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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 26, 20183min1625

Here’s something you don’t hear often enough: Thank you, Ray Scott.

The rock-ribbed Republican senator from Grand Junction is a political slugger, but he’s found a soft side to get Democrats to the table on energy issues this session. He also is as strong an advocate for oil and gas, along with coal, as you apt to find in the General Assembly.

Last week, two Scott bills, both substantive, advanced with the strong support of Democrats.

Senate Bill 3 preserves the Colorado Energy Office and ensures it’s not overly focused on renewable sources. The legislation passed the Senate, 34-1, on Thursday — to the relief of most Democrats and environmental proponents hoping to keep the state’s hand, and dollars, in promoting renewable energy.

The only no vote in the upper chamber was Sen. Matt Jones, a Democrat from Louisville who leads the Senate Democrats’ efforts on clean air and renewable energy. He thinks the stay should keep its focus on energy sources for the future, and take position on fossil fuels effect on public health.

Scott said the landslide vote was the product of months of negotiations about what the office should be.

“Colorado is blessed to be an energy powerhouse among states, with a diversity of options available to us that other states can only envy, yet for too long our Energy Office was almost exclusively focused on a few technologies and ignoring all the others,” Scott said in a statement. “An all-of-the-above energy state needs and all-of-the-above energy office, which is what we’ll finally have if this bill continues to gain steam.”

The same day, the Senate Transportation Committee passed a bill, on a bipartisan vote, to toughen the state’s laws on contractors and excavators, working around energy and utility lines. Since the fatal explosion of a gas line in Firestone last year, Democrats have been calling for more regulations to safeguard the public from energy and utility lines, so this is bipartisan win on a partial solution, if it makes it into law.

The effort didn’t start with Firestone, however. Scott said he and Donovan had been working on it for 20 months with 58 stakeholders.

“This has been the most difficult and technical measure I have worked in my seven years in the building,” Scott stated.

The left can go back to hating him for his more conservative energy positions after this.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 19, 20184min673
A bill to restore the funding and redistribute the attention of the Colorado Energy Office cleared its first committee Thursday. That’s not surprising for a Republican bill in a Republican-led committee, but the bipartisan 9-2 vote on Senate Bill 3 means it might have a chance to rescue an imperiled agency. Last year a partisan […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 17, 20187min609
Senate Republicans say they want to make the Colorado Energy Office great again, and Senate Bill 3 this session is just the ticket for an all-of-the-above energy effort, said Sen. Ray Scott, the sponsor of the bill. In a partisan standoff at the end of the last session about the office’s mission, it was left […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 20, 20176min318

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office is expected to request on Tuesday that state budget writers approve supplemental funding for the Colorado Energy Office after the legislature hit an impasse at the end of the legislative session.

The governor’s office is asking for $3.1 million to preserve the office, which, in addition to promoting renewable energy, also assists schools, the agriculture industry and developers reduce energy costs.

While the Energy Office would be able to retain about 10 employees thanks to federal funds, another 24 staff positions are on the line.

The office would no longer operate programs that focus on agriculture, building development, and policy and research.

The governor’s office is seeking up to $3.1 million in the upcoming budget that starts in July to continue its operations. The split Joint Budget Committee is expected to be presented with the proposal on Tuesday.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, chairman of the JBC, said he believes the issue was addressed during the legislative session when lawmakers could not reach an agreement on continuing funding for the office. He said the question is better left for the full legislature to decide rather than the six members of the JBC.

It’s likely that the JBC will deadlock on the funding request on Tuesday, as it is split between three Democrats and three Republicans. A tie would kill the proposal.

“We objected to it being just a JBC action all the way back to the first of November when he (Hickenlooper) put it in his budget request. This is not just a budget request,” Lambert said. “There are a lot of questions over how is the money being used and a lot of what we consider unnecessary regulations and things that are restricting the energy industry.”

“A bill having failed, I just don’t think it’s the right process for the JBC to come back and fund something that did not make it through the legislative process. I’m quite concerned about that. It’s bad precedent,” said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, a member of the JBC. “On the other hand, I’m not opposed to the idea of an energy office, I’m voting against the process.”

The third Republican member of the JBC, Sen. Kevin Lundburg of Berthoud, has already expressed concerns with the Colorado Energy Office and is likely to oppose the funding request.

The governor’s office believes that it has an obligation to request supplemental funding because it was “unforeseen” that the legislature would not act on maintaining funding. Supplementals are authorized for several reasons, one of which includes “unforeseen” events.

“The governor has agreed that he is open to a process where we re-examine the mission of the Colorado Energy Office to make sure it includes ‘all of the above’ energy – all forms,” said a Hickenlooper spokeswoman. “He has received encouragement that the office could be funded through the JBC for the current year while that process goes forward.”

Lambert, however, does not believe an “unforeseen” event took place, pointing out that the legislature debated the subject this year, though it was unable to reach a resolution on the last day of the legislative session.

Funding would have been included in the 57-page Senate Bill 301, which would have provided the $3.1 million while also doing away with certain programs. It was supported by Hickenlooper’s Energy Office.

The Republican-controlled Senate had included provisions that would have made changes to a host of renewable energy and other programs in the state, including eliminating some of those programs. The Senate version would have expanded the Colorado Energy Office’s focus to include nuclear and hydropower, while giving the oil and gas industry a greater voice.

