In Colorado’s energy transition, some work has advanced at a remarkable pace in the last 15 years. Other aspects are as perplexing now as in 2011 when Dave Bowden interviewed Matt Baker, then a Colorado public utilities commissioner, for a documentary film commemorating CRES’s accomplishments on its 15th anniversary.
Baker described a two-fold challenge. One was to achieve the legislative mandate of getting 30% of electricity from renewables while keeping the cost increase below 2%.
Check that box. In 2021, renewables provided 35% of Colorado’s electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration, even as costs of wind, solar and batteries continue to decline. And utilities now say they can achieve at least 70% by 2030 (and some aim for 100%).
With its sunny days and its windy prairies, Colorado has resources many states would envy. Plus, it’s nice to have NREL in your midst.
Clean energy technologies can and must ramp up even faster. At one time, the atmospheric pollution could be dismissed as unpleasant but worth the tradeoff. That debate has ended. The science of climate change is clear about the rising risks and unsavory outcomes of continuing this 200-year devotion to burning fossil fuels.
Big, big questions remain, though. Some are no more near resolution than they were in 2011 when Baker, who now directs the public advocates office at the California Public Utilities, identified the “desperate need to modernize the grid,” including the imperative for demand-side management.
Leave that box unchecked. Work is underway, but oh so much remains to be figured out.
For example, how much transmission do we need if we emphasize more dispersed renewable generation? Can we figure out the storage mechanisms to supplement them? Might we need fewer giant power lines from distant wind and solar farms? This debate is simmering, on the verge of boiling.
In buildings, the work is only beginning. Colorado has started, in part nudged by the host of laws adopted in 2021, among them the bill that Meillon had worked on for a decade.
Others had been working on the same issue in a different way. Consider John Avenson. Now retired, he was still working as an engineer at Bell Labs when he began retrofitting his house in Westminster to reduce its use of fossil fuels.
The house had a good foundation. It was built in the early 1980s in a program using designs created in partnership with SERI, the NREL precursor. It was part of a Passive Solar Parade of Homes in 1981. And unlike about 80% of houses in metro Denver according to the calculations of Steve Andrews, it faces south, allowing it to harvest sunshine as needed and minimizing the need for imported energy.
Avenson then tweaked and fussed over how to save energy here and then there. Finally, in 2017, he convinced himself that he no longer needed natural gas. He ordered the line stubbed.
To those who want to follow the same path, Avenson has been generous with his time. He can commonly be seen pitching in on other, mostly behind-the-scene roles, for CRES and affiliated events.
CRES’s membership is full of such individuals, people committed to taking action, whether in their own lives or in making the case why change must occur in our policies.
But what about the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere? Can it be mopped up just a bit? Certainly, it’s better to not emit emissions. But we’re cornered now. Focus is growing on ways to return carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. Revised and rewarded agricultural practices may be one way. That will be a component of a major bill in the 2023 Colorado General Assembly climate change docket.
This is also a topic that Larson, since his time in Africa after the Reagan administration short-sheeted the solar laboratory in Golden, has avidly promoted. In 2007, the idea got a name: biochar. It is one technique for restoring carbon to soils. Today, it remains an obtuse idea to most people. It may be useful to remember that a renewables-powered economy sounded weird to many people in 1996, if they thought about it at all.
CRES has been regaining its financial health. “Through disciplined and lean operations, we have been able to slowly grow our annual income to nearly $40,000 a year,” said Eberle, the board president at a 25th anniversary celebration in October. “We have a solid financial base to not only maintain our current programs but consider new opportunities.”
The question lingers for those deeply engaged in CRES about what exactly its role can be and should be.
Always, there are opportunities for informed citizens such as those who are the lifeblood of CRES. Mike Kruger made this point clear in a CRES presentation in October 2022. As the executive director of COSSA, he routinely contacts elected officials and their staff in Washington D.C.
“The same thing happens at the State Capitol,” he said. Two or three phone calls to a state legislator has been enough to bring to their attention a particular issue or even change their vote.
And that takes us to the big, big question: What exactly has CRES achieved in its 26 years?
In this history you have read about a few salient elements:
the shove of Xcel into accepting Colorado Green;
the passing of Amendment 37, which raised Colorado’s profile nationally and set the stage for the election of Bill Ritter on a platform of stepped-up integration of renewables;
the work in recent years to revamp the calculations used in evaluating alternatives to methane.
Teasing out accomplishments, connecting lines directly can be a difficult task. Perhaps instructive might be a sideways glance to other major societal changes. Much has been written about the civil rights movement after World War II that culminated in the landmark federal legislation of the mid-1960s.
There were individuals, most notably the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and, in some contexts, his key lieutenants, John Lewis and Jessie Jackson.
But there were others. Consider the march from Selma to Montgomery. There were strong-willed individuals such as Amelia Boynton Robinson and, at one point in the Selma story, the school children themselves who took up the cause as their parents and other elders hesitated.
Civil rights and the energy transition have differences. The former had a deep moral component that was not yet clearly evident in energy when CRES was founded in 1996. The seriousness of climate change was not at the same level then, although arguably it is now.
Now Colorado has emerged as a national leader in this energy transition. For that, CRES deserves recognition. It’s not a singular success. CRES has had teammates in this. But it can rightfully take credit.
Other installments in this series about the history of CRES:
CRES has been busy in recent years trying to advance Colorado’s clean energy agenda. The most compelling evidence of success is a law that tilts the table on natural gas. It’s wonky stuff but terribly important if Colorado is to attain its carbon reduction goals.
About the time that CRES hit a speed bump when it hired a full-time executive director, Colorado also slowed its pace in energy innovation. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who had spoken at the CRES 2010 annual meeting in Montrose, was popular but was seen by many in the environmental community as sluggish. Too, the Legislature was divided politically during his years in the governor’s mansion. Always, bipartisan legislation is best. In important cases it’s useful to have majorities.
Those majorities arrived in the 2018 election along with the election of Jared Polis as governor. Wealthy from shrewd investments and with sharp political instincts, Polis had announced his gubernatorial campaign in Pueblo at Solar Roast Coffee. If elected governor, he said in his Main Street announcement, he would push Colorado to 100% renewables by 2040. He breezed to victory. Renewables had gone mainstream.
A month later, Xcel Energy officials staged a public announcement in the sunshine-splashed atrium of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. They proclaimed their intent to dramatically reduce carbon emissions from electrical generation by 2030 and expand that to emission-free electricity by 2050. A week later, directors of Platte River Power Authority, the utility serving four northern Colorado cities, announced an even more ambitious target: 100% renewable energy by 2030. Holy Cross in 2020 adopted the same goal for its service territory in the Vail-Aspen-Rifle area but without conditions.
In the early months of 2019, Colorado legislators adopted a deluge of bills built around the idea of pivoting rapidly to renewables. Amid solar panels in Arvada, Polis signed a law that formally created the framework for building what Ritter had long before described as a New Energy Economy.
CRES has tried to flex more muscle in this friendly atmosphere. Singularly important has been the CRES policy committee. The 12 to 15 members meet by conference call or video about an hour weekly during the legislative session and bi-weekly during other months. The policy committee has a diversity of voices and opinions but tends to consist of the wizened elders. For example, while 10 out of 12 people participating in the MCRES chapter are under age 40, the inverse holds true for the policy committee.
Policy members take on responsibility for researching individual topics, helping decide whether CRES wants to get engaged and how. In some cases, this involves meeting with legislators, other times in giving testimony to legislative committees. CRES has also had a more robust presence in proceedings of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
Rebecca Cantwell has been a member of this committee. She has worked policy from several sides. She had worked for Tim Wirth when he was a U.S. representative from Boulder and adjoining areas, then became a Denver journalist for 16 years. While at the Rocky Mountain News, she covered the evolution of communications technology, a task that gave her a deep understanding of how the PUC operates. From 2002 to 2005, while supervising political coverage for The Denver Post, she noticed the vigor of the grassroots movement in support of an energy transition.
“I remember actually advocating internally at The Denver Post of the importance of this effort,” she says. “Clearly the passage of Amendment 37 in 2004 set Colorado on a renewable energy future more than any other single event.”
By then, she was chafing in her capacity as an observer. “I wanted to stop telling about what other people were doing and actually work on progress,” she says.
That motivation put her on a winding path that included editing a magazine published by Smart Energy Living Alliance, a stint at the Colorado Energy Office, and then beginning in 2012 several years as director of what is now the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, or COSSA.
Cantwell had become familiar with CRES after meeting Larson at a wind energy conference in 2005. While at the solar trade group, she worked to implement a solar thermal roadmap developed in conjunction with CRES that laid out steps needed to make solar thermal a larger presence in Colorado. The roadmap had value at the Legislature and elsewhere, she says, even if it failed to produce much public policy for quite a while.
Vince Calvano shepherds the CRES advocacy work, tracking legislation and PUC matters in spreadsheets, no small undertaking any time of year but especially when the General Assembly is in session. He had studied earth sciences at Penn State. There, he had an advisor, William Easterling, who had helped write one of the International Panel on Climate Change reports. “I learned how much of an issue global warming was, and I wanted to be part of the solution,” says Calvano.
He then worked as a geophysical technician for a year and a half before returning to Colorado—which he had visited while as an undergrad – to attend law school in Boulder, graduating in 2008. Now he believes he is part of the solution through his pro bono work for CRES.
Like all others interviewed for this history, Calvano sees CRES having an importance primarily on the margins. One important edge is how CRES can influence the position of other environmental groups or even the Colorado Energy Office. Other parties in negotiations “can be more concerned with the give and take with Xcel and holding back,” he says. The extra voice provided by CRES, through its persistence, can push them to take stronger stands.
Social cost of methane
The most compelling recent evidence of CRES influence can be found in HB21-1238. It effectively requires state regulators to consider the costs of pollution using a different set of metrics. It did this by revising the methodology used by the PUC to determine the cost-effectiveness of demand-side management programs of public utilities selling natural gas. Like many big ideas, it had a long gestation period.
Laurent Meillon, a member of the CRES policy committee, began pushing the principles behind the bill nearly a decade ago. Frank, the CRES executive director, had introduced him to then-State Sen. Gail Schwartz. She understood the inadequacy of the metrics used by state regulators in evaluating effectiveness of demand-side management programs, says Meillon. She understood that heating of buildings needed to “change a lot, away from cheaply priced fracked gas and toward clean solutions with no hidden costs.”
Schwartz accomplished much during her time in the Colorado Senate but could not get the bill she fashioned with Meillon’s assistance approved before she was term-limited.
Next, Senators Mike Foote and Chris Kennedy took up the legislation, but they also could not get it passed. In 2020, the legislative majority was there for Foote, a Democrat, then something got in the way. “It was literally on the Senate president’s desk to be introduced in March of 2020 when we went into covid lockdown,” he says. Foote, after being term-limited, passed along the idea to Rep. Tracey Bernett, then a new representative from Boulder County. In addition to her engineering background, Bernett has a master’s in business administration from Harvard.
State Sen. Chris Hansen co-sponsored the bill. It passed without great difficulty.
Meillon cites literally dozens of organizations and individuals. He credits the Colorado Solar and Storage Association (then called COSEIA) with breaking the intellectual ground two years before he seized the issue.
“I know I can sound like stereotypical PR messaging when I say that it was a team effort, yet I really mean it,” says Meillon. “Sure I drove this with my persistence, yet nothing would have happened without all these people helping and pushing as best they could.
Among those in CRES who urged him, he says, were Cantwell, Becky English, and Leslie Glustrom. He also singles out Will Toor, director of the Colorado Energy Office in the Polis administration.
Lehr also had a role in Meillon’s account, as he “had been talking publicly about the ‘pernicious role of the discount rate against clean energy’ for 10 years before we even got started and first made me aware of it.”
Foote, who now provides pro bono expertise as an attorney representing CRES in PUC matters, describes Meillon’s case as exceptional for CRES.
“To have a sustained presence at the PUC and/or the Legislature takes funding and paying people, but their funding is light and they don’t pay people,” says Foote of CRES. “It all depends on who is volunteering and what they have the time and passion to do.”
In this case, Meillon was able to bring the expertise and advocacy of CRES and its members. “I know it would not have been a bill had he not kept the idea alive,” says Foote.
“There was a lot of talk at council about it being a bold decision, but I don’t see it that way. Not only is it what we need to do, but we have all the tools to do it cost effectively.” — Mayor Ian Billick
Crested Butte, that most lovely of Colorado mountain towns, now vibrant in summer flowers and always in the bold colors of Victorian storefronts, has now entered into the fractious national debate about natural gas.
The municipality decided Aug. 3 that it will no longer allow natural gas in new buildings. Major remodels will be required to be electric-ready. It’s the first jurisdiction in Colorado to take this action.
Others may soon follow, posing the question of whether Colorado will soon get more rambunctious in its debate about how to effectively achieve the reduction in emissions identified in a 2019 law. That law specified economy-wide emission reductions of 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.
Buildings must necessarily be part of this drawdown, and that puts the focus on natural gas, which provides space and hot-water heating for more than half of Colorado buildings. Cars last 15 years or longer, but upgrades of buildings often don’t occur for decades.
The Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Roadmap adopted in January 2021 identified emissions from buildings as a relatively small but vital sector. “Even though the emissions reductions from these actions will be relatively modest in the near term,” the roadmap says, “they will grow to become very significant in the period after 2030.”
Berkeley in November 2019 became the first municipality in the United States to ban natural gas in new construction. Since then 80 other towns, cities, and other jurisdictions have followed, first in California but then in other states, too.
In response, 23 states—including five of the seven states bordering Colorado—have adopted laws that prohibit such local regulations. That’s a ban on bans, if you will. An effort was underway in 2020 by oil-and-gas interests in Colorado to put a similar ballot measure, called preemption, before voters. The effort was withdrawn after negotiations with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
Colorado legislators in 2021 instead passed several bills that collectively start squeezing natural gas from buildings without blanket bans. The most important of these bills, SB21-264, requires the four regulated utilities that sell natural gas in Colorado to submit clean-heat plans beginning in 2023.
This clean-heat requirement along with other laws adopted in 2021 nudge Colorado’s four regulated utilities that deliver natural gas toward helping their customers convert their homes and businesses from natural gas to electricity. Xcel Energy, the largest, sells both gas and electricity, so the loss of gas sales will be offset by increased electricity sales. Atmos, the supplier of natural gas to Crested Butte, does not sell electricity, so it will have to cut its emissions in other ways.
Crested Butte might seem an unlikely trailblazer. It’s smallish, with 1,334 full-time residents. The conventional wisdom holds that the big liberal bastions wade into changes first, which then get gradually introduced into the more rural outposts. But neither Denver nor Boulder, though they have started squeezing emissions from buildings in significant ways, have gone quite as far.
