Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 14, 20177min451
The Trump administration’s move to scuttle the national Clean Power Plan will have little effect on climate-change efforts or coal jobs in Colorado. Nonetheless, both sides in the Colorado debate brought the heat last week after Scott Pruitt, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said “the war on coal is over.” It’s been […]

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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 13, 20172min3950

Sending a “strong signal that innovative and sustained climate leadership is a priority in Colorado,” the state and a climate change action advocacy group will co-host a series of forums this winter focusing on climate preparedness and clean energy development.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, dozens of elected state and local officials and business leaders will take part in the Colorado Communities Symposium — a series of plenary sessions, training events and roundtable discussions, workshops, networking events and an awards dinner — held Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Aurora.

“Communities across Colorado, from Durango to Wray, are proving that the clean energy transition can benefit every Coloradan,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a press statement Wednesday. “Through this symposium, the state will support locally-led climate and sustainability efforts by providing a forum for local government officials to build capacity and share best practices for with each other.”

The conference’s agenda will be steered by a committee headed by former Gov. Bill Ritter and Colorado State University’s Brad Udall among other state leaders.

The forum will piggyback on Hickenlooper’s climate executive order announced over the summer which promised Colorado would join the U.S. Climate Alliance and would meet its climate goals despite the White House’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. The executive order signed by Hickenlooper sets a goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions from 2012 levels by 26 percent by 2025 and by 35 percent by 2030.

“It is critical that state and local governments come together, align efforts and substantially scale up their capacity to drive successful climate change strategies if we want to ensure security and continued prosperity for our businesses and communities,” said Daniel Kreeger, executive director of the Association of Climate Change Officers. “We are honored to partner with Governor Hickenlooper’s administration and Colorado local government leaders to administer this vital forum.”


Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 20, 20174min7070

Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates and Denver-based Conservation Colorado are releasing a report Wednesday that analyzes policies the legislature and state agencies could adopt to reduce carbon pollution and help fight off climate change.

The document backs goals set by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in his July executive order on climate change.

The report shows asks current and future legislators to:

  • Adopt a statewide goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and by 90 percent by 2050. (Hickenlooper’s order set a goal of a 26 percent reduction by 2025, “but we must build on that by establishing pollution limits for 2030 and 2050,” the two environmental groups said in a joint statement.)
  • Advance policies that reduce carbon pollution in electricity, transportation, industrial, commercial and other sectors.
  • Enact a market-based cap on carbon pollution. The groups cited a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program as possibilities.

The full report should be  available on both organizations’ websites today.

While interesting goals, the proposals have little chance of getting through the current legislature. Democrats hold a solid House majority, a nine-seat edge in the 65-member chamber, but Republicans control the Senate, 18-17. The statehouse GOP won’t budge on their support for oil and gas production. They look upon such recommendations from the left with extreme skepticism.

Next year, however, is an election that should shift the balance of power, potentially putting a Republican in the governor’s office, or Democrats could take the majority in the Senate.

Climate-change activists point to the high stakes.

”Climate change is already causing more severe wildfires, droughts, flooding and other harm to our communities and current carbon pollution reduction plans are not enough to avoid even more severe impacts in the future,” Jon Goldin Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates, said in a statement. “Our state, businesses, local governments, and communities need to get behind comprehensive statewide action on climate change to reduce carbon pollution by 45 percent by 2030 and to ensure a healthy and resilient economy.”

Pete Maysmith, the executive director of Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental organization, said the report offers a path forward on climate change.

“Gov. Hickenlooper’s important actions on climate change this summer set us on the right path, and now we need to embrace the challenge and implement specific policies that grow our clean energy economy and defend against the impact of climate change that we’re already feeling in our state.”

Here is the governor’s executive order on climate change.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoySeptember 7, 20173min1750

After promising to stay true to the Paris Climate accords in the face of White House’s withdrawal from the agreement, Denver is drafting its own updated climate plan with some lofty goals.

One being a move to all clean, renewable energy by 2030 or requiring new buildings follow “net-zero” standards in an effort to meet the city’s goal of 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050. Lofty indeed. Denver has already made significant strides in emissions reduction, but it will have its work cut out for them.

Denver’s strategy for reaching that goal is detailed in a new study released Wednesday by the city’s Department of Environmental Health.

