Guest Opinion: Will Toor: There’s a lot being done in #Colorado to address climate crisis — The #Boulder Daily Camera

Leaf charging at the Beau Jo’s charger in idaho Springs August 23, 2021.

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Will Toor):

Right now, leaders from across the world are gathered in Scotland for the latest UN climate conference, seeking to address the climate crisis. Here in Colorado, we are already seeing the impacts of climate change, with the largest wildfires in state history, air quality impacts from wildfires across the west, and the closure this summer of I-70 due to mudslides following last year’s Glenwood Canyon fires.

Luckily, there is a LOT being done here in Colorado to address these challenges. Three years ago, Gov. Jared Polis campaigned on a platform of 100% clean electricity generation by 2040 and bold climate action, and in the intervening period the state has vaulted to the forefront of climate action. Through legislation, regulations, public investment and partnerships with local government, unions and the private sector, we have made real progress on an equitable transition towards a low carbon, clean energy future — all while strengthening the economy, addressing inequities, and working to improve local air quality.

Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office via State of Colorado.

In 2019 Gov. Polis signed legislation establishing science-based targets to reduce GHG pollution 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050. For a sense of scale, this means cutting annual GHG pollution by 70 million tons by 2030. We immediately got to work on both implementing obvious “no regrets” strategies and developing a strategic GHG roadmap to determine the most important actions to take to achieve the 2030 targets.

The first big area we focused on was electricity generation, one of the two largest sources of GHG pollution. We got commitments from utilities representing 99% of the fossil fuel generation in the state to achieve at least 80% reduction in pollution by 2030. We have locked these commitments in through legislative requirements and action by state air and utility regulators. In practice, it looks like we will exceed these targets. Xcel Energy, the largest utility in the state, filed a plan at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to achieve 85% by 2030, and based on our analysis, we are advocating for the PUC to approve a plan that gets to 90%. The second largest utility, Tri-State, has a plan to close every coal plant they have in Colorado and replace them primarily with wind and solar. All of this is enabled by the remarkable advances in cheap renewables, in which the cost per kilowatt hour of NEW wind and solar is often about half the cost for just operating and maintaining EXISTING coal plants.

We also worked with the Colorado Legislature this year to pass binding requirements on industry to achieve the sector-specific targets set in the GHG roadmap. State air regulators are now required to adopt new rules that will reduce pollution from the oil and gas industry by 60%, and from the rest of industry by 20% by 2030. State air regulators are already in the process of adopting rules for oil and gas, and a first set of industrial rules focused on steel mills and cement plants. And regulators have already adopted a phaseout of superpolluting hydrofluorocarbons.

Burning natural gas in buildings is another one of the top sources of GHG pollution. Legislation passed this year will expand gas and electric utility programs to help their customers electrify heating and improve efficiency, require large commercial buildings to improve their energy performance, expand investment in low income weatherization, and create new financing tools for building upgrades. Tying all of this together is a first in the nation requirement for gas utilities to develop “clean heat plans” that will achieve at least 22% reduction in pollution by 2030.

Transportation is the largest single source of GHG pollution. The state has already adopted low and zero emission vehicle regulations, and has taken major steps on supporting the transition to electric cars, trucks and buses, including through the legislation requiring utility investment in EV infrastructure, and to invest new state transportation revenue in EV infrastructure and incentives. Together, these will invest about $1 billion in EV infrastructure and programs, to support a million EVs on the road by 2030. And the state is adopting an innovative new GHG pollution standard which will require state and regional transportation plans to shift funding towards public transit and walkable, bikeable communities.

The net effect of these policies is projected to achieve 95 % of the 70 million ton target, while improving air quality. And we have big plans to do more in the coming year. We need to work with local governments to reform exclusionary zoning that keeps housing out of our prosperous cities, harming low and middle income workers while forcing far longer drives that contribute to pollution. The governor is proposing a half-a-billion dollars of investments in this year’s budget to improve air quality and reduce GHG emissions – accelerating adoption of electric school buses, supporting industrial emissions reduction, rebates for Ebikes, expanding public transit, making fares free during the high ozone season, and more. We will be finalizing the state clean trucking strategy this winter, and considering zero emission vehicle standards for trucks next spring. This just touches the surface — there is action on carbon capture, green hydrogen, improved building codes, natural and working land… this is an all-of-government effort.