Denver, for example, requires heat pumps for space heating and heat-pump water heaters for existing buildings — but not homes — at the time of system replacement, starting in 2024 to 2027. That’s not an explicit ban on natural gas, although it may come close,
The most important aspect of Crested Butte’s example may be its colder climate. It sits at 8,909 feet. Other places that are actually lower in elevation lay claim to the dubious distinction of record cold, but Crested Butte knows chill, an average low of 6 below during January, its coldest month. Town officials, after examining the available technology, including air-source heat pumps, concluded that nobody will suffer in this transition to building electrification.
If it can work in Crested Butte, surely it should work in Castle Rock or Colorado Springs or any number of other places.
Mark Reaman, the editor of the Crested Butte News, called the measure “largely symbolic in the sense it will not save the world. Not even close,” he wrote in a column titled “Symbolism Matters.” “But it could send a message and set an example to those living and visiting here. It is tangible action applicable at the local level.”
Crested Butte, he added, “is one of those towns that punches above its weight given the people it draws and the attitude that doing something locally matters.” His offered the metaphor of a seed now planted “that might grow beyond our little garden.”
To get an understanding of how Crested Butte got to where it is and how it fits with the bigger picture now evolving in Colorado, Big Pivots conducted an e-mail interview with three people:
Ian Billick is the mayor of Crested Butte. He ran on a platform of climate change action and housing. He is also a biologist who manages the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, where scientists from across the country gather during summers to study climate change and other topics at an elevation of 9,000-plus-feet.
Christine Brinker is the senior buildings policy manager for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. She has been deeply involved with helping draft the state legislation and local policies that seek to pivot Colorado’s buildings to fewer emissions.
Mike Foote is a public-interest environmental attorney from Boulder County who served in the Colorado Legislature from 2013 to 2021. As a Democratic legislator, he co-sponsored legislation in 2019 that set Colorado on its march to realize deep, deep decarbonization of its economy – buildings being a particularly knotty problem to solve.
Big Pivots: As mayor of Crested Butte, Ian, can you identify a precise moment when the vision began to take place of eliminating natural gas in new buildings and those with major remodels?
Ian Billick: Several years ago, and before I joined the council, Crested Butte adopted an aggressive climate action plan. New building codes are issued every three years and given how much buildings contribute to carbon emissions, it made quite a bit of sense to consider electrification in adopting the new code.
Pivots: Let’s talk about that aggressive climate action plan. Crested Butte in around 2007 joined a great many towns and cities in adopting a resolution favoring renewable energy. It was my impression that nothing much then happened, perhaps because nobody knew where to start. What explains the more muscular approach?
Billick: A combination of an experienced town staff that has identified meaningful leverage points and a Town Council that has collectively made climate action a top priority. Also, improvements in building technology, including air source heat pumps, along with increases in natural gas prices, make electrification more cost effective, independent of climate impacts.
Pivots: Striking to me was the relative lack of discussion about the adequacy of alternative technologies to natural gas. Was there concern that air-source heat pumps would be unable to perform satisfactorily in Crested Butte’s relatively cold climate?
Billick: The efficiency of air-source heat pump technology declines significantly with colder temperatures. However, the technology works much better in very cold temperatures than it did even a few years ago and can be effectively combined with supplemental heat systems. It’s an example of how recent improvements in technology have made this move possible.
Pivots: The adequacy of the technology was not a major talking point? And do I understand that you had the support of local building contractors?
Billick: We did not spend a lot of time talking about the adequacy of the technology. We had a consultant, August Hasz, with the Resource Engineering Group, which has substantial experience building fully electrified housing in similar, high-altitude, cold environments. We also had local builders who have built successfully here without natural gas express their support. For me, that was very compelling.
Pivots: Let’s explore both of these. What other high-altitude, colder environments? And your local builders – if they are comfortable with the new technology, what do you think that says about places like Vail or Summit County?
Billick: Resource Engineering Group cited projects in Basalt Valley and Telluride. An affordable housing project recently opened in Gunnison that is all electric.
Pivots: You have cited analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute that electrification will usually reduce costs. Is that comparison of gas vs. electric in the completed building? Or is that in cost savings over time?
Billick: One thing we learned is that the cost-benefit analysis of electrification versus natural gas is complicated; you can’t say that one technology will always be cheaper. But RMI has found that in many circumstances both up-front costs as well as lifetime costs will be cheaper with electrification. For example, there are costs to hooking a home up to natural gas that are avoided with full electrification.
Pivots: How many unbuilt lots? Any potential annexations? What application might you see in remodels? Would this have been a harder decision had there been more real estate involved?
Billick: We have about 60 unbuilt lots. Additionally, we have an affordable housing project involving 60-80 units coming online, which will be built to the new code. We have no annexations in the pipeline. Major renovations will trigger a requirement that buildings be electric ready. For me, the decision was not influenced by the number of units involved. There was a lot of talk at council about it being a bold decision, but I don’t see it that way. Not only is it what we need to do, but we have all the tools to do it cost effectively.
Pivots: Your law allows an exemption. Please explain.
Billick: We allow commercial kitchens to use natural gas for cooking.
Pivots: The Crested Butte News reported the major pushback was from those who urged a go-slower approach. For other towns considering following in the footsteps of Crested Butte, how would you describe that pushback? And why did the council reject that go-slower approach?
Billick: We had a working group analyzing this option through the spring, including holding a question and answer session for the public. The CB Town Council had a work session, as well as two public hearings. By the final public hearing while some disagreed with the policy, no new information was emerging, nor did council feel that it was missing any information. We had the information we needed to make a decision, so we moved forward.
Pivots: I was struck by the fact that the council was unanimous. Can you explain the unity on this? Does it extend to other decisions?
Billick: The council works very well together, but we don’t always agree. The council has been very clear, however, that climate action is a priority that is shared across the board.
Pivots: What repercussions beyond Crested Butte do you hope your town’s actions will have?
Billick: If we can make it work in an environment as extreme as Crested Butte, it is possible to make it work across the country.
Pivots: Christine, when do you think we will hear about the next local government in Colorado to limit or ban natural gas in homes and buildings?
Christine Brinker: Most likely in the next few months. While they may not outright prohibit natural gas, they will likely take steps to either gradually move away from it or at least reduce some of the negative impacts. For example, some local governments in the northwestern metro area are working together on a policy that would give builders a choice between either all-electric or, on the other hand, natural gas with extra energy efficiency.
Having said that, Crested Butte’s example will surely give these and other local governments the courage to take stronger climate action and take bolder steps toward all-electric new construction.
Pivots: Colorado has adopted several laws in the last two years that seek to reduce emissions from buildings. How would you describe the general approach?
Brinker: The approach has been to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis while at the same time trying to orchestrate the transition in a way that protects our workers and families. Recent bills had extensive negotiations and “stakeholdering” with builders, building owners, labor, local leaders, equity groups, and more, because ultimately, the policies need to be workable, practical, and impactful for as many Coloradans as possible.
From a policy standpoint, the original 2019 law set an overall emissions reduction goal 90% by 2050, and individual bills since then are going sector-by-sector to help reach those goals. That’s where these bills governing buildings fit.
Pivots: How does the law passed in May, HB22-1362, titled “Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” define the paths forward for local jurisdictions? Do you see various paths for different communities?
Brinker: That law sets the floor, the minimum, for resilient and energy-efficient construction when local governments update any other building codes. This is in recognition that many homebuyers and renters don’t have the ability to choose efficient and healthy homes – they have to “take what’s out there.” Better energy codes make sure homes and buildings are built right at the outset.
Notably, the law still allows natural gas — but requires that new construction at least include the wiring for future all-electric appliances like heat pumps. And it allows local governments like Crested Butte to go above the minimum if they want.
Pivots: Air-source heat pumps remain fairly expensive. Do you see this changing?
Brinker: The costs of the technology have fallen significantly in recent years while performance improved. The next stage of cost reduction will partly come from contractors here getting more familiar with the latest heat-pump technology, something being helped along by trainings from Xcel Energy and others.
Also, heat pumps have a new batch of incentives available because of how much they help our air quality and climate – including rebates from Xcel Energy and other utilities, a 10% tax credit from the state, and tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act.
Pivots: As a former state senator, Mike, I would like your read on the political implications of this ban adopted by Crested Butte. Colorado’s policy so far has been a firm but still gentle squeeze of emissions, both methane and carbon dioxide, from buildings. The clean heat law, for example, stipulates that consumers will always retain choice.
Does the mandate by Crested Butte put the Polis administration into a place it would prefer not to be? Or are the numbers in Crested Butte just too small to be consequential?
Mike Foote: Local governments in Colorado have significant autonomy when it comes to their building codes. Crested Butte’s actions are consistent with that tradition of local control. Certainly some state actors and the oil-and-gas industry will take notice of it.
It is highly unlikely, even after this fall’s elections, that there will be a successful effort in the legislature to limit the ability of local governments to do what Crested Butte did. Some gas proponents have advocated for a statewide “energy choice” ballot measure that would prohibit localities from requiring non-fossil energy in their codes. This is sometimes called a “ban on bans.” At some point that effort could get more traction if the industry decides to fund a statewide campaign. The threat of the industry going to the ballot is always there, but it shouldn’t dissuade local governments from taking climate action in my opinion.
Pivots: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to pass a statewide law that would ban natural gas by 2027. Assuming Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is reelected this fall, can you envision him attempting to do the same? Why or why not?
Foote: We haven’t seen Governor Polis propose a policy like that during his first four years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some members of the General Assembly were thinking about it. The fact of the matter is new gas usage must be substantially curtailed within this decade for us to avoid the worst effects of climate change. There are not too many easy options left to achieve that, at least in Colorado.
Legislators are considering how to nudge emissions from buildings, clean up Front Range air, and bring agriculture into the decarbonization effort
Conventional wisdom holds that politicians shy away from major initiatives in election years. Some think that is at play in Colorado this year. After all, inflation is at work, energy prices are rising, and analysts predict a rough election year for Democrats in Congress.
But if Colorado’s 2022 climate and energy legislative agenda certainly won’t match that of 2019, nor of 2021, it’s shaping up as an impressive year to advance the work on achieving economy-wide decarbonization goals of 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.
“This is probably not going to be a session filled with transformation legislation on climate change as 2019 and 2021 were, but there are some really good bills,” says Jacob Smith executive director of Colorado Communities for Climate Action, a coalition of 40 local governments.
Legislators are considering bills that seek to advance Colorado’s efforts to reduce emissions associated with buildings, clean up the crappy air quality along the northern Front Range, and bring the agriculture sector into the decarbonization effort.
Others address microgrids, the potential for carbon storage, and funding for the state’s Office of Just Transition, the agency crafted in 2019 for coal communities and workers to reinvent themselves.
Legislators in 2019 adopted a remarkable set of bills that essentially pivoted Colorado’s energy system in a way that had never been done. Most prominent were the economy wide decarbonization goals.
Only 2004, when Colorado voters adopted the first renewable energy portfolio standard, comes close to the same pivot in energy.
The 2019 tsunami was made possible by heightened worries about climate change but also a shift in the Colorado Senate that gave Democrats majorities in both chambers. This came concurrently with the arrival of Jared Polis as governor after his campaign on a platform of 100% renewable electricity by 2040.
Then came 2020—and the covid shutdown, followed by the flood of even more powerful bills in 2021, including several that targeted methane from extraction to end-use in buildings. At least one of the ideas adopted in 2021 had been first proposed in 2007 but never got close to the finish line.
Now is catch-up time, a filling in of the gaps.
“Last year we essentially had two legislative sessions in one, and we accomplished a lot, and now we need to work on the implementation of it,” says Mike Kruger, chief executive of Colorado Solar and Storage AssociationThat won’t require as much legislation,” he points out. “That’s more regulatory work.”
Still, even as they waited the governor’s signature on many of the 30-plus bills that had been passed, state legislators indicated they knew there was still major work ahead. State Sen. Steve Feinberg, then the majority leader (and now the Senate president), said a major priority in the 2022 session would be legislation to improve air quality along the Front Range. Sen. Chris Hansen said he was thinking about how to integrate agriculture into Colorado’s decarbonization.
In September, Hansen revealed at a fundraiser that he intended to introduce legislation that would set interim decarbonization targets for Colorado. Those new targets—for 2028 and for 2040—are intended to create a steady trajectory for Colorado’s decarbonization efforts, to avoid the tendency to punt the decarbonization can down the road until a last-night cram session before the test.
When did Hansen decide this was needed?
“I think it was part of what I do essentially every summer and fall, which is really try to think about the important gaps, where they are and which ones, if you were to address them, you’d get the most bang for the buck when it comes to decarbonization,” said Hansen in an interview.
“So I’m always trying to think about that supply curve, of carbon abatement opportunities, let’s do the cheapest, easiest ones as fast as we can. And that is really kind of driving my policy development process.”
Meanwhile, in Boulder, State Rep. Edie Hooton was thinking about microgrids, and in Longmont, Rep. Tracey Bernett was thinking about both air quality and buildings.
Colorado gaming officials on Thursday [September 23, 2021] announced that the first full year of legal sports betting in the state produced nearly $8 million in tax revenue that will help the state implement its water resiliency plan.
The Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission approved the allocation at its meeting Thursday.
“In all, the state received nearly $8.6 million in revenue, that’s discounting $1.6 million state gaming officials returned to the general fund in March to reimburse for start-up costs covered to launch wagering in May 2020.”
The Colorado Water Plan was established in November 2015 to help ensure the state’s long-term water needs would be met amid concerns about climate change and other challenges the state faces…
Despite the water plan funding representing less than 1 percent of the actual bets placed, state officials are still pleased with the results so far.
FromThe Denver Post (Conrad Swanson) via The Lamar Ledger:
Since Colorado launched legalized sports betting in May 2020, the state has collected nearly five times more money for water projects than anticipated, gaming officials said.
The start of the National Football League’s season provided yet another welcome financial bump, with about $44 million in bets during its first weekend (Sept. 9-13), according to Daniel Hartman, director of the state’s Division of Gaming…
Money collected from gambling proceeds goes toward work meant to conserve water, protect natural habitats, improve infrastructure and more, according to Lauren Ris, deputy director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. And more money equals funding new projects under the Colorado Water Plan at a time when Colorado River reservoirs downstream are low.
Hartman said his office earmarked about $8 million from sports betting for the plan, which sets priorities through 2050 for projects in the following five categories: agriculture; conservation and land use; engagement and innovation; environment and recreation; and water storage and supply.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board doles out the money, and Ris said it tries to fund projects that check more than one box, like work with Colorado Springs Utilities that brings water from the Eagle River Basin to Colorado Springs and Aurora — which she said “opened up quite a bit of fish and boating habitat.”
Before voters legalized sports betting, Ris said her department was awarding grants with whatever money officials found in their “couch cushions.”
