another bill in this legislative session to ban polystyrene takeout containers
  • Both of those things mean that this bill is not an appropriate use of the enterprise power

In Further Detail: Creating an enterprise program is a big deal, as is slapping fees on businesses to fund it and this one is just not necessary. While we don’t have this exact program, we already have an enterprise program in the state with the goal of increasing use of recycling and composting through diversion of solid waste materials. It does not focus on food packaging specifically, but that is within its purview. It does only focus on the front range, but the front range produces 85% of the state’s waste and has the infrastructure to dramatically improve recycling rates. Finally, there is another bill in this session of the legislature which bans the use of polystyrene takeout containers and plastic bags. Between the already existing enterprise recycling program (which awarded over $2 million in grants in its first year of operation last year) and the potential ban of non-biodegradable (and more difficult to recycle) food containers, this bill is not an appropriate use of the enterprise power.


Bottom Line:

  • The bill does not honor the wishes of the voters from last fall, who made it a requirement to get voter approval for any enterprise program that will bring in over $100 million over its first five years. Even if the bill thinks this would be impossible under its financing scheme, it does not preclude it. And even if it wouldn’t clear this hurdle, the voters clearly want a voice in approving these TABOR exempt programs

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-180

SB21-200 Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice (Winter (D), Moreno (D)) [Jackson (D)]

KILLED ON SENATE CALENDAR

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $4,401,025
Fiscal Impact: Eventually positive, $4.2 million in expenses this year but then $1 million in revenue each year afterward

Goal:

Put the state’s roadmap for reduction of greenhouse gas emission by sector into law so as to meet the emissions reduction levels required by state law. This means caps on emissions by sector, set at levels for 2025 and 2030. This also means requiring all utilities to plan to meet 80% reduction targets by 2030 (some already have this requirement) and 100% by 2040. The bill also sets a price per ton of greenhouse gasses released that are not already covered by the state and uses the money raised to pay for a new ombudsperson and advisory council dedicated to serving the interests of people in communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution. And the bill requires the air quality commission to use the social impact of emissions in its cost-benefit analyses based on a value given per ton of emissions.

Description:

Current state law requires overall emissions levels of 26% of 2005 levels by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050. This bill requires the state air quality control commission to set rules by March 2022 that include specific greenhouse gas limitations that reach those required percentages overall with sector specific limits in 2025 and 2030, including power generation (which includes power imported from out of state) which has higher targets to reach, buildings and industrial processes, transportation and mobile sources, oil and gas exploration and production and transmission and storage, and other remaining sources (precise amounts are in Additional Detail). Oil and gas is basically at 2005 levels right now, power generation is on-track to hit 80% reduction by 2030 having already reduced 23% of 2005 levels as of last year. Transportation is slightly higher than 2005 levels right now and buildings and industrial processes are also basically right at 2005 levels. Other major sectors include agriculture (basically at 2005 levels) and mining (which has dropped about 12%).

The bill requires each wholesale electricity generation and transmission cooperative (which is Tri-State, Xcel and Black Hills, investor-owned utilities, already have this requirement under a 2019 law) to submit a plan to reduce their emissions by 80% of 2005 levels. If they don’t submit a plan that is approved by the end of 2022, that requirement jumps to 90%. Plans must deal with actual emissions going into the atmosphere and cannot rely on reductions that have not yet occurred or occur out-of-state. A utility that fails to meet its targets is subject to additional and more strict emissions limits than the rules require. By the end of 2025 all utilities regulated by public utilities commission must have a plan to reduce emissions by 90% beginning in 2035 and all the way to 100% by 2040.

The commission may modify individual sector targets if it deems that doing so will increase the cost-effectiveness of the overall regulatory structure and result in equivalent or lower levels of emissions. In other words, the modification can only occur if the emissions reduction is at least the same in the end. The commission must lower the allowed amounts (so increase the percentage reduction target) if the public utilities commission approves plans that in aggregate will result in lower emissions than allowed by the rules. In other words, if conditions change so that we will surpass the emissions reduction goals, the targets must be moved to reflect this.

The commission is to evaluate whether a multi-sector approach would work better and if it decides it would, it can adopt a multi-sector target instead of the individual targets laid out by the bill. But the multi-sector approach must reach the same end goals of 26% by 2025 and 50% by 2030.

The commission is to consider the social value of emissions in any rule-making proceeding for cost-benefit purposes, utilizing a value that is no less than the federal rates. Must include carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide costs. The bill also requires the commission to establish a fee per ton of greenhouse gas emitted by businesses. This is similar to an existing requirement for these businesses to pay a fee per ton of regulated air pollutants, like nitrogen oxide. The fee is to be a sufficient amount to cover the costs of the state’s programs that pertain to greenhouse gasses (the existing fees already go toward this), and the bill adds two new programs for the fee to cover (at current levels of $36 per ton for other pollutants, it is estimated the fee will bring in $15 million a year). Bill keeps current law that no individual pollutor pay for more than 4,000 tons of each regulated pollutant, so new fee will be capped at that amount). One is an environmental justice ombudsperson, appointed by the executive director of the department of public health and environment. They are to have experience or training in environmental justice and be either a resident or have worked directly with a disproportionately impacted community. Duties include being an advocate for these communities and serving as their liaison to the government, increasing flow of information to these communities and conducting outreach in them which includes in-person meetings, enable meaningful participation in the state’s decision-making process, serve in an advisory capacity to other state agencies and to work collaboratively with the environmental justice advisory board (see below).

The environmental justice advisory board is the second new program the bill establishes. This consists of nine members who serve without compensation but can be reimbursed for expenses. The board is to work with the ombudsperson, including in outreach efforts; study, research, and advise the state on matters the board deems are important to enable the state to interact with disproportionately impacted communities; and address any other matters relating to adverse environmental impacts on disproportionately impacted communities referred to it by the state. Board set for repeal with sunset review in 2027.

Air quality commission is also required to conduct outreach and engage with disproportionately impacted communities, with the help of the ombudsperson and advisory board, when they may be affected by a proposed rule. This requires the commission to first determine if that is the case. If the commission decides it isn’t, anyone can ask for a reconsideration within 14 days of the decision. For each hearing on a proposed rule, commission must provide at least two public opportunities for comment, one on a weekday between 9 and 5 and another on a weekday between 5 and 10. Remote access must be available and Spanish language materials and real-time translation must be available. Must also be reasonable accommodations for requests for languages other than Spanish.