The work isn’t over. In many ways, it is just beginning: addressing climate change is the great work of our time, and will be an ongoing effort through our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes. But I couldn’t be prouder of the innovation and leadership of the state of Colorado over the last three years.

Will Toor is Executive Director of the Colorado Energy Office. It’s mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumer energy costs by advancing clean energy, energy efficiency and zero emission vehicles to benefit all Coloradans.

Can younger generations spur corporations to divest from fossil fuels? — @HighCountryNews #ActOnClimate

Image credit: Sarah Sax / High Country News November 4, 2021

From The High Country News [November 4, 2021] (Sarah Sax):

Bulging gray rain clouds threatened to open up on a crowd of protesters last Friday [October 29, 2021] morning in Seattle. A few hundred people, mostly high schoolers and university students, held banners and hand-painted signs that read “Youth demand climate justice,” “Stop the money pipeline” and “It’s our turn to lead.”

They marched six blocks, from Pier 62 on Seattle’s waterfront to the corner of Second and Union, where they unfurled a long banner and staged a die-in — lying on the ground to dramatize the deadly stakes of the climate fight. In many ways, the actions and rhetoric mirrored previous youth climate protests, but this one differed in one notable regard: Instead of standing in front of City Hall and appealing to elected officials, the protesters were lying in front of the Pacific Northwest headquarters of the JPMorgan Chase bank.

The “Fossil Free Future” campaign aims to engage a growing number of young people to boycott banks, insurers and other companies that fund fossil fuel projects, not just by withholding their money but also their future labor.

“Why not just go to the source, if we know that corporate actors are the issue?” asked Sof Petros, a 24-year-old climate activist who helped organize Seattle’s protest on Friday. “We have power as current and future customers, employees and the public to push these banks to move towards better positions and be held accountable for past, current, and future financing of fossil fuel projects.”

Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

Seattle’s protest — one of dozens in cities and towns across the U.S. — comes in the wake of national struggles to pass policies that experts say are needed to keep the U.S. on track to meet its climate targets. It also coincided with the start of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, an international gathering of governments around the world that many have said will be “the whitest and most privileged” assembly yet. Over the last two decades, these conferences have largely failed to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions needed to keep the world from reaching dangerous levels of warming. It’s this growing disillusionment with government action that has motivated youth to follow the money instead, said Petros.

The International Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change both released alarming reports this year showing that if the world is going to stay below 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) of global warming, no new fossil fuel projects can be built. Yet major banks and insurance companies continue to underwrite and insure new coal and oil and gas extraction and infrastructure. A report released in March found that since the Paris Agreement in 2015, the world’s 60 biggest banks have funded almost $4 trillion worth of new fossil fuel projects. The new youth campaign includes pledges not to bank, or work for financial institutions that finance fossil fuel projects, like Chase does.

“You’re more likely to divorce than you are to switch your bank,” Petros said. “Banks know that, and they are courting youth as lifelong customers. And we represent decades of a future customer base.”

The high school and university students join a growing number of climate campaigns, from shareholder activism to university divestment campaigns, that are calling for institutions to stop financing fossil fuel projects. But the power that they hold over companies goes beyond just their money. As baby boomers retire, the U.S. faces a growing recruitment crisis. According to a survey by ManpowerGroup, one of the world’s largest staffing firms, the number of employers struggling to fill positions has tripled from 14% in 2010 to 69% today. COVID-19 sparked a wave of resignations and made the ongoing labor shortage worse. Financial services and the insurance sector in particular are in the midst of what some have called a “crisis” to recruit new talent.

“Skilled workers are in control, and companies need to understand people’s priorities to compete,” Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America told Forbes this year.

The priorities of the younger generations are obvious. Polls regularly show that climate change is one of the top concerns for Gen Z. And almost three-quarters of millennials would take a pay cut to work with a company that is environmentally responsible.

Aedan McCall, who spoke outside of Liberty Mutual during last Friday’s march, is one example. The student at the University of Washington is studying computer science and grappling with how to enter a workforce and industry that directly and indirectly contributes to climate change, not just through emissions, but also by supporting the extraction of fossil fuels through their products, such as helping develop algorithms to find new oil reserves. McCall says that when they enter the labor market in the next few years, evidence that a company is taking climate change seriously and shares key values will influence everything from where they decide to work to where they bank and what kind of life or property insurance they choose.