At the outset, legislative analysts projected gambling could bring in between $9.7 million to $11.2 million in its first year, revenue department spokeswoman Suzanne Karrer said. But shortly after voters agreed to legalize the practice, state officials cut their estimates for 2020-2021 to between $1.5 million and $1.7 million in part because casinos weren’t willing to pay $125,000 every other year to host sports betting, Karrer said.
Even when the pandemic shut down leagues for a few months, gamblers flocked to sports betting — made easy through apps. The $3 billion in bets from May 2020 to July 31, 2021, translates into $9.4 million in state revenue, Hartman said…
Ris said the board can’t give out any of this windfall until next summer, after the 2022 General Assembly grants it permission to spend the money.
River district Director Andy Mueller presented the commission with the possibility of asking taxpayers to double the existing mill levy for Garfield and 14 other counties. Currently, the River district levies about a quarter mill on properties, which has been enough since about 1992.
Under the 2019 assessment rate, the river district’s current quarter-mill levy comes out to $1.79 on a $100,000 home. If increased, the half-mill would cost the same home $3.58 in property taxes.
But with cost increases, decreasing revenues from oil and gas development, and several crises looming over the Western Slope’s water, the current tax is simply not enough, Mueller said…
Mueller said the river district has cut costs in recent years, but sustaining current operations requires an increase.
And the district wants to support important projects that are currently unfunded, like identifying and developing small high-mountain reservoirs.
Those reservoirs could play a role in keeping streams flowing, and supplementing water for agriculture and municipalities “during times of severe hot, dry summers that we’re having more and more of,” Mueller said.
“We can’t do it with the current revenue stream,” he added, which is why he again asked the district’s board to look into placing the tax increase on the November 2020 ballot.
The Garfield County commissioners expressed support for the mill levy ballot language…
If the river district’s board approves the ballot language, and voters approve the property tax in November, it would bring in an additional $4.9 million to the district.
Mueller suggests using most of that for the special water projects. One example is the Windy Gap bypass, which would reconstruct a channel around the reservoir to preserve fish habitats and river flows.
The river district’s mission is “to make sure we have water for all of our industries and economic activity, everything from recreation to agriculture,” Mueller said, but that’s impossible without sufficient funding.
The state of Colorado is poised to adopt some of the nation’s most sophisticated and protective regulations designed to prevent its 60,000 oil and gas wells from leaking or exploding.
Colorado has a history of leading on oil and gas regulatory issues to reduce risks to families, workers and the environment, including the nation’s first regulations to address climate-damaging methane emissions from the industry in 2014. In the wake of the 2017 Firestone tragedy and the passage of a major oil and gas reform bill (SB 181) in 2019, the state has undertaken a whole slate of rule modernizations. Well integrity, for which rules have not been updated since 2008, is up next.
Ensuring that wells do not leak or explode is a top priority for any oil and gas agency. For the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission updating well integrity rules will not only reduce risks for oil and gas workers in the state, but will also help protect the 500,000 Coloradans who live within a mile of an oil or gas well in the state. Since 2016, COGCC records show around 40 well integrity incidents, including significant blowouts in Hudson and Berthoud in 2017. And that figure is likely an underreporting given how difficult it can be to determine whether a leak is occurring deep underground.
Leaks from oil and gas wells can contaminate aquifers or release methane into the atmosphere. In the most serious cases, methane can migrate into homes and pose explosion risks. Oil and gas well blowouts are dramatic fluid releases that can endanger workers, residents and the environment. They occur most often during drilling, but are possible during any phase of a well’s multidecade lifespan. Major blowouts in recent years have rocked Ohio, Oklahoma, the Gulf of Mexico and California’s Aliso Canyon.
Importantly, history shows us that smarter and better rules really work. A year after Texas adopted new well integrity regulations, including many similar policy recommendations from EDF, blowouts in Texas fell by 40% and injuries from blowouts fell 50%.
Over the last year, a stakeholder coalition that included EDF and operators representing more than 90% of the production in Colorado has been working to develop a joint set of proposed rule revisions, based on a peer review by the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, that protect workers, the environment and residents, and take into account the needs of the state’s energy businesses.
The COGCC’s proposed rule, which will be voted on in late February, reflects all of the coalition’s recommendations, and EDF strongly supports its passage (Colorado environmental groups are also broadly supportive of the rulemaking, and EDF supports the tweaks they seek to the definition of protected water). It addresses essentially all of the potential regulatory gaps flagged by the peer review, reduces specific risks related to Colorado’s oil and gas wells identified in the technical literature, and adheres closely to EDF’s Model Regulatory Framework on well integrity. In other words, it would bring Colorado to the head of the class on well integrity regulation nationwide.
Some highlights include:
Regular monitoring of every well in the state for leakage risks.
Improved criteria for cement placement, quality and testing.
New safety controls during hydraulic fracturing.
More comprehensive efforts to prevent frac hits.
Better plugging protocols.
New emergency response planning requirements.
Overall, there are dozens of new improvements, and many of them clearly demonstrate national leadership. EDF is excited that Colorado is getting ready to adopt such a strong rule developed in a collaborative, science and risk-based manner. Other states may find much to replicate in both process and substance, and this rulemaking establishes strong momentum in Colorado’s stead for the next rounds of rule upgrades required under SB 181.
The four-year-old Colorado Water Plan—the Centennial State’s proactive response to drought, flood, unpredictable water supplies, climate change, and a booming population that is likely to rise from 5.7 million today to nearly 9 million Coloradans in the next 30 years—is now guaranteed some of the annual $100 million needed to implement the plan. This month, Colorado voters narrowly approved Proposition DD to legalize sports betting (and a 10% tax on these casino revenues) which will result in an estimated $12 million to $29 million annually, the majority of which will go toward the Water Plan.
While we likely won’t see $29 million for the first several years, DD revenues bring Colorado’s first dedicated funding source to Water Plan implementation. The sports-betting tax money will flow into a new fund overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Revenues from DD are a drop in the bucket that renew every year, and represent a much-needed down payment toward the full $100 million per year for the Water Plan.
Revenues from DD could be used for a variety of Water Plan purposes including: stream and watershed management improvements, urban water conservation and efficiency, improved irrigation infrastructure for farms and ranches, and storage projects. At this point, it is not clear how the state will spend these dollars given the various priorities and the considerable funding gap. The language in DD was vague and will need refinement, and transparency. Stakeholders will likely explore options with the legislature to guide how DD funds are spent on Water Plan implementation.
Audubon will engage to advocate for spending that supports healthy rivers for the birds and people that depend on them—as we support a fully funded Water Plan. But even with the revenues DD will provide, additional dollars, heightened public awareness, and action will be critical to ensure healthy rivers—and the sustainable water future they enable for Colorado’s birds, economies, communities, recreation, agricultural heritage, and quality of life.
Audubon is proud to have supplied nearly 20 percent of the nearly 30,000 public comments that informed Colorado’s inaugural Water Plan, and Audubon will be there every step of the way through Water Plan implementation. Colorado cannot thrive unless its rivers do too.
Everything we love about Colorado is connected to water. We need your help in raising awareness about water and healthy rivers throughout Colorado. Spread the word. Join us as Audubon works across the state for a water-secure future for people and the environment.
The Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemens’ Association and most agriculture organizations are celebrating the measure approved by voters to allow sports betting in the state. But it’s not a cure-all for what ails us.
The Farm Bureau’s Shawn Martini says it was a given they would support Proposition DD, as it is a way to guarantee future funding for the state’s Water Plan. The Water Plan – a blueprint for ensuring stable water supplies in the years and decades to come.
Martini: “And thus far it has not been funded anywhere close to what it needs. That initial figure of about 100 million dollars a year we need to fully fund the state’s water plan. While this doesn’t get us up to a 100 million a year, it at least provides us a dedicated revenue stream of maybe even up to 30 million a year to help continue to implement and build the projects that are a key part of the state’s water plan.”
Martini says they are waiting to see how much the state legislature will add to the Water Plan funding on a yearly basis. But with the passage of Prop. DD there is now a dedicated stream of funding that will allow the state to begin to chip away at the backlog of projects that need to be done to fulfill the state’s future water supply.
DD will legalize sports betting in Colorado and create a 10 percent tax on casinos’ house winnings that would largely benefit the Water Plan. Colorado’s 33 casinos will be able to offer in-person and online wagering on professional, collegiate, motor and Olympic sports beginning in May 2020.
Colorado voters narrowly approved a new sports-betting tax whose proceeds will help fund water projects across the state, including conservation programs, stream restoration, and new reservoirs.
The vote is a major victory for the bi-partisan coalition that backed the measure and represents the first voter-approved effort to fund the four-year-old Colorado Water Plan.
The nail-biter margins, 1.5 percent at press time, provide a cautionary tale on how much support exists for water funding and how much more will be needed in the future, backers said.
“I was surprised. It was super close,” said Alec Garnett, D-Denver, the lead sponsor of the bill that referred Proposition DD, as it was known, to voters. “But it’s a reminder to everyone that Colorado is a fiscally conservative state.”
Proposition DD legalizes sports betting and imposes a 10 percent tax on casino revenue derived from this new form of gambling. A statewide map of the vote count showed voters on the Front Range and in ski counties, such as Eagle, Summit and Ouray, had the most enthusiasm for the measure, while rural counties on the West Slope and Eastern Plains rejected it.
Garnett said he was proud of the consensus on water demonstrated by the win, and the power of the bi-partisan coalition of politicians, environmentalists, water utilities, and agriculture groups that came together to back the campaign.
“Any legislator will say, ‘You’re electing me to go in to help solve problems and bring people together,’ and I’m proud of how we did that here,” he said.
The vote sends an important signal to lawmakers and others, according to political pollster Floyd Ciruli.
“There is no better conversation to have than a ballot issue. You get everyone’s attention. This vote shows people do believe water is important and that this is a good way to [fund] it,” Ciruli said.
Early on, Prop DD was barely showing up on voters’ radar, with early polls indicating little support. But a digital and TV ad campaign launched last month helped turn the tide, Ciruli said.
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, opposed the measure and said he remains concerned that there isn’t enough transparency in how the money will be managed and that it is improper to use a so-called “sin tax” to pay for something as fundamental as water resources.
“Water is such an important issue we should pay for it out of the general fund or out of severance taxes,” Sonnenberg said, adding that he will continue to fight in the Legislature to ensure the money is used for the water plan.
Estimated to total between $12 million to $29 million annually, the sports-betting tax money will flow into a new fund overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). It could be used for a variety of purposes, including water-saving programs for cities and farms, habitat restoration programs, storage projects, land use planning, and environmental water supplies for water-short streams.
Since 2015, the CWCB has financed the water plan using income derived from severance taxes, the state’s general fund, and other sources. Those amounts have varied widely, with the state setting aside $30 million this year, up from $5 million in 2015, according to the CWCB.
Backers characterize DD as a valuable down payment on the water plan. Assuming the tax is able to eventually generate $29 million a year, that’s still less than one-third of the $100 million a year the state has previously estimated it will take to protect scarce water resources and to prevent future water shortages.
This year, another group emerged whose intent is to raise additional money for the water plan. For The Love of Colorado, backed by the Walton Family Foundation (also a funder of Fresh Water News) and the Gates Family Foundation, is preparing to run a large public awareness campaign about the critical nature of the state’s water challenges and the need for funding.
The group’s executive director, Tim Wohlgenant, said the close vote demonstrates how much more work is needed.
“It’s great that voters did this. But I need to emphasize it’s literally only a drop in the bucket. And even though it passed, it barely passed. We have more work to do.”
David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said he hopes Prop DD will stimulate environmental and water conservation programs, much like Great Outdoors Colorado has. GOCO is the 1992 ballot initiative that has helped preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of historical ranches and open space across Colorado, protecting them from development. It is funded with state lottery proceeds.
“We’re pleased that Colorado voters are making a decision to invest in our resources, using the water plan as a road map for that,” Nickum said.
“Hopefully it will lead to a proliferation of projects, much like GOCO did,” he said.
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jerd_smith.
From Western Resource Advocates (Jennifer Talhelm):
DD secures an important down payment for Colorado’s Water Plan, but full funding is still needed
A coalition of environmental and sportsmen groups today hailed passage of Colorado Proposition DD to help conserve and protect the state’s rivers and streams and drinking water. The coalition – which includes Conservation Colorado, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, Business for Water Stewardship, and the Colorado Water Trust issued the following joint statement:
“Passage of Proposition DD is a big win for Colorado and the quality of life we enjoy here. Taxing the revenue from legalized sports betting will create a dedicated down payment to help ensure that Colorado has healthy rivers and enough water for all. Still, it’s important to remember that this is just the first step toward addressing the growing gap between the water we have and the water we need.
“Four years ago, Coloradans came together to create Colorado’s Water Plan to protect all the things we love about our Colorado way of life – from healthy flowing rivers, to farming and ranching, and even beer. Our rivers contribute over $9 billion annually to the state’s economy, yet Colorado has not lined up adequate funding for the plan, despite overwhelming bipartisan support from across the state.
“Proposition DD will help generate a much-needed revenue stream to improve wildlife habitat, protect our agricultural heritage and the open spaces that come with it, and strengthen our economy. But the plan estimates the total need to be $100 million a year for the next 30 years, and we must keep working to ensure Colorado fully funds our water future.”
Proposition DD places a 10 percent tax on casinos’ profits from sports wagers, up to $29 million annually, and the majority of the revenue raised will go to implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. The annual funding is expected to be between $10 million and $15 million annually in the first few years.
It was a squeaker, but sports betting will be legal in Colorado beginning in May 2020.
Voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure 51% to 49% to legalize and tax betting on certain professional and collegiate games at casinos and online, according to results from the Colorado secretary of state. The vote was too close to call until mid-afternoon Wednesday. The Associated Press called the race at 2:33 p.m.
Revenue from a 10% tax on the net proceeds companies make on sports betting will help pay for some of the state’s critical water needs. It is, in other words, a narrowly focused tax targeted for a widespread need.
The vote was far from the slam dunk many expected. While the success of its sister ballot measure, Prop CC, was always uncertain, Colorado voters have historically been more receptive to so-called sin taxes.
But the measure had critics on both sides of the political spectrum. For conservatives, the question about raising taxes may have been a non-starter. And for liberals, a regressive tax paid by gamblers, some of whom may struggle with addiction to gambling, perhaps was too problematic to support.
“This has always been a white-knuckles job,” said Josh Penry, a former Republican state Senator and political strategist who worked on the Prop DD campaign. “There is real skepticism. It’s not a traditional right-vs-left issue.”
More than 90% of that new tax revenue, estimated at an average of $16 million per year, and as much as $29 million, would help pay for managing the state’s dwindling water supplies. That tax revenue alone is not enough to meet the state’s water needs, but in the minds of most of its supporters, it represents the best shot yet to pay for the general projects outlined by the 2015 Colorado Water Plan.
“The Colorado Water Plan will have a permanent, dedicated funding source,” said Becky Mitchell, the director for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, in a statement. “Sports betting tax revenue for the Water Plan will support critical environmental, agriculture, and storage projects as well as promote outdoor recreation opportunities across the state.”
