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Colorado’s GOP gubernatorial hopefuls hit Hickenlooper with blizzard of criticism over climate order

Author: Ernest Luning - July 12, 2017 - Updated: July 12, 2017

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Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Thursday, July 28, 2016, in this file photo. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Thursday, July 28, 2016, in this file photo. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Republicans who want to take his place after next year’s election pelted Gov. John Hickenlooper with criticism Tuesday when the Democrat declared that Colorado would join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition supporting a global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While praise poured in for Hickenlooper’s move from Democrats and environmental groups, four GOP gubernatorial candidates took the term-limited governor to task, arguing that the executive order he signed would put a drag on the state’s economy without producing tangible benefits.

Hickenlooper’s order set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025 compared with 2012 levels and by 35 percent by 2030. He maintained that cheap natural gas and increasingly competitive wind and solar power cost would allow the state to achieve the goals, which are similar to those set in the 2015 Paris Accord.

“When I am elected [g]overnor, I will repeal this misguided order on Day 1,” wrote entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell in a Facebook post. “We all want clean air, but Hickenlooper’s rogue mandate is not the answer. It will cost Colorado jobs and hit every consumer in the wallet. And all this harm for unknown benefits. Say NO loudly to this politically motivated action by our lame duck [g]overnor.”

Doug Robinson, a former investment banker and Mitt Romney’s nephew, also said he would rescind Hickenlooper’s order if elected.

“Everyone wants to keep Colorado pristine, but this smacks of political grandstanding,” Robinson told Colorado Politics. “As Gov. Hickenlooper correctly points out, market forces are already driving the development of cleaner technology. And that’s exactly how it should work. The government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in any industry.”

George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney, belittled Hickenlooper’s declaration as ineffectual and wrong-headed.

“It’s interesting how it’s being spun as this bold leadership step by the governor,” Brauchler said in an interview, sounding equally dismayed and amused. “If you read the language of it, it’s about as soft an executive order as you can find,” he said, adding, “Maybe he has been out of the private sector for so long to think market forces can be driven by government mandates and executive orders.”

One of Hickenlooper’s goals, Brauchler said, jumped out as particularly ridiculous. “We have seen such a lack of leadership over the last 10 years of funding the upkeep and expansion of our roads, when I read about these ‘charging corridors’ for electric cars,” he said and then interrupted himself with laughter. “Our roads are in such disrepair, we’re going to push more and more electric cars onto them? You can actually charge your car now while sitting stuck  in traffic along (Highway) 36 or (Interstate)-25.”

One of several additional goals Hickenlooper outlined in his executive order was to install charging stations for electric vehicles throughout the state to “reduce range anxiety” for drivers.  “You’ll be able to drive an electric car from Colorado to the Pacific,” he added, because of an agreement to work with Utah and Nevada to build out the network.

When asked whether he would rescind the executive order if he’s sworn in as governor in 18 months, Brauchler dismissed the question as meaningless.

“Rescind an order that state agencies go out there and look for voluntary compliance with emission standards we don’t have yet? It’s hard to know if it needs to be rescinded. It’s a feel-good executive order. It is far more symbolic than it is substantive,” he said. “This is more like a proclamation than an executive order.”

Steve Barlock, an early supporter of President Donald Trump’s campaign, blasted Hickenlooper’s announcement on several fronts.

“In his effort to put an emotional globalist spin on the Paris Accords, Gov. Hickenlooper undermines not only President Trump’s efforts to renegotiate and secure America’s financial future but also encourages reckless rebates and tax policy in Colorado which benefit unproven social experiments by the swamp that does not have the interests of Colorado in mind,” Barlock told Colorado Politics.

Trump withdrew last month from the international agreement — making the United States one of only three countries that aren’t signed on — saying he was reasserting “America’s sovereignty.”

Eight Republicans have filed to run for Hickenlooper’s office in next year’s election, and more are expected to join the field in coming months. Other declared candidates include Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez and activists Jim Lennart Rundberg and Joanne Silva.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is expected to announce his candidacy before the end of the year, while DaVita Healthcare Partners chief executive Kent Thiry, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and former CSU Athletic Director Jack Graham have said they’re considering a run.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


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