Additional Information:

Exact limits for greenhouse gas emissions are, for power generation: 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2025 (just over 50%) and 8 million (80%) by 2030. For buildings and industrial processes: 26 million (7%) by 2025 and 20 million (29%) by 2030. For transportation and mobile sources, 23 million (23%) by 2025 and 18 million (42%) by 2030. For oil and gas production, 13 million (26%) by 2025 and 8 million (50%) by 2030. All other sources is basically what is required to meet the climate goals.

State must prevent double-counting of emissions among clean energy plans submitted by utilities.

For the new fee on greenhouse gas emissions per ton, the commission cannot exempt anyone from the requirement to pay annual fees (they can do this for existing fees, which is $36 per ton at the moment).

Executive director must consult with advisory board, legislature, representatives of disproportionately impacted communities, and other relevant stakeholders prior to picking the ombudsperson.

The advisory board members must to the extent possible reside in different areas of the state, reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the state, and have experience with a range of environmental issues, including air pollution, water contamination, and public health impacts.

Five members are to be appointed by the executive director of the department of public health and environment, with four of them required to be from disproportionately impacted communities and one from an organization that represents statewide interests to advance environmental justice.

The other four members are to be appointed by the majority and minority leader of each chamber with no specific requirements (speaker and minority leader of the House and president and minority leader of the Senate).

Board must meet at least once a quarter.


Auto-Repeal: September 2027 for advisory board

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • On the whole the hard targets in this bill merely put into state law the already existing roadmap to meet our already existing climate goals, with industry specific modifications such as recognizing that power generation is basically already on track to meet 80% of reduction by 2030, while transportation and buildings will be harder
  • We need to do all of this to avert climate catastrophe—current conditions in the state with massive wildfires and mega droughts are already bad enough, we cannot afford for it to get worse
  • Given the recent news about the state illegally granting noxious gas permits to industry, we can’t afford the informal “working with industry” stance we currently have toward these targets
  • For the disproportionate community section of the bill, the #1 indicator for placement of toxic facilities in this country is race. 78% of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-powered plant (56% of non-Hispanic whites). Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites. These communities lack the power to fight back against polluters in an effective way and lack the power to get proper redress for wrongs done to their environment.
  • On the cost of the pollutants, these are not numbers pulled out of the air, they are scientifically derived and if anything, undercount the social impact given how hard it is to decide how much blame exactly resides for things like increased natural disasters

In Further Detail: In a large sense, this is merely putting into law the state’s existing roadmap for reaching our climate goals. Power generation is being given targets it is basically already on track to meet, which are higher than the overall state targets because we’ve got trouble in other sectors. Transportation is an obvious one: electrification is the only way but it is going to be harder to reach 50% by 2030 so the goal is slightly below that. Ditto for buildings, which may actually be the hardest sector to achieve reductions in and so have the lowest goals. Oil and gas reductions should be helped by natural reductions in their usage due to increased clean energy use, so they should be able to meet the target. And why are we doing all of this? To avert climate catastrophe. 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. Droughts last longer and are more intense. Our current climate situation is bad here in Colorado, we cannot afford for it to get much worse. So drastic and immediate action is required. The less confrontational way mentioned in Arguments Against seems to be a problem as whistleblowers just in this past month revealed that the state was illegally approving noxious gas permits for industry without performing required environmental modeling or monitoring and even worse, falsifying data to get permits through. So cooperation between the state and industry seems to be a failure we cannot afford. For the disproportionate impact programs the bill funds, waste management, including toxic waste sites, and high pollution sites tend be located in minority dominated and poor areas (since the better connected and wealthy don’t want them in theirs). The number one indicator for placement of toxic facilities in this country is race and 78% of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-powered plant (56% of non-Hispanic whites). Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites. The high profile national examples like the water in Flint actually pale in comparison to daily damage being done in many communities, including in Colorado, including something as simple as where the highways run (through poor and minority based communities) and therefore higher air pollution from vehicles. These communities lack the power to fight back against polluters in an effective way and lack the power to get proper redress for wrongs done to their environment. On the cost of pollutants, this is not a figure pulled out of the air. It is based on years of scientific and economic research, input from scientists and agencies around the world, and grounded in actual data. Is the absolute perfectly correct number? Of course not, but it is a very good estimate of the societal cost we bear for every ton of pollution spewed into our atmosphere. If anything, it may be conservative given the difficulty of assigning the exact blame for increased natural disasters like wildfires to tons of pollution.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Hard caps are not the right approach and are opposed by Governor Polis. The achievements in our power sector point the way: no hard cap and yet we have an industry poised to greatly overperform our reduction goal. Through legal requirements at times yes, but never a hard cap on emissions
  • Other sectors may prove extremely hard to enforce with limited recourse beyond draconian measures like banning sale of gasoline-powered automobiles
  • Illegal activity by state employees isn’t fixed by new laws it is fixed by getting rid of the employees
  • Social value costs of pollutants is not an exact science and the Trump administration was using much lower costs

In Further Detail: Hard caps are not the way to go here and Governor Polis does not support them. Note what we’ve achieved in the power sector to this point: they are on track to hit 80% reductions by 2030, way ahead of our legal overall emissions reductions requirements. Achieved in large part through working with the industry, although some of it has been spurred on by new laws. But at no point did we institute a hard cap on emissions. We can achieve similar results in other industries and in some places frankly we have no choice. Look at transportation. How are we supposed to enforce hard caps on emissions? Ban sales of gasoline-powered automobiles? Because, as Arguments For notes, we are getting there via widespread adoption of electric vehicles and forcing that on the public is likely to backfire. Private buildings are another sore spot with similar problems. So even if the caps in these two sectors are more lenient, they are still potentially setting us up for failure. And then what? As for the alleged illegal actions of state regulators with noxious gas permits, the key word here is illegal. The problem is with that state agency and its personnel, so passing new laws isn’t going to solve it. It just would provide more laws for people to break. The social value cost placed on these pollutants is also not as precise as we might want to credit. Yes it is the work of years with the input of many, but it is in the end an estimate. The Trump administration junked the working group that was to provide an updated cost and was using much lower interim costs.