Coming up with the money to help better manage Colorado’s water supplies is seen as critical to maintaining the state agriculture and recreation industries and preserving healthy river ecosystems threatened by slow flows and warming waters. The estimated cost of implementing the water plan is $100 million a year.
Lawmakers have struggled to find that money. They pulled together nearly $30 million in one-time money for water projects and planning last session, a historic yet insufficient amount. Prop DD, which was referred to the ballot by state lawmakers, was seen as the best shot at getting at least some funding and getting it fast.
“This is not the best way to fund such an important need, but we have to take the opportunities that come to us,” said Scott Wasserman, the president of the Bell Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank.
Opponents had concerns about paying for the Colorado Water Plan because it calls for possibly damming rivers to build reservoirs. The margins of victory in Boulder and Larimer counties were tight, areas where projects to expand or build reservoirs are planned. The Water Plan also calls for lining irrigation ditches, upgrading flood gates and paying farmers to use less water.
The measure struggled despite a $2.4 million campaign to promote it. FanDuel Group, a New York City-based sports betting company, spent $1 million backing the measure, according to campaign finance records with the secretary of state. Other top donors include DraftKings, a Boston-based sports betting company, Twin River Casino Hotel from Rhode Island and the Colorado Gaming Association.
A coalition of environmental groups backed DD, including American Rivers, Business for Water Stewardship, Colorado Water Trust, Conservation Colorado, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, and Western Resource Advocates. The Colorado Farm Bureau also supported the measure.
Colorado already allows limited stakes gambling — under $100 — in the towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. Some supporters saw Prop DD as a way to regulate underground sports betting.
“Black markets aren’t conservative and they aren’t good for Colorado. Bringing sports betting into the daylight, regulating it, and leveraging it for the benefit of our water future is a common-sense approach,” said House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a Republican from Littleton, in a statement.
From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):
Water in Colorado — one of the state’s most important natural resources — scored a major win today when voters approved Proposition DD. Prop. DD will provide up to $29 million a year for water projects from revenue raised by legalizing and taxing sports betting.
This funding will support critical projects to implement Colorado’s Water Plan and keep Colorado the state we know and love, with healthy rivers, clean drinking water, productive agriculture and abundant recreation.
EDF and EDF Action were key advocates for Prop. DD. We are thrilled voters approved the measure because it shows Coloradans across the political spectrum care deeply about building a more resilient future for our state.
Closing the water funding gap
Colorado’s Water Plan identified a funding gap of $100 million a year for 30 years to conserve and protect key elements of the state’s water system, including the environment, in the face of climate change and a growing population. Prop. DD will provide an impactful down payment to fill this funding gap.
Achieving voter approval of tax measures is always challenging, especially in Colorado, but EDF, EDF Action and our partners in the state worked hard to earn broad support for Prop. DD. Every major newspaper in Colorado endorsed it, and there was strong bipartisan support among state leaders and lawmakers who referred the measure to the ballot.
Uncommon partners rally around common-sense water solutions
The list of Prop. DD supporters was long and diverse, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Colorado Farm Bureau, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates, among many others. Working side by side with some of these unlikely allies paves the way for more collaboration to deploy the funding to Colorado’s highest water priorities and best projects.
The success of Prop. DD clearly demonstrates to our state lawmakers that water is a priority issue for Coloradans, and we hope policymakers will continue to focus on ensuring our water system meets our state’s needs for decades to come.
We can’t wait to roll up our sleeves to help effectively implement Prop. DD and usher in this important new era for water funding and resilience in Colorado.
Although it went down in Montrose County, statewide, voters lifted Prop DD to victory; 712,405 yes, to 692,377 no, according to unofficial results from the Colorado Secretary of State.
The revenue from taxing sports betting, estimated at about $30 million, is to be used to implement the Colorado Water Plan — a drop in the bucket, so to speak, of the billions implementation is expected to cost over the next few decades.
The Colorado River District, which supported Prop DD, viewed it as help with a “downpayment” for plan implementation. The water plan is a longer range strategy to balance water supply against growing needs; its provisions include more infrastructure for water storage, as well as conservation methods.
State Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, who represents House District 58, and who also represents Montrose County on the river district, left the county courthouse Tuesday night assuming DD was going down in defeat; after an initially favorable showing, the “no” votes began to dominate. But, by early Wednesday, the final unofficial results showed a win.
“We kind of raised the profile of water, but it had to come on gambling. I think people voted against gambling, rather than against water,” Catlin said.
“Now it’s up to the state of Colorado, and me — all of us in the state that have anything to do with this. Now is the time for a good project to be picked up in rural Colorado.”
Although to Catlin, urban areas seemed to support DD more than did voters in rural areas, a need for such projects is on the Western Slope and other non-metro areas, he said, and it’s time for the state to “square up” by offering feasible projects that will assure water plan success.
“It certainly is not going to fix all issues Colorado has with water, but it does prime the pump. That doesn’t mean the Legislature can now ignore it. Now is the time we really take it on in the state,” Catlin said.
He acknowledged the money DD is supposed to raise will not come close to fully funding the water plan.
As demand and prices for Colorado water rise, state lawmakers are concerned that Wall Street investment firms and even local finance groups may seek to circumvent state laws designed to prevent water profiteering.
Last month, the Colorado Legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee initially approved a bill authorizing a study to determine whether the state’s anti-speculation laws, already considered among the strongest in the West, need to be further strengthened.
“The reason I drafted it is because I’m hearing stories from the West Slope and the San Luis Valley of outside groups coming in and buying water rights. While we’re not entirely sure if this is speculation, some of these companies are more like financial and hedge fund institutions instead of agricultural interests. That seems to have the color of water speculation,” said Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat who represents several West Slope counties and who is chair of the interim committee. (Editor’s note: Sen. Donovan sits on the board of Water Education Colorado, which sponsors Fresh Water News.)
Under Colorado law, water is considered a public resource, but the legal right to take it and use it toward some beneficial purpose must be approved in water court. Once obtained, water rights are considered a private property right, one that can be bought and sold as long as water courts approve the transaction.
Water has always been a scarce resource in Colorado and in the 1800s, as miners and farmers were moving in, the courts developed a system so that no one could hoard water and profit from its sale. To combat the problem, they required that water rights be granted only to those who could put them to beneficial use, whether in farm fields or mines, or in people’s homes and businesses.
The anti-speculation laws have been challenged and upheld many times in water court, leading several water experts to question the need to amend them.
Dave Taussig, a Denver water attorney, said he was surprised to see lawmakers move in this direction.
“This is one of the few areas of Colorado [water] law that is pretty well defined and established,” Taussig said. “I don’t see the need for this.”
For many transactions, as long as the water is being put to use, the deal is not considered speculative.
On the West Slope for instance, New York City-based Water Asset Management has purchased ranches with valuable, senior water rights. Right now, the company continues to operate the farms and the water is still being used as it had been before the purchase, so it is not considered speculative. That’s because, under existing law, there is nothing to prevent someone from buying water rights with an eye toward a future sale, where the interim use is just a placeholder.
Water Asset Management could not be reached for comment. But its website spells out a clear investment strategy that includes acquiring Western farm water and holding onto it until it appreciates in value, at which point it could be leased or sold for a profit.
Closer to home, Denver-based Renewable Water Resources has assembled an investment group which intends to purchase farm water in the San Luis Valley and pipe it to the Front Range.
Sean Tonner, a principal in RWR, said the proposal isn’t a buy-low, sell-high proposition because his company is offering $2,500 to $2,800 an acre-foot for the farm water, which normally sells locally for much less, around $65 to $200 an acre-foot, according to San Luis Valley water officials.
Tonner declined to provide a sales price, but Front Range developers routinely pay $20,000 an acre-foot and more for water.
RWR has not yet identified an end-user for the project, but has committed to do so before it seeks approval from state water court.
“Colorado has great anti-speculation laws. If there is a way to make them stronger, I’m all for it,” Tonner said. “But I would disagree with the assertion that what we’re doing is buy-low, sell-high.”
Still lawmakers are concerned. Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is also on the interim water committee and said the state needs to be vigilant about how its agricultural water rights are being bought and sold.
“Yes we do have strong anti-speculation laws,” Coram said, “but hedge funds also have very good attorneys. There are ways to work around [the laws].”
According to the initial bill draft, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources would form a work group next year to examine what the state can do to ensure its market-based water management system isn’t manipulated by moneyed interests. The bill directs the group to report back to lawmakers in August of 2021.
The committee will vote Oct. 24 on whether the bill should advance further. If approved, it will be introduced during the regular session that opens Jan. 8, 2020.
Donovan is hopeful the process will uncover new tools, even beyond the anti-speculation laws, to help the state prevent profiteering.
“Water speculation is something we need to ensure we have a firm grip on as a state. I expect there will be a lot of conversations in upcoming years about how we make sure that water isn’t exploited and doesn’t become a way for people to make a quick dollar,” Donovan said.
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at email@example.com or @jerd_smith.
From the Republican River Water Conservation District (Deb Daniel) via The Julesberg Advocate:
At the beginning of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) Board meeting last week, the Board welcomed 2 new Board members. Rod Lenz, RRWCD Board President, swore in Brooke Campbell, from Cheyenne Wells, who will be representing the East Cheyenne Ground Water Management District and Jim Hadachek, also from Cheyenne Wells, who will be representing Cheyenne County on the RRWCD Board.
On August 2, 2019, House Bill 19-1029 went into effect. The bill modified the boundary of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) to include the southern portion of Kit Carson County and an area in the northern portion of Cheyenne County. All counties and groundwater management districts in the RRWCD are represented on the Board of Directors
The change in the boundary brought approximately 332 wells and the associated irrigated acreage into the RRWCD. The annual diversions from these wells has always been included in the groundwater model which tracks the use of water within each state, from which the depletions to the river are calculated, but because they were not been included in the RRWCD boundary, they have not paid the Water Use Fee as have the well owners that are located in the current RRWCD boundary.
For 2019, the RRWCD Board voted to charge a pro-rated rate of $6.00 per irrigated acre to the wells in this area instead of the $14.50 that is assessed on irrigated acres in the RRWCD. All irrigated acres will have the same assessment in 2020.
Effective immediately, the Board approved allowing all acres in the RRWCD be eligible for the EQIP program, which is administered through the NRCS. Anyone interested in more information on the EQIP program should contact your local NRCS office.
Former Senator Greg Brophy gave a presentation on House Bill 19-1327, which is now Proposition DD, to put sports betting on the ballot. The goal of this legislation is to provide a stable funding source to implement the Colorado Water Plan.
The RRWCD approved conservation grant applications from Marks Butte, Frenchman, Sandhills and Central Yuma Groundwater Management Districts (Big 4 GWMDS). The Big 4 GWMDs requested that the grant funds be forwarded to the Colorado Master Irrigator program.
The Board also approved the conservation grant application by W-Y GWMD, requesting funds that will assist in covering costs for implementing conservation efforts in their district.
The RRWCD endorsed an agreement for well owners in the northern portion of the district who have augmentation plans to the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District or to Sedgwick Water District.
Well owners located in the South Fork Focus Zone who enter into a new CREP contract are now eligible for an additional one-time payment of $200 per irrigated acre retired. The two million dollars of funding for the supplemental contract is provided by the State of Colorado.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Deb Daniel, RRWCD General Manager (970)332-3552.
Water leaders from across the state converged on Steamboat Springs this week as part of the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference.
The Colorado Water Congress is a group of people who work and live in water, explained Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger…
In a legislative update, attendees heard about three proposals that could change water management in the state. Reps. Dylan Roberts, Jeni Arndt and Donald Valdez and Sens. Kerry Donovan, Jerry Sonnenberg and Don Coram sat on the panel.
“As somebody who represents Routt County and other Western Slope counties, we know what a dry year looks like,” Roberts said. “We just had one last year, and we’re fortunate to have a wet year this year, but we have to continuously plan for those dry years and look at any legislation that helps us to preserve and conserve as much water as possible, prevent forest fires and protect agriculture, because they’re the ones that really lose out when we have dry years.”
Changes to a program that increases river flow in dry years
The instream flow program allows the Colorado Water Conservation Board to designate water rights to preserve or improve the natural environment of a stream.
In the Yampa River, this program has been used to release reservoir water to boost flows through Steamboat in dry summers.
Under the current law, the program allows people who hold water rights to temporarily loan reservoir water to the state to boost flows in a stream three times over the course of a 10-year period. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has already used loaned water for an instream flow in the Upper Yampa River three times in 2012, 2013 and 2017.
Though reservoir water has been released in other years, including last summer, it was under a different legal mechanism.
Roberts, a Democrat who represents Routt and Eagle counties, introduced a bill that would allow for more instream flow releases.
“Once the 10-year period is done, you’re done forever, and you can never do it again,” Roberts explained. “So while city of Steamboat and the Yampa River has taken advantage of that program, they’ve started their 10-year clock. Once we hit 10 years in 2022, they won’t be able to use it again, so if we have a really low water year on the Yampa in 2023 or 2024, we won’t be able to use the instream flow to keep the Yampa running through town.”
The bill, as currently proposed, would allow these loans for five of every 10 years and allow it to be renewed twice once those 10-year periods end.
This would improve stream habitat, Roberts said, as well as limit economic impacts due to river closures placed during low flows that impact tubing outfitters, fishing shops and the businesses that benefit from recreation in the area.
Monger, who sits on the board of the Upper Yampa Conservancy District, said the program has “been a great thing.” The district operates Stagecoach Reservoir.
“(The district’s) actually been fortunate enough to have some available wet water that we can send down through to the city of Steamboat Springs, and it helps with water quality as well as water temperature,” he said. “It’s been a great thing, and the upper Yampa sells a little bit of water for its revenue sources to be able to take care of the water, so that’s a good thing.”
It would also expand the program by allowing more water to be released to create more habitat for aquatic species, whereas currently, these releases are smaller releases designated only to preserve the existing natural environment…
Ballot measure to legalize sports betting with tax revenue funding water projects
Earlier this year, the legislature passed a measure that will ask voters to legalize sports betting with tax revenue from the practice funding the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan.
If approved by voters, Colorado would allow some casinos to offer a sports book, essentially a room with a betting board and “every game known to man” on television screens, as Donovan put it. Casinos could also contract with online sports betting companies, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, to operate web-based sports betting. People could bet on college, professional and Olympic games.
While sports betting has taken place in the state, it’s currently illegal.
“This is a chance to legalize an action that we know is happening on the ground and to provide regulation protection under that act if people choose to bet on sports betting,” Donovan said.
A 10% tax on each wager would be paid by casinos, with the bulk of the revenue funding the Colorado Water Plan. Some revenue would be directed to administrative costs, a hold harmless fund and a gambling crisis hotline.