Outside of Chase, demonstrators constructed an altar to showcase objects that they expect to see disappear in their lifetime. Someone had scrawled “Every summer I watch another place I love burn down. We can never return” on top of a Lake Tahoe road map in front of pictures of penguins and sea stars. “Now, more than ever,” said McCall, “is a key moment to act because we’re running out of time.”

Sarah Sax is the climate justice fellow at High Country News currently living in rural Washington. We welcome reader letters. Email her at

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District no longer in Stage 1 #Drought — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

The Pagosa Area Water and Sani- tation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors voted to exit the Stage 1 Drought, as defined in its drought management plan, at its regular meeting held on Oct. 28.

The board initially voted to enter the Stage 1 Drought on July 19.
District Manager Justin Ramsey explained during the meeting that the primary driver of the district’s drought management plan is the San Juan River flow in conjunction with the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Ramsey noted that the district has met conditions to exit the Stage 1 Drought for almost a month now.

He explained that since the only restriction was irrigation times, and not many people are still irrigating this time of year, he didn’t feel the need to call for a special meeting for the board to vote on exiting sooner…

Snow report

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 3.2 inches of snow water equivalent as of 10 a.m. on Nov. 3.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins were at 106 percent of the Nov. 3 median in terms of snow pack.

The USDA website notes that readings “may not provide a valid measure of conditions” in regard to the basins.

River report

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 68.7 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Based on 86 years of water re- cords at this site, the lowest recorded flow rate for this date is 22 cfs, recorded in 1956.

The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1987 at 657 cfs. The average flow rate for this date is 116 cfs.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 53.2 cfs.

The highest recorded rate for this date was 800 cfs in 1987.

A new lowest recorded rate was recorded this year for this date, earlier in the day at 37.5 cfs.

Based on 59 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for that date is 146 cfs.

Colorado Drought Monitor map November 2, 2021.

Drought report

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Oct. 26.

The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is ab- normally dry.

The percentage of the county in a moderate drought is listed at 70.79, which is up slightly from the previous report of 69.81 percent. The NIDIS website also notes that 47.66 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage, consistent with last week’s report. Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 10.33 percent of the county remains in an extreme drought. This is up slightly from last week’s report of 9.12 percent. No portion of the county is in
exceptional drought.

For more information and maps,

Share your project ideas for San Juan, Blanco, Navajo watersheds — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Al Pfister):

The Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP) has been working under the Colorado Water Plan to develop a stream management plan (now referred to as an integrated watershed management plan) for the Upper San Juan, Blanco and Navajo River watersheds.

The past three years of efforts have emphasized identifying the environmental, recreational and agricultural infrastructure needs of these three watersheds and what enhancements in the watersheds might be made. This has been accomplished via field data gathering, interviews and surveys with different user groups, stakeholders and landowners, under the guidance of a steering committee representative of the agricultural, environmental, municipal and recreational water interests of the community.

In June, the WEP initiated its third and final phase of a planning process to develop a local water plan that includes project opportunities that support river health and our community’s ability to rely on rivers for multiple uses, now and in the future.

For example, several projects have already been identified by or shared with WEP with the potential to enhance the efficiency of irrigation infrastructure, recreational opportunities and improve the health of the rivers.

We hope these will just be the start of many project ideas com- munity members can consider and add their own ideas for projects or actions to develop a shared list of on-the-ground opportunities to support the agricultural, environ- mental, municipal and recreational water use needs in the San Juan, Blanco and Navajo watersheds.

The WEP hopes to offer multiple options for community members and visitors to participate and in- form this water planning process.
First, we hope you will join our next public meeting on Dec. 8 from
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (virtual or in-per- son to be determined depending on COVID-19 guidelines).

Second, you can take one or all three of the WEP’s watershed sur- veys (upper San Juan, Blanco and Navajo) to share your opinions and project ideas, including options to mark on maps specific areas or locations you are concerned about or want to suggest an improvement project idea.

Third, you can sign up as an individual or small group to discuss your water-related values, concerns or project ideas with members of the WEP.

Details on how to join our Dec. 8 public meeting, links to watershed surveys and to the project discussion sign-up sheet can all be found at:

If you would like to learn more about the WEP and the planning process, visit and contact Al Pfister (westernwildscapes@ or Mandy Eskelson (