Bottom Line:

  • What we should not be doing is putting our thumbs on the scales against fossil fuels. Doing so will have an economic impact on this state, where oil and gas are a critical industry. You cannot simply declare that we’ll move jobs from oil and gas to renewable energy. It doesn’t and won’t work like that

Bottom Line:

  • This bill seems to conflict in part with two other bills in the session, HB21-1266 which addresses all of the disproportionate impacts on communities issues this bill does, although in a different way, and HB21-1238 which addresses calculation of social costs of carbon and methane (albeit for a different commission, the public utilities commission)

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-200

SB21-230 Transfer To Colorado Energy Office Energy Fund (Hansen (D), Winter (D)) [A. Valdez (D), Bernett (D)]

*State stimulus bill, 5% of stimulus money spend in this bill*

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $40 million
Fiscal Impact: Negligible this year

Goal:

Spend $40 million on clean energy projects, with $30 million going to finance projects in underserved areas, $3 million going to finance retrofitting of commercial and industrial buildings, $2 million going to loans for residential energy efficiency upgrades, and $5 million going to construction of electric vehicle charging stations.

Description:

Give $30 million to the Colorado Clean Energy Fund, which is the state’s “green bank” and identifies unserved and underserved clean energy opportunities and works with a variety of stakeholders to structure financing for clean energy projects in these areas. These can be in utilities, small commercial buildings, other energy efficiency projects, electric vehicles and their charging stations, and other similar areas.

Give $3 million to the state’s new energy improvement district, which is another green energy financing tool the state has to help eligible commercial and industrial buildings finance up to 100% of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation improvements. This generally works through private capital with long-term repayment terms.

Give $2 million to the residential energy upgrade loan program, which provides low-cost loans to make residential energy efficient upgrades, like HVAC systems, insulation, windows, appliances, and solar energy. This is done on an individual level, working through contractors.

Give $5 million to the Charge Ahead Colorado program which administers grants to fund charging stations for electric vehicles. 75% of this money must be spent by July 2022 and 85% by July 2023.

State must report all grant activity to legislature. This must include each individual grant and all overhead and expenses.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have a long ways to go to reach our clean energy goals and big parts of that involve creating new clean energy facilities and retrofitting existing structures. The first two parts of the bill involve financing this activity, which is also nice because the money comes back, so it replenishes itself without the need for more funding from the state. Of course more funding means we can go faster, which is what this bill does.
  • We also need to retrofit homes, and again, a loan program means the money comes back to us.
  • Finally, we need a lot and I mean a lot, of electric vehicle charging stations around the state
  • We have $700 million in money leftover from last year’s budget due to better than expected tax revenues (some already spent), so there is plenty of money to spend and this will stimulate economic activity while helping achieve a core goal at the same time

In Further Detail: We have extremely ambitious clean energy goals because our climate crisis demands rapid action. That means we have a lot of new clean energy facilities to build, existing buildings and homes to retrofit, and a lot of electric vehicle charging infrastructure to build. This bill puts money into all of these activities and for the most part, except for the charging stations, does so in a way that allows us to finance activity instead of spend directly on it. That means the financed money comes back to us to help us finance even more activity. Of course the more we put into these pots the more we can finance at one time, which helps us go faster. For electric vehicles, one of the biggest obstacles to adoption is charging—we need something akin to the gas station infrastructure in the state which means building a lot of stations fast. All of this is of course stimulative money: it causes work to be done on various projects which costs money and supports jobs in our communities. That will help us recover from the pandemic but it also helps us advance a key goal at the same time. That is the best kind of stimulus.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This sort of stimulus is quite indirect, especially since we are funding finance projects. We can get greater effects faster through direct spending
  • The state’s green bank has only existed for about 2 years and appears to have one finance transaction under its belt (for Fort Collins upgrading homes). We might have better ways to spend $30 million
  • We shouldn’t be putting our thumbs on the scales of clean energy. This is more favoritism of a particular industry in order to push societal goals that are not shared by all Coloradans

In Further Detail: First, most of this is quite indirect stimulus and will be slower acting. Finance projects filter out more slowly at every step of the way, so we would get greater immediate economic impact to help recover from the pandemic with more direct spending. On the green bank, which gets the lion’s share of this bill: it has been in existence for two years and appears to have just one project under its belt, for Fort Collins upgrading energy efficiency in homes. Yes, we’ve had the pandemic which has put a decided damper on big financial activity, but this is a lot of money to throw at an unproven program. We could probably find a lot of ways to spend that $30 million, even on clean energy related items, that have a more proven track record. We also shouldn’t be putting our thumbs on the scales of clean energy this much. If someone wants an electric car, fine, no one is stopping them. If someone wants to open an electric car charging station because they think it makes economic sense, good, more power to them. But we should not be tipping the scales in the market in favor of these stations and certainly should not be propping up stations that can’t even support themselves through grants.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-230

SB21-245 Backcountry Search And Rescue In Colorado (Donovan (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $216,070
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Require state to conduct a study and develop recommendations on how to address the challenges associated with backcountry search and rescue, including improving coordination among different groups and agencies, workers’ compensation and retirement benefits for people providing search and rescue services including volunteers, compensation and reimbursement of expenses for volunteers, equipment availability, physical and psychological supports and resources, immunity issues and training for volunteers, and need for public outdoor safety education.

Description:

Report due by January 2021. Also requires state to conduct outreach and training on physical and psychological stress injuries and impacts faced by volunteers. May include working with consultants or creating a grant program but is not required to do either.

Additional Information:

Backcountry search and rescue is defined utilization, training, and support of responders with their specialized equipment, coordinated by a sheriff during emergencies or disasters in the state, including volunteer teams:

  • Locating lost or injured individuals in remote areas
  • Accessing individuals who are injured, stuck, stranded, or trapped
  • Recovering the bodies of deceased individuals
  • Assessing and mitigating hazardous terrain or conditions
  • Providing emergency on-scene medical and psychological care
  • Evacuating or transporting injured, stuck, stranded, or entrapped individuals
  • Providing public outdoor safety education
  • Providing for the physical and psychological well-being of first responders involved in backcountry search and rescue
  • Training individuals and teams to provide backcountry search and rescue services
  • Other related services performed on the orders of a sheriff

Study must consult with: county sheriffs, public and non-profit backcountry search and rescue organizations, department of public safety, department of local affairs, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, local governments, and other entities affected by or involved with backcountry search and rescue.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Backcountry search and rescue is obviously important in Colorado and is best accomplished with coordination across governmental agencies
  • Volunteers risk their health in sometimes dangerous conditions and deserve some thought of protection
  • This problem is getting worse as more people use our backcountry and costs and strains on our rural communities are rising. We need an all-hands on deck approach to finding solutions