The study lays out Denver’s strategy to significantly reduce its carbon footprint including:

  • Becoming a leader in clean and local energy that comes from the sun, wind, or other renewable technologies;
  • Increasing use of public transit to 16 percent by 2035;
  • Powering electric vehicles with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030;
  • Requiring new buildings in the city be built to net-zero standards by 2035 (a net-zero building’s energy usage is equal to its renewable energy output);
  • Switching from fossil fuels to low-carbon fuel sources and/or electric heat for 50 percent of heating needs by 2050 and;
  • Inspiring community action on environmental justice.

Denver could join other Colorado communities like Pueblo, Boulder and Aspen in making a formal commitment to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.

The city said it will open a 60-day public comment period to hear from residents on the study. It’s worth noting Denver has not formally adopted the study recommendations.


Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 28, 20176min930

Sen. Michael Bennet is urging Coloradans to remember their children and grandchildren when it comes to climate change. But he also reached out to those whose livelihoods have been affected by the nation’s migration to renewable energy and away from coal.

Bennet, a Denver Democrat and centrist in the U.S. Senate, spoke about the challenges of climate change this week with attendees at the annual Colorado Water Congress summer conference in Steamboat Springs.

Striking back at climate-change deniers, Bennet said “the vast majority of Coloradans believe climate change is real…and that humankind is responsible.”

Bennet said he hears it from farmers and ranchers all the time, about the effects of climate change, such as shorter growing seasons, more intense droughts, stronger floods and earlier snowmelt.

“If we don’t get a handle on climate change, water challenges will get harder, he said.

In response to audience questions, Bennet said he did not think Republicans and Democrats would support the budget cuts to climate change research proposed by the Trump administration, calling it “cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

One indication of the administration’s views may be found in an upcoming report, due in 2018, known as the National Climate Assessment. The report has been done every four years since 1990, but a draft of the final report, released earlier this month, has caused some scientists to raise concerns that its conclusions will be “blunted” by the Trump administration. Some point particularly to the Environmental Protection Agency, whose head, Scott Pruitt, said he does not believe that carbon dioxide, produced when fossil fuels are burned, contributes to global warming.

The draft, compiled by scientists in 13 federal agencies, said Americans already feel the effects of climate change and warn that even with best efforts to control greenhouse gases, the planet’s overall temperature has continued to climb.

“I know the American people want to know what the science says and that’s what we have to find a way to protect,” Bennet said of the report.

At the same time, “we have to continue to make the case that having diversity in our energy economy is important, and that addressing climate change is important,” he said.

The nation needs to continue moving toward cleaner sources of energy, but “it’s not realistic to believe that the Trump administration is going to lead on that,” he added.

Bennet said he sees his role in the Senate as protecting Colorado’s economy from proposals coming out of the administration that do not support the state’s financial future.

At the same time, he also wants to make sure those impacted by dwindling coal production have a future. Last week, Bennet introduced a bill to provide Incentives for Investment, job creation and training in communities affected by the loss of coal mine jobs.

Bennet’s bill would designate 90 counties, including six in Colorado, as Coal Community Zones. Under that designation, coal communities would be eligible for incentives for investment, hiring and workforce development.

Under the bill, coal communities are defined as those that have lost 50 coal-mining jobs since 2011, out of total employed workforce of no more than 20,00, or those that have more than 5 percent of their workforce in coal mining. The six counties in Colorado that would be eligible for the incentives are all on the Western Slope: Delta, Gunnison, Las Animas, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties. There are seven coal mines currently operating in the state, but with declining demand for coal, job losses are becoming a regular occurrence. Last year, West Elk #2 in Delta County, the largest-producing coal mine in the state, cut a quarter of its workforce, blaming cheaper prices for oil and gas.

During his presidential run, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to jumpstart the coal mining industry. In March, his secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, began the process by reversing the Obama administration’s moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

The incentives proposed in Bennet’s bill include a $3,000 hiring credit for employers who hire people who live or work in a designated Coal Community. The bill sets aside $300 million in “new markets tax credits” for coal communities, tax incentives for building or revitalizing commercial buildings. The bill’s workforce training section includes grants and incentives to help those in coal communities acquire new job skills and to set up training programs.

“We can’t just leave these coal communities stranded,” Bennet told Colorado Politics.

He said he doesn’t pretend the bill is a silver bullet to solve the problems experienced by communities dependent on coal jobs.

“But it will help cushion the blow and help diversify their economies,” he said.