The Colorado Water Plan outlines a number of actions such as conserving more water used by cities and industry, storing more water, establishing plans to protect critical watersheds and increasing public awareness of water issues. The Yampa-White-Green River Basin Roundtable would implement the plan locally.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis requested $30 million to fund the plan and statewide drought planning. The legislature granted $8.3 million to fund the water plan and $1.7 million for drought planning…
Using new technology to trade water rights in real-time
Another law, passed earlier this year, establishes an advisory group to study possible uses of blockchain technology within agriculture.
Blockchain is a way to track transactions, and it uses the same record-keeping technology as bitcoin. Each transaction within the network, whether the blockchain network is trading water or money, is recorded in a block and includes data about transactions under a unique signature, sort of like a username. Each transaction is verified by the network of computers in the blockchain.
Evan Thomas, director of the Mortensen Center in Global Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, presented on possible applications of blockchain in the world of water rights. Blockchain could create a system to trade water by using sensors that track how much water is used or conserved to create “water credits.”
“(Those water credits are) entered into the blockchain,” Thomas said. “Somebody requests a transaction. They say ‘I need to buy more water this month, so I want to buy somebody else’s water credits.’ You enter in that transactionm, and they buy and sell points. The sensor identifies water use and water consumption, (and) turns that into a blockchain node.”
Thomas said this is a worthwhile tool to study in its applications for water rights, but that it is one part of a “suite of tools” that should be examined to update how water is traded.
Click here to view the Twitter fest around hash tag #cwcsc2019. I had a great time reading everyone’s Tweets. It is interesting to see what each person takes away from a session and what they feel is important to point out.
The legislature’s Interim Water Resources Committee met after the conference. Here’s a report from Marianne Goodland that’s running in The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:
The Colorado Legislature’s interim water resources review committee, a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers, began its summer work by relaunching efforts to change the state’s instream flow program.
During the 2019 session, the committee sponsored two bills that would have made some fairly big changes to the state’s instream flow (program, though neither bill made it out of Senate committee…
Instream flow is the water that flows through a stream, river or creek. Programs that manage instream flows do so to protect fish habitats and for recreational purposes.
Colorado’s instream flow program, according to Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Linda Bassi, is intended to “preserve the natural environment to a reasonable degree.”
As the years have gone on, the board has also received permission to improve instream flows within the program.
Bassi explained to the interim water committee at Wednesday’s session, held during the Colorado Water Congress summer conference in Steamboat Springs, that the program was established in 1973 to allow state control over Colorado water and under Colorado’s water rights and prior appropriation system.
The original legislation was also intended to block ballot measures (one was already in the works) that would have allowed for private instream flow programs.
Over the years, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has acquired water rights, often donated, to protect streams, now to the tune of 756 stream miles, Bassi explained, and for 1,700 stream segments around the state.
Some of those water rights are new ones, others are existing and donated, although that doesn’t happen very often, she added.
One of the program’s provisions allows for for temporary water “loans” for three years out of a 10-year period; they can be used on any segment of a stream decreed as part of the instream flow program.
It’s a one-and-done situation; once the three years are up, that water cannot be diverted into the stream by the water provider, nor can the contract be renewed.
Bassi told lawmakers only eight temporary leases have been developed since 2012.
County to consider 1,000-foot standard for all new oil and gas wells
Adams County could become the first community in Colorado to require a larger separation between new wells and occupied buildings than the state mandates, as leaders at both the state and local level wrestle with how to implement a historic oil and gas reform law passed this year.
The Denver Post got an early look at a draft of the county’s oil and gas regulations, which the commissioners will likely vote on at the end of the month. They call for a 1,000-foot buffer between wells and homes, schools and day care centers — doubling the distance the state presently requires.
The issue of well setbacks became the topic de jour during the 2018 election, when voters were asked to increase the distance between new wells and homes and schools to 2,500 feet statewide. The ballot issue, Proposition 112, was soundly defeated.
But after the passage of Senate Bill 181 in April, which ended state preemption over energy extraction matters and tasked state regulators with putting health and safety ahead of industry expansion, local governments now have the opportunity to increase setbacks on their own.
Adams County in March put a six-month moratorium on any new drilling so that it could rewrite its rules for the industry. There are hundreds of pending permits for wells in the county…
It’s likely communities that have taken an even firmer stance against oil and gas activity in the past, such as Boulder and Larimer counties, may put in place even larger setbacks than what Adams County is proposing…
Just two years ago, when the state did have total authority over setbacks, Thornton was successfully sued by oil and gas industry groups when the city attempted to enlarge setbacks by 250 feet over the state’s minimum.
The judge, in casting aside Thornton’s rules, found that municipalities “cannot authorize what state law forbids or forbid what state law allows.” That has all changed in the wake of SB 181 becoming law.
The state is just embarking on what is expected to be a months-long process to write rules to implement the new oil and gas law. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held two days of public hearings last week, which were marked with repeated disruptions from fracking opponents in the audience.
Meanwhile, communities continue crafting or revamping their own rules.
“A fundamental obligation of local governments is to mitigate incompatible land uses,” Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio said. “Large-scale oil and gas facilities are often intense industrial uses, which can be incompatible with residential neighborhoods.”
But O’Dorisio said the 1,000-foot buffer being considered is not a “hardline” threshold, as there is language in the proposed rules that would allow oil and gas operators to apply on a case-by-case basis for a waiver to drill closer.
Matt Samelson, an attorney with Western Environmental Law Partners, said Adams County’s proposed setback shouldn’t come as a shock to many of the energy companies that operate in the congested and mineral-rich north suburban corridor.
Many communities, like Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield, have already gotten drillers to agree to setbacks greater than 500 feet as part of voluntary operator agreements that the municipalities have hammered out with the industry over the past few years.
Coram carried or supported 40 bills in the Colorado Senate this past legislative session and is crafting more for the upcoming session that are aimed at teacher retention, providing funding for entrepreneurs and protecting the lifeblood of the Western Slope, water.
Coram said he is working on creating more stable funding for the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan, a statewide roadmap to conserve 400,000 acre-feet of water per year by 2050, by which time Colorado’s population is expected to swell by millions.
“There really isn’t any sustainable funding right now,” Coram said. “We’re looking at several options. There’s nothing off the table. We can’t rely on severance tax and that’s where we’re at right now.”
Severance taxes come from natural resource extraction, such as oil and gas. The extraction industry is entering a slowdown, with 6,000 permits waiting in the wings, plus there have been layoffs, Coram said. Less extraction means less severance tax, and it could also increase fuel prices for critical sectors such as agriculture, he said.
Additionally, millions in severance tax has been shunted to the state’s general fund over the years, Coram also said…
Helping the West End repurpose Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s power plant for possible biomass power generation remains on his agenda, too.
Sonnenberg, who just finished his 13th legislative session, served on the State, Veterans and Military Affairs and the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees during the session, the Capital Development Committee year round and out of session is a member of the Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance, Water Resources Review Committee and the Prison Population Management Interim Study Committee.
The Capital Development Committee is responsible for reviewing funding requests for capital projects from all state agencies, and making prioritized recommendations to the Joint Budget Committee. Sonnenberg called it one of the most fun, nicest committees, noting it is truly a bipartisan committee.
Two weeks ago, the committee toured Colorado’s western slope, visiting some of the state’s assets including a veterans home and fish hatchery in Rifle, the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, the Georgetown Loop Railroad, Fort Lewis College in Durango and Buena Vista Correctional Center…
Last week, the Water Resources Review Committee, charged with studying the conservation, use development, and financing of water resources of Colorado for the general welfare of its inhabitants, visited Sterling and northeast Colorado to tour the Lower South Platte Basin. Water Education Colorado put together the tour.
“We looked at ag, we looked at recharge, we looked at dairies and how they reuse water, those type of things, we looked at the new 70 Ranch Reservoir (located near Kersey),” Sonnenberg said.
In regards to the 70 Ranch Reservoir, the senator explained he is a little bit worried about how the reservoir works because it was built by someone who is “trying to get ag water and then sell it to the city, that’s going to be his venue to be able to do exchanges.”
“But, from my perspective anytime you build storage it’s a good thing,” Sonnenberg said. “This year worries me, that we don’t have enough storage; we have a lot of water, Nebraska’s going to get water from us, quite frankly they don’t need it this year. That becomes a challenge at the federal level how we handle agriculture in those areas through which it was flooded, there are people that will not plant an acre this year in the Midwest, because of the silt and the water still sitting in fields.”
At an Arvada fire station, Polis signed into law House Bill 1279, which bans certain kinds of foam used in firefighting training. Such foam contains so-called “forever chemicals” that have contaminated drinking water in El Paso County and elsewhere…
The foam contaminated Fountain’s water supply, and it has since installed filters to deal with problem…
HB 1279 bans Class B firefighting foams that contain “intentionally added” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS. Such chemicals were used for decades at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs and have been found in the nearby Widefield aquifer, which serves Security, Widefield and Fountain.
The foam was sprayed on the ground and used in a firefighting training area that was flushed into the Colorado Springs Utilities treatment system, which was ill-equipped to remove the chemicals. The effluent ended up in Fountain Creek, which feeds the Widefield aquifer.
The Air Force since has replaced that foam with a new version that the military says is less toxic, though it still contains perfluorinated chemicals.
In Salida, Polis signed House Bill 1264, which is intended to resolve some of the long-standing problems with the state’s conservation easement program.
Landowners say the Colorado Department of Revenue revoked tax credits awarded to those who entered into conservation easements with land trusts, with more than 800 credits revoked from the 4,000 granted in the program’s first 15 years.
HB 1264 is intended to make the program more transparent, with a warning to landowners that easements are in perpetuity. The bill also requires the Division of Conservation Easements, within the Department of Regulatory Agencies, to set up a committee to determine how to repay those tax credits.
The committee is to hold its first hearing June 25, an addition to the bill made by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.
Legislative leaders in both parties are to appoint the committee members, and lawmakers say they intend to include representatives for those who have been denied tax credits as well as other program critics.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis chose the banks of the Arkansas River in Salida as the ideal location to sign an unprecedented nine bills into law on Monday morning, June 3. The location underscored both the importance of these bills to Colorado’s rural and recreation economies, as well as highlighting Colorado’s growing preference for collaboration to get things done…
SB19-221 – CO Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project
This bill sponsored by Donovan and Roberts, is focused on the funding of Colorado water conservation board projects, and assigns an appropriation to protect those projects…
SB19-186 – Expand Agricultural Chemical Management Program Protect Surface Water
Another bill sponsored by Donovan, Catlin, Coram and including Rep. Jeni Arndt, seeks to protect Colorado surface water from contamination by the expansion of agriculture chemical management plans.
Click here to read the report. Here’s the vision section:
Governor Polis ran on a bold platform of achieving 100% Renewable Energy by 2040. This goal is motivated by the moral imperative to fight climate change and curb pollution of our air and water, as well as the opportunity to drive innovation and harness the consumer savings and economic bene- fits of leading the transition to a clean energy economy. This is our roadmap to achieve this goal.
This transition is already underway and shows no signs of slowing down. The two fastest-growing professions in the United States are solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians. Fourteen Colorado towns and counties have already taken the initiative and adopted the goal of getting 100% of their electricity from clean renewable energy: Denver, Pueblo, Boulder, Fort Collins, Summit County, Frisco, Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Breckenridge, Longmont, Lafayette, Nederland to Golden. These diverse communities know that protecting Colorado’s way of life means doing our part to combat climate change, and that swiftly adopting renewable energy in our electricity sector and then extending the impact of that clean electricity across the economy will protect the health of our communities, create good paying jobs, strengthen our economy and keep rates low for customers.
The Polis Administration has taken a number of significant steps that make a down payment on our commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2040. By partnering with the Legislature, we’ve empowered the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to facilitate a rapid transition to renewable energy across the state that includes working with our largest utility to invest in renewable energy and meet a goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution 80% by 2030. We’re building a regulatory framework that will enable the PUC to work with our second largest utility to transition from coal-fired power to cheaper, cleaner sources of renewable energy. We are also making it easier for individual Coloradans to participate by expanding access to energy efficiency and community solar gardens. Additionally, the Legislature passed House Bill 1261, which sets economy-wide targets for reducing greenhouse gas pollution, with goals of 26% reduction by 2025 below 2005 levels, 50% reduction by 2030 and 90% reduction by 2050, and delegates authority to the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt rules to make progress towards those goals.
One of the most important parts of our transition to cleaner energy is electrifying transportation in Colorado. In order to meet the Governor’s goal of 940,000 zero emission vehicles on the road by 2030, state agencies have taken a number of steps, including allocating approximately $14 million to transit agencies across the state to deploy cleaner buses. The agencies are also expeditiously estab- lishing public-private partnerships to build 33 fast charging stations along major highways in the state. Working with the Legislature, we’ve also made it easier for utilities, with oversight from the PUC, to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure.
While we’ve already taken important strides towards our renewable energy vision, there’s much work to do. The policies adopted this legislative session provide the foundation for much higher levels of renewable energy integration, but additional strategies will be needed to get to 100% by 2040. It’s going to take the perspective, expertise, and commitment from diverse voices across the state to forge a renewable energy future that works for all of Colorado. Together, we can do our part to fight climate change, improve air quality and the health of our communities, diversify and strengthen our economy across the state, and ensure the good-paying jobs of the quickly growing green energy economy are created here in Colorado.
From Western Resource Advocates (Jamie Trafficanda):
Today, conservation and sportsmen groups across Colorado lauded the bipartisan passage of a bill that would raise funds to protect and conserve the state’s water from the tax proceeds on some forms of new sports betting. A portion of the revenue generated would go to a Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund governed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and help support some of the water conservation, agricultural projects, river health, “smart” storage, and demand management needs for the state. The sports-betting measure must be approved by the voters this fall.
“Colorado leaders are making a safe bet to ensure a more resilient future for our thriving communities, agriculture, businesses, recreation and wildlife,” said Brian Jackson, Senior Manager, Western Water, at Environmental Defense Fund. “We are hopeful voters will recognize the urgent need to protect our most precious resource, water, and that this measure will be a slam dunk at the ballot box this fall.”
“As Colorado’s population continues to grow and climate change stresses our water supplies, Colorado’s Water Plan lays out a roadmap to secure our water future. But to make that plan a reality, we need to establish a dedicated funding source,” said Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “If approved by the voters, this measure would provide an important down payment and have an immediate impact on Colorado communities.”
“Passing this bill represents key progress toward protecting our rivers and clean drinking water today and into the future,” said Drew Peternell, Director of the Colorado Water Program at Trout Unlimited. “But the challenges our water supply faces are long term. We’ll need additional, long-term sources of funding to make sure we have enough water to sustain Colorado’s economy, especially in rural agriculturally-based areas.”
“This bill is an important step to a secure water future,” said Matt Rice, Colorado Basin Director at American Rivers “Now this effort will go to referendum to be considered by Colorado’s voters. If it’s passed, the revenue generated will support our rivers, secure clean, safe, reliable drinking water for our communities, and preserve our agricultural heritage.”