In Further Detail: Backcountry search and rescue is a vital service ensuring the safety of Colorado residents and visitors and is best accomplished with the cooperation and coordination of local backcountry search and rescue teams, county sheriffs, the Colorado National Guard, other local partners, and state, local, and federal government agencies. And volunteer first responders risk their health in braving sometimes dangerous conditions in backcountry areas to help anyone in need. And the need is rising, as more people move to the state and more people, including visitors, seek to enjoy our backcountry, unfortunately not always safely. As a result, rescues are on the rise, as are costs, which puts strain on our backcountry rescuers and on our rural communities. So we need an all-hands on deck examination of what we can do to make this work better for everyone involved. We can increase public safety, the safety and well-being of our rescuers, and the economic well-being of our rural communities.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We should have more personal responsibility from the person who needs rescue here in shouldering some of the costs involved
  • Volunteers are volunteers—they don’t deserve all of the elements of a job, compensation and benefits

In Further Detail: Right now we generate some state funding for backcountry search and rescue for a variety of outdoors activities but we really should come down more on the side of personal responsibility here. Anyone who has to be rescued should be paying some sort of penalty that begins to address the costs involved with having to save them. And if that is not enough, then we can look into perhaps increasing these other fees. As for the volunteers, they are by definition, there without compensation and of their own free will because they want to help. And that is laudable and noble. But it is not something that deserves compensation, retirement benefits, workers’ compensation, and repayment of expenses. All of those things come with a job, and this is not a job.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-245

SB21-246 Electric Utility Promote Beneficial Electrification (Fenberg (D)) [A. Valdez (D), Froelich (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $241,799
Fiscal Impact: About $210,000 this year, and $700,000 next year, then much lower costs in any year where new plans must be submitted

Goal:

Require investor-owned utilities (Xcel and Black Hills) to create beneficial electrification plans (moving from a fossil fuel powered device to an electric powered device, a prime example is gas heating to electric heating) to encourage beneficial electrification by its customers. These utilities also must set beneficial electrification targets, all of which must be approved by the public utilities commission. Also requires the commission to consider the cost of methane emissions in all proposals. Bill bars the commission from requiring removal of any gas-fueled appliance or equipment from any existing structure or ban the installation of gas service to new structures.

Description:

Requires all investor-owned utilities (Xcel and Black Hills) to file a plan with the state public utilities commission at least every three years for beneficial electrification (moving from a fossil fuel powered device to an electric powered device, a prime example is gas heating to electric heating). The plan must at a minimum: include proposed programs to advance beneficial electrification for residential and commercial customers (may include industrial too but is not required), include programs targeted to low-income households and disproportionately impacted communities (minimum of 20% of total program funding must be in this area), include a budget which has number of installations and projected cost-savings (including cost of methane and carbon dioxide emissions), demonstrate that the new electricity required can be served with a carbon intensity no higher than the average intensity for the utility, include incentives for customers (must be certified Energy-Star projects if applicable), and proof that the reliability of the electric grid will not be affected negatively. Cost-benefits for these plans must consider decreased emissions included emissions in production of methane gas and delivery of fossil fuels and increased emissions from electricity generation. The commission must allow utilities to recover their costs in these projects through increased rates on consumers (this is typically how utilities operate). The commission can give incentives to utilities to exceed targets set by the commission (see below), which can include higher rates of return, accelerated depreciation, and allowing the utility to retain some of the net economic benefit (in other words ensure that the benefits from using less energy don’t all go to the consumer).

Starting in 2024 and then at least every six years these utilities must propose a ten-year beneficial electrification target, which can be either level of substitution of renewable sources for fossil fuels or reduction in emissions. Commission has power to amend plan, taking into account utility’s potential beneficial electrification.

Utilities must annually report to the commission on their progress with their beneficial electrification plans and programs, including spending, energy savings, increased electric load (and resulting emissions), avoided emissions, and costs and benefits of programs.

Other utilities are encouraged to adopt their own similar plans and participate in statewide or regional projects.

Requires the commission to consider cost of methane emissions when determining cost, benefit, or net present value of any plan or proposal. For calculation of methane cost (carbon dioxide already has a calculation method in law), commission is to use federal rate but requires a minimum of $1,765 per ton with a discount rate of 2.5% (this stuff is always discounted over time)

Requires the commission to allow utilities to implement cost-effective beneficial electrification plans that support voluntary customer adoption of beneficial electrification

Changes the definition of beneficial electrification by removing ability to claim it due to lower system costs for customers.

The commission cannot require the removal of any gas-fueled appliance or equipment from any existing structure or ban the installation of gas service to new structures.

Utilities may use their own employees to do work for a beneficial electrification project. They must maintain a certified contractor list for other work, updated every six months. Contractors must have registered apprenticeship programs in operation for at least six months. This list must be posted on its website and provided to customers doing beneficial electrification. If there is a rebate involved with the project, the utility must require the customer to use a contractor off the list. If the work is on a property of at least 20,000 square feet and involves a rebate, the utility must only give the rebate if the customer uses a qualified contractor off the list. The utility must also require that customers use licensed plumbers or electricians for all work.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Natural gas is a contributor to climate change and if we are going to meet our climate targets we will have to reduce our usage of it—through increased energy efficiency and yes, using renewable energy sources instead
  • We have renewable alternatives to natural gas and, like natural gas, we have abundant amounts of them in Colorado: sun and wind
  • The bill grounds the activities around demand side reduction in true costs of pollution, asks for our utilities to do more to increase demand reduction, including investments in energy efficiency that clearly benefit everyone, and to incentivize switching away from natural gas
  • The bill does not force any end user to do anything and does not ban installation of gas lines to new development

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, reducing natural gas consumption is going to be a part of it. The first thing this bill fixes is that we aren’t currently considering the social cost of methane when making this demand side cost/benefit analysis decisions. That is clearly wrong, as the societal benefit from decreased emissions is a factor. The bill is also quite simply acknowledging that natural gas is a dirty fuel that puts emissions into our atmosphere at every stage: from extraction to end use. The extent to which we can replace it with clean renewable energy is a positive for our environment and our future. 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). For cooking, induction stoves are a perfectly viable replacement for gas stoves. So while beneficial electrification is not a new thing in state law, boosting voluntary adoption through more programs for end-user and targets and goals for utilities should help accelerate its adoption. On the cost of pollutants, this is not a figure pulled out of the air. It is based on years of scientific and economic research, input from scientists and agencies around the world, and grounded in actual data. Is the absolute perfectly correct number? Of course not, but it is a very good estimate of the societal cost we bear for every ton of pollution spewed into our atmosphere. If anything, it may be conservative given the difficulty of assigning the exact blame for increased natural disasters like wildfires to tons of pollution. As for the overlap with the other bill mentioned in Arguments Against, there is less than meets the eye and the two bills do fit together.

