Colorado Vows Carbon Cuts in Support of Paris Climate Deal

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By Tripp Baltz

Colorado vowed to slash statewide greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter from 2005 levels by 2025 as Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced plans to join a multi-state alliance to meet the goals of the international Paris climate change agreement.

Colorado legislative leaders applauded the order and the governor’s decision to join the climate alliance along with 12 other states and one territory. But the coal industry decried the move.

The governor’s July 11 executive order aims to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions more than 26 percent by 2025, cut carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector by 25 percent by 2025, and achieve electricity savings of 2 percent of total electricity sales per year by 2020.

The order includes strategies to:

  •  work with interested utilities and electric cooperatives on a voluntary basis to maximize use of renewable energy without increasing costs to taxpayers,
  •  create a statewide electric vehicle plan by Jan. 1, 2018, and
  •  develop a greenhouse gas emissions tracking rule through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

‘Influential Move’

Zach Pierce, senior organizing manager for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Colorado and New Mexico, said Hickenlooper’s executive order was “by far the most influential move the governor has made in climate policy in his tenure as governor.”

“It’s a vision for state-specific carbon emissions goals” in light of “federal uncertainty” over confronting climate change, he said. “Utilities want to know what kind of political leadership there is. This provides very important direction to state agencies including the Air Quality Control Commission and the Public Utilities Commission. It’s a clear call to action for all relevant executive branch agencies.”

In addition to outlining carbon emissions reduction goals, the order directs the Colorado Department of Economic Development and International Trade and the state Department of Labor to provide economic development and other support services to local communities affected by disappearing coal jobs.

‘Moral Obligation’

“Colorado has a moral obligation to tackle climate change not only for the preservation and health of our planet, but for the health and safety of our families as well,” Senate Minority Leader Sen. Lucia Guzman (D) said in a statement. “Additionally, taking climate action has helped create our booming economy, which includes thousands of good-paying renewable energy jobs across the state and our incredible tourism industry that is fueled by our clean public lands.”

“Renewable energy enjoys widespread popular support in Colorado because not only is it good for our environment, it’s a key contributor to Colorado’s strong economy and best-in-the-nation unemployment rate,” said House Speaker Rep. Crisanta Duran (D).

The coal industry said it expects opposition from Republican legislators in the Colorado General Assembly.

“I think the governor might be pulling an Obama on us,” Stan Dempsey Jr., president of the Colorado Mining Association, told Bloomberg BNA. “This looks like a Clean Power Plan for Colorado.”

‘Lacks Specifics’

Dempsey said the order lacked specifics and did not provide a rationale for its goals. “Who’s to say these are the right goals, and what facilities are we talking about?” he said. “Tell me which coal-fired generating plant is going to get shut down.”

Dempsey said the governor’s order was developed unilaterally without the Assembly’s involvement. “Where’s the stakeholder process for this?” he said.

At least one environmentalist said Hickenlooper’s order did not go far enough.

Gary Wockner, environmental activist and member of Save the Colorado, said the governor’s order undercuts a similar order by his predecessor Bill Ritter Jr. (D) which set emissions reduction goals at 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

“In either case, emissions are going up, not down, and so it’s quite a stretch for Hick to think he’s going to make emissions go down,” Wockner said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at abaltz@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

The governor's executive order is at http://src.bna.com/qEW.

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