“The Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates that implementing Colorado’s Water Plan and safeguarding our water will require at least $100 million annually for the next 30 years,” said Melinda Kassen, Senior Counsel at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership “If voters approve this bill through the referendum process, the revenue generated would be an important down payment that gets the ball rolling for multiple uses, including river protection and restoration. That said, the revenue from this bill won’t get us all the way there. As we use these funds to demonstrate value for fish and wildlife resources, we can build the case for the benefits to Colorado of taking the next step to find additional funds for this important work.”
From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):
The Colorado Legislature approved a bill [May 3, 2019] for a measure to legalize sports betting and dedicate a 10% tax on net profits to protect and conserve our state’s water. The measure will go to voters for approval this fall.
The bill enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support, clearing the House in a 58-6 vote and the Senate in a 27-8 vote. Environmental Defense Fund was a key member of a large, diverse coalition of supporters of the bill, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.
Colorado is one of several states considering a sports betting tax since a Supreme Court decision last year gave states such authority.
“Colorado leaders are making a safe bet to ensure a more resilient future for our thriving communities, agriculture, businesses, recreation and wildlife. We are hopeful voters will recognize the urgent need to protect our most precious resource, water, and that this measure will be a slam dunk at the ballot box this fall.”
From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):
Here’s a pop quiz: What are two finite resources in the West?
If you answered money and water, you win. This is especially true when it comes to money for water in the state of Colorado, where hurdles for raising new funds are particularly high.
It’s a rare opportunity when new money bubbles up for water projects in the Centennial State. But that is exactly what is happening as a result of a bill approved this week with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature.
The bill, HB 1327, proposes to raise new money to protect and conserve water in Colorado by legalizing sports betting and imposing a 10% tax on its revenue. But legislative approval isn’t the final play. State legislators are handing off the measure to voters for a final decision at the ballot box this fall.
Down payment on much larger need
The measure could raise roughly $10 million to $20 million a year – a down payment on the $100 million that Colorado’s Water Plan is estimated to need annually for the next 30 years to secure the state’s water into the future. Colorado’s population is projected to double by 2050. But at current usage rates, the state’s water supply will not keep up unless Colorado establishes a dedicated public funding source to protect it.
Since the water plan was developed in 2015, Environmental Defense Fund and partners have been looking for creative ways to fund and implement it. Nearly a year ago, a Supreme Court ruling authorized states to legalize sports betting. Since then, 40 states and the District of Columbia have proposed or enacted laws to legalize, study or regulate sports betting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
EDF has been a key player on a large, diverse team of supporters of the Colorado measure, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.
Revenue would go to a Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund governed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to support a variety of water projects, including conservation, river health, storage, water education and outreach.
Funds from the measure would make an immediate impact across the state. For instance, in Durango, $500,000 would fund the first phase of restoration of the watershed damaged in the 416 fire, which burned 54,000 acres of mostly Forest Service lands last year. Steamboat Springs could begin a $4 million floodplain restoration. Both projects would protect vulnerable water supplies.
From the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Chris Arend):
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) Director Jeff Robbins released Final Objective Criteria today to ensure pending oil and gas permits and applications are in compliance with Colorado’s new oil and gas law, SB 19-181.
“The finalization of the criteria is an important first step in implementing the new law and incorporating it’s public health, safety, welfare, environmental, and wildlife considerations,” said Director Jeff Robbins. “We appreciate the 340 public comments we received and believe the objective criteria satisfies the Colorado Legislature’s intent.”
The Final Objective Criteria (Criteria) released include provisions that the Director of the COGCC may conduct additional analysis and review on proposed oil and gas locations, which are within 1,500 feet of a residence, are within a municipality, 1,500 feet of a municipality or platted subdivision, areas identified as “sensitive wildlife habitat” by the Colorado Department of Wildlife, or in a floodplain or water supply areas, among others.
Guidance was also issued today to outline the process an applicant can expect from the COGCC to ensure a permit complies with the new law’s requirements.
The criteria was informed by a wide variety of comments received by the Commission from the public, local governments, the industry and other interested parties.
While the Director and staff determined that the draft criteria captured most public and stakeholder comments and upheld the intent of SB 19-181, the Director added Objective Criteria No. 16, which involves additional Director Review on specific wells when an operator is subject to individual or blanket financial assurance requirements in addition to a few other small edits.
The criteria will remain in place for the COGCC until final rules outlined in SB 19-181 are adopted.
Final Objective Criteria: here
Final Objective Criteria Guidance: here
Objective Criteria Public Comments: here
FromThe Associated Press via Colorado Public Radio:
Environmentalists and community activists asked Colorado regulators on Wednesday to stop issuing new oil and gas drilling permits until they rewrite the rules under a new law that makes public safety and the environment the state’s top priorities.
Just a month after the law took effect, some activists told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission it should be further along in revising the regulations…
The session was one of the oil and gas commission’s early steps toward implementing the new law, which mandated a major change in the agency’s focus from encouraging production to protecting the public, the environment and wildlife.
The law reflects increasing fears about public safety as the booming Wattenberg oil and gas field overlaps with fast-growing communities north and east of Denver. In addition to the emphasis on safety, it gives local governments new powers over the location of drilling and changes the makeup of the commission to add expertise on safety and the environment.
Commission Director Jeff Robbins called Wednesday’s meeting to hear public comment on the first set of changes, which deal mostly with administrative procedures, not drilling. The commission is expected to take up more substantive rules later this year.
Activists called for faster and more sweeping action, saying that oil and gas drilling pollutes the air and water, worsens climate change and puts residents at risk from fires and explosions…
The commission’s first formal hearing since the law was passed is Monday, but it was not yet clear whether members would start the rulemaking process.
Environmental and community organizations want the state to halt approval of oil and gas drilling permits until all new rules are written in the wake of more stringent regulations passed by the legislature in this year’s session.
Approving all the rules is expected to take at least a year, given the complexity of the new law. A new Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will need to be seated; new regulations to protect public health, safety and the environment will be developed; and new bond and fee rates to ensure cleanup of well sites will be set.
When the bill was moving through the legislature, the sponsors repeatedly disputed opponents’ arguments that Senate Bill 19-181 would lead to a moratorium on new oil and gas drilling.
But for several at a hearing Wednesday on the first set of rules being considered, the right thing to do is to halt approval of all permits until new regulations putting health and safety first are adopted…
Environmental and community activists who think no oil and gas permits should be approved until the new regulations take effect said so in letters sent Monday to Gov. Jared Polis, the COGCC and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment…
Jeff Robbins, executive director of the oil and gas commission, said Tuesday that his staff is moving forward as directed by the legislation. The staff is expected to release final criteria this week that will be used to consider permit applications while the new regulations are being developed.
The legislation directed the staff to draft criteria to provide additional review of permit applications to make sure new development meets the law’s objective of protecting public health and safety, the environment and wildlife, Robbins said.
The new law also clarifies that cities and counties can use their planning and land-use authority to regulate oil and gas in their borders. The guidelines, which the staff took public comments on, also address that change.
The COGCC staff has paused approval of new permits to write those guidelines and appoint an interim commission.
“Some permits may be approved and some may not given the heightened scrutiny and changes in progress. That course of action is consistent with SB 181,” Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayaette, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in an email.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, a main sponsor of the bill, said the COGCC staff is following the process intended by the legislation.
“I have full faith in the director and the commission and the individuals there to ensure that they’re moving in a way that honors the spirit of the bill,” Fenberg said. “If they don’t, we will step in if we need to, not to punish anyone but to make sure our intentions are clear.”
The criteria the staff will use to determine if applications need more scrutiny include whether proposed wells are within certain distances from schools, homes or parks; are in a municipality; or if local governments want more input.
There are about 6,500 permit applications waiting in the queue. From January until the bill came law, the COGCC approved permits for 88 well locations and more than 800 associated wells.
The proposed change the COGCC took public comments on Wednesday deals with allowing administrative law judges to consider disputes and some administrative issues now handled by the commission. Robbins said the change is intended to give the commission more time to consider rules and policies.
More than a dozen new energy and environment bills are headed to Gov. Jared Polis for a signature. They cover an array of issues from the oversight of electrical generating companies to how companies have to factor climate change into their decision making to the nitty gritty of how oil and gas drilling is governed in the state.
“Given the priority we saw voters make of energy and the environment this past fall they were a really an important part of this past legislative session,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, an environmental nonprofit.
While momentous, the actual impacts of some policies are yet to be determined. At least two — the oil rule and greenhouse gas reduction goals — will see many details decided in rulemaking by state agencies.
Agencies will release basic ideas on their plans for new regulations. Then they’ll release a draft rule for the public to weigh in on. Some environmental groups plan to put pressure on the state to hold evening sessions, so the public has a better chance to share their concerns.
The oil and gas law, for example, will require at least a half-dozen rules to be written or rewritten. That means it could take years — not months — to completely spell out details of measures that could have the biggest impact on curbing climate change…
Here’s a list of the key energy and environment bills:
Sunset Public Utilities Commission. 81-page bill gives new charter for state electric utility regulators, including a move in 2020 to calculate the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions in certain utility proceedings.
Here’s a report from Barbara McLachlan that’s running in the The Durango Herald. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
HB19-1113 – Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts
We all remember the 2015 Gold King Mine spill, so I led a bill to help prevent water pollution from future hardrock mining operations in Colorado. This is good for our environment and precious water, while keeping a thriving mining industry moving forward. Taxpayers will no longer have to pay when a mine files for bankruptcy.
HB19-1006 – Wildfire Mitigation Wildland-Urban Interface Areas
Wildfire season is fast approaching. This bill won bipartisan approval in the Legislature and adds funding to the already existing Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant Program to address the needs of mitigation in the Wildland-Urban Interface Areas. The funding will help homeowners prepare their property for fire suppression. The Colorado Forest Service says these areas are the most likely to burn during the next fire season; helping them now will help all of Colorado later.
Colorado lawmakers wrapped up the 2019 session last week, approving five water bills this year which address the Colorado River drought, funding for the state’s water plan, Republican River compact issues, severance taxes and hard-rock mining.
It put off for now another bill that would have expanded the state’s nationally recognized instream flow program, which allows water for fish and aquatic habitat to be left in streams.
Colorado River Drought and Water Plan Funding
Faced with a 19-year drought that has seen storage in the Colorado River’s two largest reservoirs—Powell and Mead—drop below half full, the legislature took a first step in reducing water use to ensure compliance with the Colorado River Compact. Although it did not adopt new policy, it appropriated $1.7 million as part of Senate Bill 212 for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to explore a demand management program that would incentivize voluntary cutbacks of Colorado River use, where saved water could be stored in Lake Powell as a hedge against future shortfalls. It also set aside $8.3 million to fund the Colorado Water Plan. The combined $10 million lawmakers approved is far less than the $30 million Governor Jared Polis had requested, but the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) pared that figure due to competing demands from other big ticket items. Senator Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), the bill’s chief sponsor and a JBC member, noted that the remaining $20 million in Polis’ original request “was really meant to be a contingency plan against demand management in the future and so it could probably wait until next year to be appropriated.” That is if revenue forecasts allow.
Still Rankin said the funding is an important step forward for the water plan. “This is the first time we’ve started to put general fund money against the water plan.”
Republican River Compact
The General Assembly also opted to approve a measure that redraws the boundary of the Republican River Water Conservation District to include more wells that reduce the flow of the Republican River in violation of a compact with Kansas and Nebraska. The legislature created the district in 2004. Its original boundary was drawn at the topographic boundary of the Republican River and did not accurately reflect the impact of groundwater pumping outside the district on the river’s flows.
House Bill 1029 incorporates the groundwater boundary agreed to by Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado in a Supreme Court settlement and allows the district to assess the same fee on those well owners that it does on all irrigators in the district. Those fees help to pay for a pipeline that transports conserved groundwater to the river to ensure compact compliance.
The district borrowed $62 million to buy water rights and build the pipeline, and has assessed farmers $14.50 per acre annually to repay the loan. Absent the legislation, wells that do not have water augmentation, or replacement, plans to mitigate their surface water depletions could face curtailment under new rules issued by the state engineer; now they are automatically part of the district’s approved augmentation plan.
The General Assembly passed another bill that changes the timing of severance tax allocations that support several water programs to allow for better planning and budgeting. Currently the tax revenue is transferred three times a year to the CWCB based on revenue forecasts; if the actual tax collections are less than forecasted (which has often been the case), funds have to be taken back. Senate Bill 16 bases allocations on the amount collected in the previous fiscal year and consolidates three payments into one for distribution the following year. Because tax collections in 2018 exceeded forecasts, there’s enough revenue available to avoid any funding gap moving forward.
Water Quality Impacts of Hard-Rock Mining
The General Assembly passed a bill to protect water quality from the impacts of hard-rock mining. House Bill 1113 requires reclamation plans for new or amended hard-rock mining permits to demonstrate a “reasonably foreseeable end date” for water quality treatment to ensure compliance with water quality standards. It also eliminates the option of “self-bonding”—an audited financial statement demonstrating that the mine operator has sufficient assets to meet reclamation responsibilities—and requires a bond or other financial assurance to guarantee adequate funds to protect water quality, including treatment and monitoring costs.
Representative Dylan Roberts, (D-Eagle), the bill’s prime sponsor, emphasized that it applies only to hard-rock mining—not to coal or gravel mining—and “aligns statute with what’s already happening in current practice by the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety…so that we can avoid creating more chronically polluting mines.” The bill was similar to one that passed the House but failed in the Senate last year.
The Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee set aside a bill that would have expanded an existing program to protect streamflows for environmental purposes, but with a commitment to study the issue further this summer. Under current law, a water right holder can loan water to the CWCB to boost instream flows in stream reaches where the CWCB holds an instream flow water right. The loan may be exercised for no more than three years in a single 10-year period. House Bill 1218, which had passed the House earlier in the session, would have increased the number of years the loan could be exercised from three to five, and permitted a loan applicant to reapply to the state engineer for two additional 10-year periods.
Opposition to the bill centered on concerns that expanding the number of years would reduce irrigation return flows to other farmland dependent on them for crop production and risk damaging soils. Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail), the bill’s sponsor and a rancher, asked the committee to postpone it with an understanding that the Interim Water Resources Review Committee would study it further this summer. She noted that with “some of the concerns that have been raised, as well as the level of attention that this issue deserves, we need to get this right, and I’m not sure we have consensus on a way forward today.”
This bill came about due to the Colorado Department of Revenue’s decision to impose sales taxes on the wholesale sale of fertilizer to greenhouses and nurseries. Since fertilizer is used to grow plants that would later be sold themselves, McKean thought to exempt wholesale sales.
“It didn’t make sense to tax an input that is part of a product on which sales taxes would be collected at point of sale,” McKean wrote. “…The margins for many, if not most, of our farmers are too tight to push this kind of additional cost on them.”