Arguments Against:

  • 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
  • We should not put so much store in the social cost of pollutants per ton, it is an estimate, and we certainly should not junk cost-benefit analysis altogether in such a vague manner

In Further Detail: 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. What we should not be doing is putting our thumbs on the scales against natural gas. The clear long-term goal of this bill is to drastically reduce the use of natural gas in this state, which is going to have an economic impact. You cannot simply declare that we’ll move jobs from natural gas to renewable energy. It doesn’t and won’t work like that. The social value cost placed on these pollutants is also not as precise as we might want to credit. Yes it is the work of years with the input of many, but it is in the end an estimate. The Trump administration junked the working group that was to provide an updated cost and was using much lower interim costs. Then the bill doesn’t even want to hold to this more tenuous standard and allows the commission to ignore cost-benefit altogether if rather vague terms around significant impact are met. And now it has massively increased the cost per ton of both pollutants in a way that is guaranteed to tip the scales in every case. The spending of our utilities is rightly very heavily regulated because we don’t want them spending money on things that will not bring net benefits to us. We should not be throwing out that standard.


Bottom Line:

  • There is a lot of overlap between this bill and HB1238, the exact same sections of law are being amended in both bills. Better to have one bill addressing the subject and avoid potential dueling versions of changes

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-248

SB21-249 Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass (Fenberg (D), Donovan (D)) [Will (R), Tipper (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $504,646
Fiscal Impact: Anywhere from $18 to $37 million at full implementation

Goal:

Create a state parks pass that is attached to vehicle registration on an opt-out basis. Anyone is free to opt-out with no effect to their state registration. Pass price is to be half of the current price, with additional options for lower income Coloradans. Most of the money is to be spent on park maintenance, but some also to go to search and rescue efforts, backcountry safety, park expansion, and supporting vulnerable wildlife.

Description:

Creates the Keep Colorado Wild Pass, which is an annual pass for entrance to the state’s state parks and other participating state lands. Beginning at the earliest in 2023 and the latest in 2024, the state is to assess the pass fee when a non-commercial motor vehicle is registered, with the option for registrants to reject paying for the pass (which does not affect their vehicle registration).

The fee is amount is to be no more than half the fee for an annual parks pass that can be purchased directly (just like right now, fee is $80 at the moment). Department of revenue, which administers vehicle registration, can keep direct and indirect costs of administering the program but otherwise passes on the revenue as follows. Of the first $36 million, $32.5 million to the parks and outdoor recreation fund for parks maintenance, $2.5 million to the search and rescue fund for supporting search and rescue volunteers and developing programs to promote backcountry safety, $1 million to the Colorado avalanche information center fund for supporting backcountry avalanche safety and awareness, and any remaining funds to go half to the wildlife cash fund and half to the parks and recreation outdoor fund for building new state parks, increasing state trails, conserving vulnerable species and habitats, supporting equity and inclusion efforts, and funding regional outdoor partnerships. This breakdown (first $36 million, etc.) is indexed to inflation.

State is also to create a reduced pass fee for income eligible households in consultation with organizations that represent households and communities with limited resources and developing a process to demonstrate income eligibility (no guidance is given).

Must also establish a process for someone who is not entering a park in their motor vehicle to prove they are a pass holder as well as how to apply the existing park discounts and free access given to veterans and military personnel. Bill removes limitations on the amounts the state can increase passes each year (right now is $1 for daily pass and $10 for annual passes).

At least six months prior to implementing the pass state must conduct a public awareness campaign about the pass.

If someone opts-out, the state is to assume they want to opt-out every year and must change their registration so as to make the pass opt-in for future years.

Must report to the legislature each year on number of passes sold, fiscal accounting of money spent from proceeds, and a summary of the effect of that spending.

Additional Information:

Registration notice must contain explicit language regarding ability to decline the pass fee that is conspicuously placed. Must also be on state website.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The estimated gains in the fiscal note are net increases, even accounting for lost direct pass sales, with a 75% to 85% opt-out, so it will be much needed shot in the arm for our state parks system
  • Usage of the parks has continued to climb dramatically, with 2.2 million more visitors and 2018-19 than 2014-15 and a 30% explosion during the pandemic
  • The bill is therefore a long-term investment in stability for our parks, expansion to new parks, increased backcountry safety, search and rescue help, wildlife help, and increasing access to the outdoors for all Coloradans
  • The fee is opt-out, no one will be forced to pay it

In Further Detail: That fiscal estimate is additional revenue on top of what is brought in right now. Obviously this is all very speculative, but basically if 75% of residents opt out of this pass, the state brings in $54.4 million (assuming pass fee set at $40) as opposed to the $16.8 million it would bring in under the current scheme, so a net gain of $37.6 million. 85% opt-out is the low end of the fiscal estimate. Even that is a much needed shot in the arm for our state parks system, 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. This bill represents a long-term investment in a critical Colorado industry that generates $1.2 billion a year for our economy and a way to do multiple things at once in addition to simple maintenance and park expansion: increase access to parks for all Coloradans, increase safety for people in our backcountry, help our search and rescue volunteers, and help our wildlife. All through simply presenting everyone with this fee at vehicle registration, which also provides people who want to support our park system an easy opportunity to do so. Of course anyone can opt out, and the assumption is that most people will. But just this change should enable us to set up our parks and outdoors for success for future generations of Coloradans.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This should be opt-in, not opt-out. No one should accidentally sign up for something they don’t want
  • The reduced price pass for those who meet income eligibility standards is too vague and needs better definition

In Further Detail: Programs like this should be opt-in, not opt-out. It is designed as opt-out because the state knows that you get more money out of opt-out programs, simply because some people who would have opted-out don’t for various reasons and in opt-in program, some people who would have opted-in don’t (again for various reasons). So the choice should be to err on the side of people not signing up for something they don’t really want and opt-in. The state could still bring in additional revenue over what it does currently and help the long-term stability of our park system. The reduced price pass for some sort of income eligibility is also extraordinarily vague and needs better definition.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-249

SB21-261 Public Utilities Commission Encourage Renewable Energy Generation (Fenberg (D), Priola (R)) [A. Valdez (D), Amabile (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $91,488
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Remove an existing cap on the size of solar facilities that consumers can construct (120% of current energy use) but add a requirement that such facilites not generate more than 500 kilowatts, except for multi-meter facilities which must no more than 300, allow master meter operators to keep billing adjustments they receive as a result of their energy generation, require utilities to allow customers to use meter collar adapters, and tweak several rules around how energy credits are handled.

