It appears that the Office of the Governor has been undergoing a climate change of its own.
It was just last August that Democratic Gov. John Hicklenlooper announced he was weighing an executive order to implement a Colorado-specific climate-action plan that would be even more stringent than the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The Obama plan had been put on hold by a court challenge earlier in the year, and the governor seemed to be saying by his announcement that he wasn’t about to sit still while the climate changed. It was bold talk, ruffling feathers in Colorado’s energy industry while delighting some environmental groups.
Then, what gives with this interview of the guv by Colorado Public Radio a couple of weeks ago—we missed it at the time and just now stumbled across it—in which the governor appears to have scaled back his pending executive order? And by scaled back, we mean his climate plan now could take the form of, oh, say, a commentary he would submit to to his local newspaper.
Yes, you read that right. Here’s the text from the Nov. 21 interview by CPR’s Ryan Warner:
RW: So what about that draft executive order you floated last summer which calls for a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses emissions by 2030? Would you keep pursuing that knowing that Colorado probably won’t get any more mandates like that from the Federal Government?
JH: Oh, I think we should certainly continue to pursue that 35 percent number if we can do it and not affect people’s electrical bills.
RW: So that’s still on the table, even under a Trump Administration?
JH: Absolutely, even under a Trump Administration, I think we want to have the – and to be honest, I think if Donald Trump was sitting here beside me he’d agree with this, if for the same cost we can deliver cleaner air, why wouldn’t we do it? It’s a simple business proposition.
RW: Any sense of a timeline for pursuing that executive order?
JH: Well, I’m not sure whether we’re going to do an executive order or lay it out in an op-ed. We’re trying to figure out what the right format is.
It wasn’t clear what had motivated the governor to propose his own plan in the first place. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last February blocking the Obama plan’s enforcement—thanks to a lawsuit by a number of states, including Colorado, that sought to stop the plan—arguably had done Hick a favor. It had freed him from a no-win issue on which he had found himself caught between his own party’s environmentalists and his own former industry, energy. With the once-imminent federal mandate sidetracked at least temporarily, Hickenlooper could have grumbled that the plan’s fate was out of his hands, and he could have reassured his party’s green wing that he’d supported the plan all along. Easy.
In other words, why kick a hornet’s nest by instead proposing very publicly, as he did, to one-up the administration? Speculation has included that Hickenlooper was simply trying to burnish his credentials for a Cabinet appointment—maybe Interior?—under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Alas, that was not to be, and the presidential contender who wound up carrying the day Nov. 8 has promised a starkly different approach to climate change and environmental regulation in general. No one knows what will become of the Obama plan now.
Maybe that, more than anything, is what’s behind the guv’s “never mind” to CPR. The interview was post-election, after all, and Trump’s upset victory had just rocked Hick’s world. As we noted here just the other day, there have been other indications since Election Day of a turnabout by John Hickenlooper on the subject of Donald Trump in general.
So, a little backpedaling on Hick’s promised executive order may be inevitable under the circumstances.
But, really, an op-ed?