HB 19-1329 passed the House May 1 and the Senate May 3. As of Thursday, it had not yet been sent to the governor’s desk.
Last Friday, the gavels fell in the Colorado House and Senate to close the 120th and final day of the 2019 legislative session. It will take a few months for the dust to settle but I believe that when we look back on this past session, it will be seen as one of the most productive and transformative sessions for Colorado in recent memory.
I am very proud of the work that my colleagues and I were able to accomplish and am confident that the counties that I represent, Eagle and Routt, will be better off in the coming years because of that work.
Over the last four months, I made sure to prioritize the most pressing issues for Eagle and Routt counties: health care, transportation, housing, education and environmental protection. I was the lead sponsor of 35 bills; 30 of them passed and have been signed into law or are sitting on the Gov. Jered Polis’ desk awaiting his signature and every single one of those bills had bipartisan sponsorship or received bipartisan votes…
Acting to protect our state’s natural beauty and the outdoor economy and agriculture on which our community relies was also an urgent task. We passed historic climate change legislation that will make Colorado a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions along with several other bills to protect our environment. I also was excited to see the Governor sign my bill to protect Colorado’s water from mining spills and a bill to increase funding for Colorado’s water plan
The Colorado House reconciled a Senate version of the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, or House Bill 1261, and it now heads to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis for his anticipated signature. Sponsored by Speaker of the House KC Becker, D-Boulder, the bill was co-sponsored by Vail Valley lawmakers Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Kerry Donovan, D-Vail.
The bill codifies into law a 2017 executive order by former Gov. John Hickenlooper seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and then builds on those targets. According to its summary, “Colorado shall have statewide goals to reduce 2025 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26%, 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50%, and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% of the levels of greenhouse gas emissions that existed in 2005.”
In a separate but related bill, Senate Bill 236 directs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which oversees investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy, to consider the cost of carbon pollution when considering future power projects.
It also requires the PUC to start evaluating and approving the energy plans of Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which supplies most of the state’s rural electric co-ops (although not Holy Cross Energy, which mostly gets its power from Xcel). That utility is on track to deliver 100-percent carbon-free power by 2050…
Taken together, the two bills will mandate the state achieves its ambitious new carbon emissions goals — a top priority for Polis, who ran on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
HB 1261 narrowly passed the Senate Wednesday on an 18-16 party-line vote (with one senator excused). Donovan, whose sprawling Senate District 5 includes both ski areas and coal mines on the state’s Western Slope, provided a key vote in favor of the bill.
“Climate change is not an abstract global concept in my district. Hunters know animal patterns are adjusting. Skiers know the snowpack is shrinking. Ranchers know weather is shifting. River rats know rivers are changing,” Donovan told the Vail Daily…
HB 1261 had the backing of the ski industry and numerous outdoor gear manufacturing companies in Colorado and nationwide. Snowsports Industries America (SIA) and more than a dozen gear companies, including industry giants like Head and local shops like Minturn’s Weston Backcountry, sent a letter to the Senate urging passage of the bill as the session waned.
Protect Our Winters, an advocacy group made up of snow sports athletes, lobbied for the bill. But with a backlog of legislation and Republicans mandating the painstaking reading on the floor of every word of every bill, it appeared as if the climate bills might be stalled.
With a cursory stop in the Colorado House, the state Climate Action Plan should be on its way to the governor’s desk to become official policy.
The state Senate passed House Bill 19-1261 with an 18-16 party-line vote Wednesday, sending the bill back to the lower chamber to approve the upper chamber’s amendments.
Senators early Tuesday morning tweaked the language in the bill to address disproportionately impacted communities, as well as to grant more credit for technology that reduces emissions, and to instruct regulators to consider how new rules impact electricity reliability.
Republicans continued to warn that the goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would cost the state’s economy and residents at levels that aren’t known…
The bill says the state should create policies that reduce emissions by at least 26% by 2025, at least 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, based on 2005 levels.
The state Air Quality Control Commission would be tasked with creating unspecified rules to help the state meet those goals…
With just two days left in the session, the bill will be a high priority when it returns to the House, where it was introduced by House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, on March 21…
“Our state is on the front lines of climate change and Coloradans agree we must act,” Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental organization, said in a statement Wednesday.
“Thank you to our state senators who prioritized climate action today and voted to pass HB 19-1261, the Climate Action Plan.”
House Bill 1261, which would set a series of statewide targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades, passed the Senate on a party-line vote on Wednesday, May 1. Hours later, the House, which had given its initial approval to the bill last month, re-passed the bill with Senate amendments, sending it to Governor Jared Polis to be signed into law.
“Make no mistake: This is a big deal,” Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said in a statement on the bill’s passage. “The Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution ensures that we are doing our part to reduce carbon pollution and leave a livable, healthy Colorado to our kids and grandkids.”
HB 1261 would commit the state to achieving a 26 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2025 — formalizing a goal set by former governor John Hickenlooper in a 2017 executive order — as well as a 50 percent cut by 2030 and a 90 percent cut by 2050. That’s roughly in line with the global decarbonization timeline suggested by top U.N. climate scientists in a major report last year.
Some environmental activists, however, argue that Colorado should set even more ambitious goals. Many theoretical models for rapid global decarbonization require the U.S. and Europe to achieve net-zero emissions much faster than developing Asian and African countries — and in general, the more aggressive the timeline, the better the odds of staying below dangerous warming thresholds.
In a statement on HB 1261’s passage, the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, which includes more than two dozen environmental and social-justice groups, applauded the “historic progress” made by the bill but urged Democratic lawmakers to do more when they return to the Capitol next year.
“The CCLC calls on the legislature to improve upon the goals established by HB19-1261 in 2020 so that they are more in line with what the science is telling us we must do,” the statement read. “Our state must adjust its goals in accordance with the best available science to establish Colorado as a true climate leader, for the sake of ourselves and future generations.”
Lawmakers on Wednesday also gave final approval to Senate Bill 77, bipartisan legislation that incentivizes electric utilities to build charging ports and other infrastructure for electric vehicles. After electricity generation, transportation is Colorado’s second-largest source of carbon emissions, and the widespread adoption of zero-emission EVs is a crucial strategy for achieving the necessary cuts. Officials have committed to putting nearly one million EVs on Colorado roads by 2030, or roughly 15 percent of all light-duty vehicles in the state.
“[SB 77] is really important, because in order to hit Colorado’s electric-vehicle goals, we’re going to need to build thousands of charging stations in lots of different places,” says Travis Madsen, director of the transportation program at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “And our electric utility companies are well-positioned to do a lot of that work. It’s an essential step in getting rid of the pollution from our vehicle system.”
As the clock runs down on the legislature’s 120-day regular session, a backlog of roughly 200 bills remains on the official legislative calendar, and Republicans are doing everything they can to slow down floor work. While Democrats prioritized HB 1261 and SB 77 for passage, many other significant pieces of legislation are at risk of not being passed, including several related to climate policy…
Also awaiting Senate action is House Bill 1159, which would extend state tax credits for electric-vehicle purchases. House Bill 1313, which would codify and provide incentives for Xcel Energy’s plan to achieve an 80 percent carbon emissions cut from electricity generation by 2030, advanced out of a Senate committee on Wednesday night and will need to clear another committee and two votes of the full Senate before midnight Friday.
Advocates for climate action are hopeful that the remaining bills will get in under the wire and confident that the legislature’s work this session will mark a turning point for Colorado’s efforts to cut emissions…
In last year’s landmark report, U.N. scientists told the world’s policymakers that achieving a 45 percent emissions cut by 2030 would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Once Polis signs HB 1261 into law, Colorado will be formally committed to making such changes. A long rule-making and implementation process will follow, and only time will tell how effective the new law really is. But the stakes, as activists noted following the bill’s passage on Wednesday, couldn’t be higher.
“The risk that climate change will destroy all we hold dear is readily apparent now,” Gina Hardin, president of climate activist group 350 Colorado, said in the CCLC’s statement. “The Midwest may take centuries to recover from the massive loss of topsoil from the unprecedented flooding in what has been the world’s breadbasket. The damage has already cost $3 billion and is rising. Recovery from the infrastructure and economic destruction will take years. Mozambique has just been slammed by an unprecedented two cyclones within 6 weeks. The horror stories go on and on.”
Governor Jared Polis today signed SB 19-207, FY 2019-20 Long Bill, into law. He was joined by sponsors and Joint Budget Committee members Senator Dominick Moreno and Representative Daneya Esgar. The budget funds top priority items including free full-day kindergarten, saving people money on health care, and investments for water and transportation.
SB19-207 establishes an operating budget of $31.9 billion total funds of which $11.8 billion is General Fund.
“This budget lays a strong foundation for a bold vision for our state, creating opportunity for all,” Governor Polis said. “A product of collaboration and teamwork with Colorado’s leaders in the General Assembly, this budget ensures that our state’s economic success can be realized by every child, adult, and business in our communities. My top priority in this first year as Colorado’s 43rd Governor was to provide access to free, full-day kindergarten to every Colorado family. I am proud to say that this budget makes that vision a rapid reality, with funding now available for the school year that starts this fall.”
Colorado lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a $30.5 billion state budgetpackage that includes $300 million for road projects, $175 million for full-day kindergarten and a 3% pay hike for all state employees.
The agreement on the spending plan that starts July 1 came after the budget writers found an extra $70 million for transportation as part of a deal with Republican lawmakers who threatened to obstruct the debate.
The additional dollars will come from a variety of sources, including $40 million out of two reserve accounts. The state’s push for full-day kindergarten took a $10 million cut because fewer students are expected to participate. And the remaining $20 million came from unspent dollars and minor accounting tweaks.
The original budget package allocated $230 million for roads. The new $300 million total — which will require additional legislation this session — would get split between the state and local governments for highway construction, mass transit projects and road maintenance. The total need for transportation in Colorado is estimated near $9 billion.
State Rep. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat and budget writer, said the budget package boosts spending in key areas, such as education and road building. “We are making historic investments across the areas we care about,” he told lawmakers…
The House approved the final budget bill by a 41-22 vote with only one Republican in support, state Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain. The Senate later voted 25-7 on the bill with a handful of Republican lawmakers in favor.
The budget bill now goes to Gov. Jared Polis for consideration. The governor has line-item veto authority to strike items in the budget bill.
From Governor Polis’ office via The Colorado Springs Business Journal:
Governor Jared Polis this week signed a bill to help prevent water pollution from future hardrock mining operations in Colorado.
Rep. Dylan Roberts, whose district was impacted by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill near Silverton, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Barbara McLachlan.
“This is good for our environment, and keeps a thriving mining industry moving forward,” McLachlan said in an Apr. 5 news release issued by Colorado House Democrats. “We can’t go back in time but we can ensure we have a brighter, safer future and one that protects our precious water.”
HB19-1113 will ensure that when new mining permits are issued, sufficient and secure bonds are in place to ensure cleanup and better protect public health and the environment. The new law will end self-bonding for hardrock mines in Colorado and will explicitly include water quality protection in the calculation for the amount of bonding required. It will also require mining license applicants to set an end date for the cleanup of their operation, so that they can no longer just to do water treatment into perpetuity.
“Mining is a part of our history and always has been. For a long time, it has shaped our economy, our water rights system, and our communities,” Robert said in the release. “However, water is our state’s most precious resource and must be protected. This new law will modernize our hard-rock mining laws to protect clean water and ensure that taxpayers are never left on the hook for a private company’s spills.”
Mining operations have polluted more than 1,600 miles of Colorado rivers and streams, according to the release, and Colorado is one of just seven that allow “self-bonding,” which allows mines to operate with insufficient recoverable assets, leaving taxpayers vulnerable to potential cleanup costs.
Numerous small business owners, rafting outfitters, farmers, local elected officials and others from across western and southern Colorado testified at a House hearing in support of the bill. It passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.
Click here to go to the Colorado Legislature website to read the bill:
Concerning the point of compliance related to the treatment process involved in treating reclaimed domestic wastewater for indoor nonpotable uses within a building where the general public can access plumbing fixtures that are used to deliver the reclaimed domestic wastewater.
SESSION: 2019 Regular Session
SUBJECTS: Natural Resources & Environment Water
In 2018, the general assembly authorized the use of reclaimed domestic wastewater for irrigation of food crops and industrial hemp and for toilet flushing if, at the point of compliance in the water treatment process, the reclaimed domestic wastewater met certain water quality standards.
The bill authorizes the water quality control commission (commission) to adopt rules requiring a point of compliance for disinfection residual related to the treatment process for reclaimed domestic wastewater used for toilet flushing within a building where the general public can access the plumbing fixtures used to deliver the reclaimed domestic wastewater. If the commission adopts the rules, the rules must establish a point of compliance for disinfection residual at a single location between where reclaimed domestic wastewater is delivered to the occupied premises and before the water is distributed for use in the occupied premises.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
Senators from both sides of the aisle agreed to an amendment to the state’s $30.5 billion annual state spending plan that would divert more money to roads and bridges. Such amendments to the budget bill, particularly one this large, are rare.
That happened during debate over, SB19-207, the state’s annual budget. Initially, the bill called for spending only $30 million in general fund money on transportation, funding that was on top of $200 million already allocated to transportation projects.
But in a deal between Republicans and Democrats reached earlier in the day, transportation projects now may see additional money.
“What this amendment will do is make a slightly less increase (to all departments) and find a way to take this $106 million and put it into transportation,” said House Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker. “I’m grateful to those who have been involved in the conversation.”
The bill still requires a final Senate vote, which is to come today.
It then will head to the House for more debate. Whether that money will stay in the final version of the bill remains to be seen.
From the Associated Press via The Aurora Sentinel:
Colorado’s Senate has approved a draft $30.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The Senate voted 29-6 on Thursday to send the legislation to the House Appropriations Committee.
At Republicans’ insistence, senators agreed on Wednesday to divert $106 million to transportation needs from other programs. That brings to $336 million the proposed budget’s total transportation funding.
Colorado’s backlog for new transportation projects and repairs is an estimated $9 billion.
The budget document includes funding for full-day kindergarten for school districts and families that want it. Colorado now guarantees half-day funding.
On Thursday, House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, introduced a bill to authorize a state plan to curb carbon and “ensure that Colorado leads on climate action.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee approved a bill backed by Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, to better collect and track data on emissions.
“People in my district depend on clean land, water and air for their personal enjoyment and livelihood, but climate change is putting that at risk,” Donovan said in a statement. “This bill is an important step towards protecting our environment while ensuring that the businesses powering our local economies can continue to operate in the years ahead.”
The Air Quality Control Commission would collect greenhouse gas emissions data statewide for a forecast that would come with recommendations to make reductions.
The commission would have until July 1, 2020, to get the system in place.