Description:

Removes the limit of 120% of previous energy use for installation of solar facilities in consumer applications (right now if you exceed 120% capacity in your new solar equipment you must be regulated by the public utilities commission) but add a requirement that such facilites not generate more than 500 kilowatts, except for multi-meter facilities which must no more than 300. Any facility that generates more than 300 kilowatts must have maintenance work done by licensed electricians or properly supervised apprentices. Allows master meter operators (someone exempt from public utilities commission regulation who sells power from their own generation to other users) to keep any refunds, rebates, rate reductions, net metering credits, or similar adjustments that are attributable to use of generated electricity from the operator (right now these operators are barred from charging end users anything other than actual costs, so all of those elements must be passed on).

Adds renewable energy storage to the definition of eligible energy for state renewable energy standards. Requires that any biomass energy be greenhouse gas neutral, but any biomass that existed prior to this year with a gigwatt rating of 10 or less is considered greenhouse gas neutral, and hydroelectricity not require construction of any new dams or reservoirs to be considered a renewable energy resource.

Requires utilities to allow for customers to use a meter collar adapter to permit interconnection of distributed energy resources and for isolation of the customer’s site for backup purposes. Utility must approve adapters that meet minimum safety requirements, utilities must list which collars they approve on their website and keep the list current. Any disputes between customers and utilities over collars are to be handled by the public utilities commission.

Commission must adopt rules to accommodate aggregation and interconnection of distributed electricity generation, including from a single generation resource on a multi-unit property to not require the resource to be physically connected with each meter on the property, allow master meters to allocate excess credits to other meters on property owned or leased by the customer, allowing allocation of bill credits among multiple separately metered properties that aren’t on the same rate schedule, evaluate proposals for allowing people in multi-unit properties to share in installation and benefits of renewable energy and requiring utilities to develop programs to support adoption and use of on-demand renewable distributed electricity generation to provide grid benefits and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Clarifies that the credits allotted to customers who produce more energy than they consume carry forward until the customer’s service with the utility is ended. Customers may elect to be reimbursed at the end of a calendar year rather than carrying credits forward and may chose to donate their credits to provide low-income energy assistance within the utility's territory. Utilities are banned from putting customers in a different rate class solely due to participation in a rebate offer or net metering service.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is a bit complicated, but the essence is that distributed energy generation and storage (where it is made and stored in multiple places in the grid instead of centralized locations) offers a lot of benefits. First, you are making more use of all available renewable energy sources by having more consumers install their own solar panels. Second, you lose less energy in long-distance transmission over power lines. Third, you have to build fewer transmission facilities period. And finally, you make the entire energy grid more secure and less prone to failure since energy generation is less concentrated. So the bill is simply encouraging more of that practice, in part by removing the 120% cap to allow consumers to build more powerful solar generation arrays and by require utilities to make this work more smoothly with meter collars and the rules around credits and master meters

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Utilities are highly regulated and the reason we have the 120% cap is to ensure we keep regulating companies that are in essence energy producers. So removing the cap entirely is a step too far, we need to have some sort of maximum limit above which we consider you a utility

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-261

SB21-264 Adopt Programs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Utilities (Hansen (D)) [A. Valdez (D), Bernett (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Significant

Appropriation: $340,955
Fiscal Impact: Fluctuates, but about $750,000 a year on average

Goal:

Require all larger gas utilities to make plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5% 7.5% 4% below 2015 levels by 2025 and 20% 22% 20% by 2030. This can include stopping methane leaks in distribution, decreased emissions from end-users, and qualified offsets that are approved by the public utilities commission, with preference given to reductions based on what the bill calls clean heat (electrification of gas appliances, reclaimed methane sources, certain hydrogen gasses, and of course flat out reductions in energy use). Plans are to be capped at 2% 2.5% of annual billing received by the utility, but that cap can be exceeded in some cases.

Description:

Requires all gas public utilities with more than 90,000 customers and municipal gas utilities to create a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5% 7.5% 4% below 2015 levels by 2025 (only 1% of this reduction can come from recovered methane) and 20% 22% 20% by 2030, with only 5% coming from recovered methane. This can include stopping methane leaks in distribution, decreased emissions from end-users, and qualified offsets that are approved by the public utilities commission (more on these below). If this is done entirely with what the bill calls clean heat (see below), then the utility is not subject to any further greenhouse gas regulation from the commission. These plans must be capped at a cost of 2% 2.5% of gas bills for all full-service customers (added together). When considering plans submitted by utilities, the commission is to alter the plan if it determines it does not reach the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emission reduction possible underneath the cost cap. The commission can exceed the cost cap only if the benefits of the plan (including social costs of methane and carbon dioxide) exceed the costs, costs are reasonable, the plan includes mitigation for low-income customers, and the commission finds it is in the public good. The bill requires the commission to set new targets for every five years into the future (so 2035, 2040, etc.) through 2050. 2035 rule must be set by July 2022 December 2024, the rest by 2029 December 2032. Commission can also set the amonut of recovered methane allowed in future years.

Utilities are to submit at least three four three different plans: their main plan they are asking for approval on (that meets cost caps and reduction requirements), an alternative that uses clean heat to the maximum practicable extent and complies with cost caps (may not meet target reductions) an alternative that meets the target reductions using only clean heat with no recovered methane (may not meet cost caps), and alternative that meets the target reductions using only clean heat that can used recovered methane (may not meet cost caps) . Each plan must quantify projected emissions reductions and total emissions (including end-user use) through 2050 (this must include forecast of new customers and system growth), propose budgets to meet the goals, prioritize investments to ensure disproportionately impacted communities and low-income customers benefit, describe effects of plan on safety and reliability and resilience of the service, quantify cost of plan including cost-benefit analysis of alternatives that take into account social cost of carbon and methane, include a map of the utility's infrastructure that identifies gas throughput and rated pressure, and describe the monitoring and verification equipment to be used in annual reporting.

Clean heat includes: customer side demand management programs that reduce emissions, recovered methane, green or blue hydrogen, switching from gas to electric, coal mine methane, pyrolysis of tires, methane emission reduction due to safety or integrity plan or leak reductions, and any other technology the commission finds is cost-effective and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Recovered methane can come from biomethane, municipal solid waste, pyrolysis (special burning) of solid waste (unless it is recyclable), biomass or enzymatic pyrolysis, or wastewater treatment. Green hydrogen is hydrogen derived from a clean energy source that uses water as the source of the hydrogen, blue hydrogen is derived from biomethane or geological gas and must be paired with a process to capture and sequester the CO2 emissions that occur during the process. To count for this bill, recovered methane must either be delivered in Colorado through a dedicated pipeline or if through a common pipeline the source must be within Colorado and it must be demonstrated that the production or capture of the methane reduces greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado. Any recovered methane is given an official credit from the state, these are tradeable but must be verifiable and permanent. They also cannot be required by any other federal or state law.

For making rules on approved offsets, the commission is to consider: limiting projects that would be eligible to those located in Colorado, ensuring emissions reductions achieved through offsets are quantifiable and enforceable and not required by any other law (so no double counting), allowing offsets only from projects that reduce emissions in agricultural sector or capture emissions through either land use or forestry management or capture methane from coalbed seeps, monitoring and verification requirements including third-party verification, and protocols to evaluate impact of use of offsets on disproportionately impacted communities.

State must remove any prohibition on customer incentives to replace gas appliances with efficient electric appliances.

If a utility does not submit a plan in time (Largest utility in the state must submit by December 2022 August 2023, rest by April 2023 January 2024) then the commission may require a 30% reduction in emissions by 2035 and adopt rules on its own to get the utility into compliance.

Each utility must report to the state annually on the amount of money it has spent for their plan, including amount spent on disproportionately impacted communities and low-income customers and a calculation of emissions reduced or avoided thanks to the plan.

Utilities with fewer than 90,000 customers may submit a plan like the larger utilities but are not required to.

The wells part of this requires Class VI wells, which are used for injecting carbon dioxide into underground rock formations. The federal government has a series of rules around these wells, which are under the purview of the environmental protection agency and require a permit. The bill requires the state to get what is called primacy over these wells in Colorado, meaning they would be regulated by the public utilities commission and not the federal government. Only two other states have such authority right now, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Additional Information:

State is to verify projected emissions in plans. For calculating the cost of plans to customers (for the cap), commission is to include any incentives adopted by the utility and consider a least-cost best-fit analysis and a regulatory cost test.

For determining if a plan is in the public interest the commission must consider: whether the plan achieves its targets through maximal use of clean heat, any air quality or environmental or health benefits of the plan, if the plan prioritizes disproportionately impacted communities and low-income customers, if the plan results in reasonable costs to consumers, and if the plan ensures system reliability and long-term cost impacts.

Utilities are to use their own labor where practicable to complete projects for their plan but for any projects that are part of a competitive bid process with a cost of over $1 million, the utility must require all bidders to provide detailed information about the use of Colorado-based labor and out-of-state labor. This information is to be provided to the commission. For any decision on an acquisition of a clean heat resource by a utility, the commission is to consider the long-term impacts on the state workforce as part of a just transition away from fossil fuels and give additional weight to projects that include training programs, employment of Colorado-based labor, and long-term career opportunities, industry-standard wages, health care, and pension benefits.

If a utility is including proposals to for green or blue hydrogen projects it must also include a proposal for competitive bidding.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Natural gas is a key contributor to climate change. Methane is one of the worst greenhouse gasses and is a key component of natural gas, so targeting reductions in this industry is extremely important to our overall goals
  • We have renewable alternatives to natural gas and, like natural gas, we have abundant amounts of them in Colorado: sun and wind
  • Methane also occurs naturally in some areas and is emitted by our rotting trash—renewable natural gas can therefore avoid some of the problems associated with our alternative fuels in creating enormous land impact problems. In fact the tradeoff of renewable natural gas is so good it is considered carbon negative despite the fact you still have to burn the gas to use it
  • Other sources of methane and new sources of hydrogen can be economic engines for parts of the state, particularly those trying to transition away from fossil fuel-related industries
  • We simply cannot afford for our climate to get much worse: out-of-control wildfires, droughts, and flooding are already costing us hundreds of millions of dollars every year

In Further Detail: If the state is going to reach its carbon reduction goals, reducing natural gas consumption and emissions from gas use is going to be a part of it. Remember, this is not entirely about electrification. A lot of what we need is increased energy efficiency, particularly in low-income households that cannot afford to do this on their own (what the bill calls demand side reduction plans). That of course benefits everyone, with less gas used and lower utility bills. We must also acknowledge that natural gas is a dirty fuel that puts emissions into our atmosphere at every stage: from extraction to end use. The extent to which we can replace it with clean renewable energy is a positive for our environment and our future. 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). For cooking, induction stoves are a perfectly viable replacement for gas stoves. So while beneficial electrification is not a new thing in state law, removing any barriers for utilities to offer incentives and allow them to count it as part of their reduction plans should help spur more of it. There are also emissions reductions to be found simply from better implementation by reducing leaks and from being more creative about how we acquire methane. Methane, one of the worst greenhouse gasses, naturally occurs in many areas and also is emitted by our own rotting trash. And because we are not turning live plants into fuel, we do not run into the same problems that alternative fuels such as ethanol or biodiesel do when it comes to the environmental impact of land use. The bill also carefully avoids incentivizing creating more methane to “comply” with the reductions. We can literally turn trash into energy and at the same time prevent some of the worst greenhouse gasses from reaching our atmosphere. This is such a good trade-off that even though burning renewable natural gas causes similar environmental pollutants as regular natural gas fuel, it is still considered carbon-negative. It also can be its own industry, which can be particularly helpful for rural areas of the state trying to transition economically away from fossil fuel-related industries, in particular the dying coal industry. Clean hydrogen is another potential source of both gas and economic activity to generate it. And why are doing all of this, why is it so important for us to reduce our emissions? Beyond the very real health impacts of pollution, climate change is real and it is happening all around the world. We keep piling up record highs and collecting top 5 record warmest years around the world. We have seen increased flooding in coastal areas, more dangerous storms (how many 100 year weather events can we have in the space of a few years?), and more dangerous fires. Colorado is nearly constantly in drought or when we do get moisture, it is the violent and destructive type causing flooding, particularly in wildfire burn areas. We already lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year due to this ($200 million spent fighting last year’s fires alone). We simply cannot afford for things to get much worse. As for allowing the utilities to recoup their costs, that is how our utilities operate. They deliver us the base power or water or whatever at cost, and then they recoup costs on their infrastructure investments. This would be no different.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • 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: 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. What we should not be doing is putting our thumbs on the scales against natural gas. The clear long-term goal of this bill is to drastically reduce the use of natural gas in this state, which is going to have an economic impact. You cannot simply declare that we’ll move jobs from natural gas to renewable energy. It doesn’t and won’t work like that.