House Bill 19-1261, sponsored in the upper chamber by Sens. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Angela Williams, D-Denver, is aimed at creating jobs and spurring innovation while cutting air pollution, the sponsors said in a news release Thursday.
Lawmakers could put goals to reduce carbon pollution into state law, and use new rules to get industry to reduce carbon emissions, as well.
“Climate change is real,” Becker said in a statement. “It’s happening. And we have a moral and economic imperative to act now.
“As a mother, a defender of clean air and water, and legislator, I am committed to ensuring our state is making responsible investments in our future and working to preserve our unique quality of life. I cannot think of a more important challenge for our state to tackle than climate change.”
The Democrats listed impacts of climate change on Colorado: poor air quality, wildfires, drought, diminished snowpack and shallow rivers, all drains on the state’s tourism-dependent economy.
Effort worries coal counties on Western Slope; seen as duplicate by some
Lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill Thursday that orders the state to expand its tracking and possibly regulations of greenhouse gas emissions through 2050, an effort to buck the Trump administration’s disinterest in tackling climate change.
Colorado has been tracking greenhouse gas emissions by sector since 2008, but Senate Bill 096 greatly expands an existing effort by the Air Quality Control Commission. Under the bill, the commission would collect data and propose rules to address emissions by July 2020. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would be required to collect annual greenhouse gas data by sector and publish it; the department would also be required to forecast emissions through 2050.
The bill’s opponents say it would generate more regulations that could push coal-fired power plants closer to extinction, killing jobs and further raising electricity costs on the Western Slope…
…Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure would help Colorado reach its 2025 goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least a quarter. It would also ensure that greenhouse gas emission data would not depend on the federal government, which under President Donald Trump has abandoned its commitment to the Paris climate change accords.
The bill passed the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee on a party-line vote of 5-2; it now heads to the Appropriations Committee…
Southwest Colorado greenhouse gas emissions attracted global attention in 2014, when NASA scientists discovered a 2,500-square-mile methane cloud over the Four Corners caused in part by natural gas production. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
Even as Colorado grapples with methane emissions from oil and gas operations and a power mix still mostly reliant on coal, Sen. Ray Scott, a Mesa County Republican, questioned why SB 096 would have the state spend nearly $2 million to duplicate data already being tracked by the federal agencies and local universities.
The institute, an affiliate of Colorado State University, should study various use cases of blockchain tech, including water rights database management, the establishment of water “banks” or markets, and general administration, according to the bill.
The study would be carried out only after the institute has received enough money, and would be allowed to solicit and accept donations from private or public institutions for the purpose. The findings should later be reported to the general assembly, the lawmakers said.
The Colorado Water Institute has the mission to “connect all of Colorado’s higher education expertise to the research and education needs of Colorado water managers and users.”
The Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee convened the first hearing for Senate Bill 19-181, dubbed Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations.
The bill would make a variety of changes to oil and gas law in Colorado, including the following:
It would change the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from one of fostering oil and gas development to one of regulating the industry. It also changes the makeup of the COGCC board.
It would provide explicit local control on oil and gas development, opening the door for local government-instituted bans or moratoriums, which have previously been tied up in court battles because the industry has been considered one of state interest.
It would change the way forced or statutory pooling works, requiring a higher threshold of obtained mineral rights before companies can force pool other mineral rights owners in an area.
Testimony during the committee hearing ran the gamut, including state officials, industry officials, business interests and residents, and it was expected to go well into the night…
Talking about the rallies beforehand — both pro-181 and anti-181 groups — as well as the overflow rooms necessary for all of the attendees, [Carl] Erickson said the scene was wild…
Dan Gibbs, executive director of department of natural resources; and Jeff Robbins, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; both came out in support of the legislation.
So, too, did Erin Martinez, who survived a home explosion in Firestone that killed her brother and her husband.
“With proper regulations and inspections and pressure testing, this entire tragedy could have been avoided,” Martinez said in closing.
The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee opened the hearing with testimony from Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, the measure’s co-sponsor, according to reporting from The Denver Post.
As he told The Tribune on Sunday, he said during the hearing that the Tuesday hearing was the first of several — with six total to come.
“At the forefront, objective of this bill is to ensure that we are protecting the health and safety and welfare of Coloradans, the environment, wildlife, when it comes to extraction of oil and gas across the state,” said Fenberg, D-Boulder, according to The Post.
Here in Colorado, the oil and gas industry has had too much influence for too long while our communities and environment suffer.
Over the last decade, communities across the state have found themselves with no power to stand up to the industry when drilling comes to their neighborhoods. The very agency that is supposed to regulate the industry also has a dual mission to “foster” industry growth. And hundreds of oil and other toxic spills related to drilling occur in Colorado every year.
At the same time, the oil and gas industry has cut corners when it comes to Coloradans’ health and safety. They’ve built industrial operations in residential neighborhoods, ignoring community complaints even during the most egregious examples, such as in Battlement Mesa, with a pad 350 feet from homes. Companies have spent tens of millions on public campaigns and elections. As a result, nearly every commonsense policy to keep the industry in check has failed.
But with new leadership in the governor’s office and the state legislature, we have the chance to make a change.
A bill announced [February 28, 2019] by Governor Polis, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, and House Speaker KC Becker would protect public health and safety, give more power to local governments, and enact new protections for our environment. We’re overdue for reforms like this to our state laws.
Here are 10 reasons why these reforms are urgent for Colorado:
Oil and gas operations pose a threat to our health and safety.
2. After the deadly explosion in Firestone that killed two people, former employees of Anadarko accused the company of sacrificing safety to boost profits. In court documents, they claimed company culture was cavalier with regard to public safety and oversight.
7. In 2018 alone, the oil and gas industry opposed six bills aimed at increasing protections for communities and the environment, including those to put oil and gas rigs further away from school playgrounds, improve accident reporting, and facilitate mapping of underground pipelines that run near homes—a direct response to the tragedy in Firestone.
And they spend millions to influence the public and legislators at every step of the political process.
8. Oil and gas companies invest heavily in defeating citizen efforts to improve our state laws or implementing those that help their bottom line. In 2018, they spent $37.3 million to defeat Proposition 112, a ballot initiative for larger setbacks for oil and gas development, and advance Amendment 74, an effort to guarantee company profits in the state constitution.
9. The industry donates big money to elections, both traceable and dark money. In the 2018 election cycle, oil and gas interests gave close to $1 million to just one electoral committee, the Senate Majority Fund (known as the “campaign arm for Republican senators” in Colorado).
10. Oil and gas interests paid at least $200,000 on lobbying to sway decision-makers at the Capitol in 2018.
This story isn’t about one irresponsible company, but about a well-funded campaign to maximize profits over public safety and stop at nothing to get there. It’s past time we adopted common-sense rules that make the industry a better actor in Colorado — and we need to seize that chance.
Click here to visit the Colorado Water Institute website:
The Colorado Water Institute (CWI), an affiliate of Colorado State University, exists for the express purpose of focusing the water expertise of higher education on the evolving water concerns and problems being faced by Colorado citizens.
State House and Senate Democrats say they plan to introduce a sweeping bill in coming weeks to redefine the mission of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry, placing a higher priority on public health and safety.
In addition, the measure is likely to seek to give local governments more control over incoming oil and gas permits rather than maintaining that oversight at the state level
“Local development and zoning are the bread and butter issues of local city councils and county commissions,” said Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette. “Only oil and gas is exempt from that currently. They should have the same power [over that industry].”
Democrats have been talking about such legislation since the 2019 session opened, but their plans have been firming up lately.
The move most likely will be contained in just one bill rather than many, said House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder. A concerted effort is more likely to succeed, she said.
“That’s better than throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Becker said.
Working alongside Becker on the measure is Senate Majority Leader Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, who said the state hasn’t passed any substantial legislation on oil and gas regulation in six years and spoke optimistically of the incoming bill.
“It’s actually probably the most meaningful reform that Colorado will have ever seen in oil and gas,” Fenberg said.
The legislation could be introduced into the House as early as March, Fenberg said. He and Becker anticipate opposition from the oil and gas industry.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
Reps. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, and Don Valdez, D-La Jara, won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Wednesday for HB19-1082 (Water Rights Easements) that makes it clear that those who own easements for water rights, such as irrigation ditches, also have the right to go onto private property to maintain them.
The two lawmakers said that as the state has become more urbanized, and people move into previously rural areas, they are blocking so-called ditch riders from doing their jobs, which is to ensure that whatever water supplies they are overseeing get where they’re supposed to go, whether it be an agricultural operation or for municipal use.
“What we’re trying to do is make it so that the easement holder for a ditch or a pipe or any water transference infrastructure can get onto the easement, improve the easement, can put in a pipe, can do the kind of things that we do in agriculture even though some of these ditches are now flowing through suburban newly developed areas,” Catlin said.
“We’ve had some pushback (from) landowners who say, ‘No, I do not want that easement improved on my land.’ That goes against the easement right holder’s rights, too,” he added. “What we’re trying to do is make this much easier for everybody, and we don’t have to have lawsuits in order to find out that you have the right to improve and to repair and maintain the easements across another piece of land.”
Catlin said that oftentimes disputes end up in court, causing both sides to expend money they shouldn’t.
Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, said that people who purchase property in formerly rural areas don’t realize that a waterway that may run through it is more than just a landscaping feature.
“Some people when they buy a private property, they simply don’t understand that what they think is a river in their backyard, is a ditch,” Arndt said. “People have a right to maintain that ditch. In fact, if they didn’t we’d be in real trouble.”
Other lawmakers, however, said they feared the bill gives away too much power to water rights owners over landowners.
Republican Reps. Perry Buck of Windsor and Kimmi Lewis of Kim said private property rights should be observed, at least those of surface landowners. “I’m hoping that both, property owners and ditch owners, can come to an agreement before we give all the rights to a ditch owner and an easement,” Buck said.
“I am worried that this is a little too far,” Lewis added. “I am concerned that we are creating a water right out of an easement right. These people don’t have that right to tromp over private land to redo theirs.”
Click here to read the January, 2019 Western Rivers Newsletter (Abby Burk). Here’s an excerpt:
Colorado’s legislative session is off to a caffeinated start. The session began on January 4 and runs through May 3, 2019. Governor Polis—along with his new administration and new Democratic leadership in both the State House and Senate—are setting the scene for a busy legislative session.
There are two main dynamics charting the work of Colorado’s lawmakers in water: the ongoing 19-year Colorado River Basin drought and funding for Colorado’s Water Plan.
Due to plummeting water levels in the Colorado River’s two main reservoirs (Lake Powell and Lake Mead) the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted in November, 2018, to support a Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Colorado joined neighboring Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico in support of the DCP in December. Now, all eyes are on the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada, and Arizona as they also evaluate support for a DCP by the looming January 31, 2019, deadline imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. If the DCP and the necessary water sharing practices are to be successful, Colorado and other states will need improved water policies and funding to protect rivers and compact water deliveries.
In light of climate change, drought planning, and population growth, birds and people need the objectives and actions for increased water security contained in Colorado’s Water Plan more than ever. However, funding for Plan implementation has fallen short. The Water Plan calls for funding needs of $100 million annually from 2020-2050. That’s roughly $3 billion to sustainably fund increased water conservation and efficiency for cities and towns, methods to keep agriculture thriving, and stream and watershed health improvements.
With the DCP and drought top of mind, there has been some positive movement for Water Plan funding. Governor Polis’s budget contains the $30 million investment initially proposed by Governor Hickenlooper to fund the Colorado Water Plan and help mitigate drought, particularly for relief in rural communities. Also, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has proposed $20 million for Water Plan implementation in the 2019 “Projects Bill” that will be submitted later in the session for legislature approval. That’s $9 million more than in 2018.
Water legislation in 2019 is already off and running with much more to come. As we make decisions about water, there is a lot at stake for birds, other wildlife, agriculture, and communities. Audubon is at pace with and fully engaged on conservation and water legislation every step of the way. We will be calling on you to engage in action alerts and education events in 2019. Register for Getting Green Laws, an event that will include legislation training on the evening of February 19th in Denver and a rivers action day at the State Capitol on February 20th.
For Colorado’s rivers and streams, we thank you for your engagement.
Early-session Colorado water legislation that Audubon is engaged with:
SJM19-001 Memorial For Arkansas Valley Conduit – Memorializing the United States Congress to fulfill the commitment of the federal government to provide funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit project. From the Water Resources Review Committee
SJM19-002 Corps Of Engineers To Dredge Lower Arkansas River – Concerning memorializing the United States Congress to enact legislation directing the United States Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction and cooperation with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, to dredge a portion of the Arkansas River
The Office of the State Engineer has filed the proposed Republican River Compact Water Use Rules with Water Court Division 1 in Greeley.
The filing was made last Friday, January 11.
The process for developing the rules included several public meetings with a special advisory committee. It was comprised of volunteers representing users and interests throughout the Republican River Basin. The meetings took place within the basin, and the last one was last August.
As drafted, the rules allow the state to administer surface water and groundwater wells for compliance with the 1942 Republican River Compact.
It includes the state engineer’s ability to curtail wells, which means issuing a cease and desist.
However, Deb Daniel, the general manager for the Republican River Water Conservation District, noted that wells that are within the Republican River Domain and have an augmentation plan are protected from curtailment.
That means all wells located with the Republican River Water Conservation District are protected, due to the district’s augmentation efforts such as the compact compliance pipeline, purchasing surface water rights, and providing financial incentives for well owners to voluntarily retire their wells, such as through CREP and EQIP conservation programs.
However, the Republican River Domain boundary is different than the RRWCD boundary, so there are some wells that currently are not protected from the potential curtailment. There is legislation currently before the Colorado State Legislature that will expand the RRWCD’s boundary to including all of the Republican River Domain.
Division 1 Water Court will have to rule on the proposed rules before they go into effect.
Well owners can make filings for or against the proposed rules with the water court. The case number is 2019CW 3002.
Newly inaugurated Governor Jared Polis had a low-key and positive start on water. His natural resource transition included Hickenlooper’s in-house water expert, John Stulp. Water policy in his State of the State address was only one paragraph, but it succinctly supported the State Water Plan and advocated getting it funded. He linked Colorado’s water to its agricultural needs, which is one of the key principles of the plan. That is, preserving agriculture in Colorado requires intelligent and prudent water management.
State of the State on Water
“The lifeblood of our agriculture industry is water – which is why we must commit to a bipartisan and sustainable funding source for the Colorado Water Plan. Governor Hickenlooper, along with the leadership of John Stulp, did extraordinary work bringing together a coalition of Coloradans from all corners of our state to create the Water Plan. Now we’re going to do our part by implementing it.” State of the State address, Jan. 10, 2019
Dealing with the water gap that is well identified in the State Plan is essential to protect irrigated agriculture and support the state’s quality of life and economy. The largest number of residential, business and agricultural water users are in the Arkansas and Platte basins. Their needs must be balanced with other users and uses, including recreation, wildlife and aesthetics.