Bottom Line:

  • Renewable natural gas still burns dirty, just like regular natural gas. It also not yet clear how scalable any of this is. California did a study which found that it could supply only 2.5% of statewide gas consumption based on in-state sources. In Colorado, about ¼ of our energy comes from natural gas. If many other states follow suit, we may have difficulty producing enough without large increases in technology (hydrogen gas for instance, cannot really be done yet at a commercial scale). So rather than expend resources on renewable natural gas, we should be replacing natural gas altogether with clean renewable electricity
  • The bill does not contain sufficient protections to ensure we aren’t actually just shifting problems around. A previous version of a similar concept this session had requirements that investments in large livestock operations (to capture methane) or any large sources of biogas (again for methane) did not count, because what we don’t want is to encourage massive creation of new sources of methane. That has been one of the major ecological disasters of biofuels, entire areas of the globe deforested so as to plant biofuel plants

Bottom Line:

  • This bill offers a no-risk blank check to utilities to experiment with our money. If the experiment fails, the utility simply collects all of their costs from consumers, with the state’s blessing. If the experiment succeeds, the utility gets to collect some costs and then reap the benefits of developing emerging technology that may become a blueprint for others

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-264

SB21-272 Measures To Modernize The Public Utilities Commission (Hansen (D), Fenberg (D)) [Bernett (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $1,025,009
Fiscal Impact: Estimated $2 million this year and $2.6 million next year based on fee increase

Goal:

Makes some changes to the public utilities commission, including requiring resource plans to include social cost of carbon dioxide, requiring the commission to minimize impacts on disproportionately impacted communities, removing raising existing caps on utility fees that fund the commission, require commission to consider retiring renewable energy credits, require commission to create rules for net meter benefits to community solar gardens, allow commission to spend money on outside consultants and experts, and more.

Description:

Makes multiple changes to the public utilities commission.

  • Requires all resource plans submitted to the commission to include the social cost of carbon dioxide (this is set by the commission at a per ton rate)
  • Requires the commission to consider how to best provide equity, minimize impacts, and prioritize benefits to disproportionately impacted communities (minority, low-income, or indigenous populations that experience disproportionate environmental harm and risks resulting from increased vulnerability to environmental degradation, lack of opportunity for public participation or other factors—bill defines these as census block group that is greater than 40% low-income (200% of poverty line or lower), 40% minority, or 40% housing cost-burdened (more than 30% of income spent on housing)). Other communities may qualify if they have a history of environmental racism through redlining, anti-indigenous, anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic, or anti-Black laws or the community is one where multiple factors act cumulatively to affect health and the environment and contribute to persistent disparities
  • Removes Raises existing caps on fees on utilities that fund the commission’s work (currently from 0.25% of gross operating revenue to 0.45% except for phone companies, which are raised from 0.4%
  • Requires the commission to consider forcing retirement of renewable energy credits (utilities can purchase these credits to offset their emissions) to ensure compliance with renewable energy standards. Must be done in a way that enables a utility’s customers to account for the environmental benefits of the credits purchased for them and be consistent with the state’s climate goals
  • Requires the commission to develop rules for net metering credits for community solar gardens. These must be fixed for the full-term of the agreement between the garden and the utility. Commission must take into account and minimize any adverse effects on ratepayers
  • Allows the commission to spend up to $250,000 a year (tied to inflation) on contracts with outside consultants and experts
  • Requires any intervenor in any matter before the commission to disclose any financial relationship or corporate affiliation between themselves and any other intervenor in the matter that occured in the last two years
  • Requires that any investor-owned utility seeking to retire a electricity resource (like a coal power plant) submit as part of the proposal the net present value of revenue requirements if the utility used Colorado energy impact bonds and if it did not. These are bonds issued by the state to help utilities retire fossil fuel emitting plants at lower costs
  • Requires utilities to provide the commission access to any proprietary software used to evaluate and determine rates, with the data necessary for the commission to replicate the analysis the utility performed and pay for any independent contractor assistance required to successfully operate the software Requires utilities to spend at least 40% of their expenditures on renewable energy programs for investments and programs for low-income customers and disproportionately impacted communities through 2028
  • Extends the amount of time the commission has to review applications that don’t involve prefiled testimony or exhibits from 210 to 250 days

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The big item changes here are requiring consideration of social cost of carbon dioxide and impact on disproportionately impacted communities. For CO2, it is clearly wrong to not consider the impact of emissions on our economy and society as a whole—pollution is associated with a range of negative effects including long-term health effects. For communities, high pollution sites tend be located in minority dominated and poor areas (since the better connected and wealthy don’t want them in theirs). The number one indicator for placement of toxic facilities in this country is race and 78% of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-powered plant (56% of non-Hispanic whites). Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites. The high profile national examples like the water in Flint actually pale in comparison to daily damage being done in many communities, including in Colorado, including something as simple as where the highways run (through poor and minority based communities) and therefore higher air pollution from vehicles. These communities lack the power to fight against pollution and need the boost from the commission. For renewable energy credits, at some point we have to move on from a credit purchased and look at actual activity done by the utility or we are never going to meet our aggressive climate goals. Offsets only get you so far. For the cap, the commission is funded by these fees and that is all they are for (no net plus revenue), so we don’t have to worry about out-of-control fees, we need to worry that the commission has enough funds to do its job properly. It is at the fee cap right now and there are a host of bills in this session that are giving it much more work to do. And much of the rest of the bill is about simply that: the commission making better decisions and having access to full information

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • It is not necessarily so that all low-income or minority communities are disproportionately impacted. It would seem to make more sense to use a data-driven approach of actual environmental impacts to determine these communities, rather than shorthands of income and race. For social cost of CO2, we should not be putting our thumbs on the scales against fossil fuels. Doing so will have an economic impact on this state, where oil and gas are a critical industry. You cannot simply declare that we’ll move jobs from oil and gas to renewable energy. It doesn’t and won’t work like that. For the fee cap, it if needs to be raised so the commission can do its work fine, but there should be some sort of cap. It acts as a natural brake on the size and scope of the commission because we can reach a point where we are actually wasting money on bureaucracy rather than funding a necessary good for society

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-272