It also focused heavily on natural gas, aiming at eliminating a prohibition on investor-owned utilities owning natural gas reserves. An investor-owned utility is owned by private investors and members. The legislation would have directed the state to create rules allowing an investor-owned utility to acquire an interest in Colorado-based natural gas reserves for up to 50 percent of its needs.

A provision of the legislation also would have raised registration fees for electric vehicles, which had some Democratic lawmakers concerned.

Democrats approved a trimmed bill, which would have continued funding for the Colorado Energy Office, but it also would have stripped many of the provisions stemming from the Senate.

The discussion became bogged down in politics, especially following a home explosion in Firestone in April linked to natural gas leaking from an old pipeline. The incident killed two men. Republicans and Democrats could not find enough common ground to advance the bill in the split legislature.

“That was the situation we were put in, either we adhere to the Senate position or recede to the House position, and that was just unacceptable,” Lambert said. “Maybe next year we can try again.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 7, 20173min281
iStock image / maxsattana

 

… what other state agencies might have a similarly freewheeling approach with the public’s checkbook. So surmises conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics.

ColoradoPolitics.com’s Peter Marcus reported earlier this week on a state audit that found none of the $1.9 million in incentives awarded to film projects shot in Colorado had met all the criteria for the subsidies. Marcus writes that the audit “identified $129,000 for projects that did not qualify for incentives and another $1.8 million for projects for which the Office of Film, Television, and Media ‘lacked documentation to substantiate they qualified.'”

Peak Politics pounces upon the findings to propose a list of other worthy prospects for an audit. Some of the suggested targets are among the usual suspects — and regular whipping boys — for those on the right side of the political fence:

  • Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
  • Connect for Health Colorado
  • Colorado Department of Education
  • Colorado Energy Office
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Some of targets are repeat offenders and invite follow-up scrutiny by the lights of Republicans and conservatives. For example, Health Care Policy and Financing (you may know it as “HickPuff”; no relation to the guv), which manages Medicaid for the state; Peak notes a 2016 audit found some Medicaid recipients were ineligible but not removed from the rolls.

And then there’s the Energy Office, much unloved by Republicans who are ever wary of the office’s original green-energy-promoting mandate. Peak observes:

This is the office that lost like $200 million a few years ago. The state auditor just finished up an audit in January, but for the love of God, you lose $200 million, you should be audited always.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 18, 20175min391

Citing unnamed sources, the Independence Institute’s Amy Oliver Cooke asserts in a blog post that Gov. John Hickenlooper has an ulterior motive in talking up a possible special session: He wants to promote wind power on a massive scale. And he wants to throw the keys to behemoth public utility Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest power provider.

According to her blog post, that was supposed to have been accomplished during the regular 2017 session that concluded last week. The vehicle, Cooke writes, was going to be an amendment inserted into a bill introduced late in the game, Senate Bill 301, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction.

On its face, that bill involved a sweeping reconfiguration of the much-debated Colorado Energy Office and also included a provision that would have permitted investor-owned utilities to own natural gas reserves. The bill got mired in late-session politics and was scuttled in the end amid tit-for-tat pushing and shoving between Scott’s Republican-run Senate and the Democratic-controlled House.

So, the special session would pick up where the originally intended effort left off, Cooke writes. SB 301’s natural gas provision was the tip of the iceberg, she seems to think:

Sources tell me that Governor John Hickenlooper really wants the state legislature to anoint in statute Xcel’s big plans for industrial wind, and he is trying to get the oil and gas industry to support it as well, likely because natural gas is the preferred back-up generation for industrial wind.

The amendment that got left dangling — Cooke reprises it in full in her blog post — “was written specifically for or by Xcel Energy and its pending Electric Resource Plan (ERP), which was predicated on a Hillary Clinton victory and the continuation of the controversial and costly Clean Power Plan.”

She continues:

“… this language blesses Xcel to build and majority own industrial wind and natural gas back up, build and own all of the infrastructure, and pass all the costs along to ratepayers. It would complete the process of converting Xcel from pig to hog status.

Cooke, who is the libertarian-leaning institute’s executive V.P. and heads its Energy Policy Center, is a frequent critic of Minneapolis-based Xcel and other investor-owned public utilities given their status as regulated monopolies. Independence and other critics of the system don’t like how it uses Public Utilities Commission-granted rate hikes in part to subsidize the transition to what the critics contend are costlier alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.

We reached out to Hickenlooper Press Secretary Jacque Montgomery for a comment on Cooke’s assertions. She followed up with this response — neither a confirmation nor an explicit denial:

The Governor has shared what his top issues are when considering a special session:  infrastructure and health care.   At his end-of-session news conference, he called out these as well as the funding for the energy office.

Here’s the link again to Cooke’s blog post.



Peter MarcusMay 10, 20174min738

The Colorado Energy Office will be crippled after lawmakers on the last day of the session on Wednesday were unable to agree to a measure that would have continued full funding for it.

In its original form, Senate Bill 301 – described by Republicans as “far-reaching” – would have maintained funding for the Colorado Energy Office, while restructuring it and doing away with certain programs. It was supported by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Energy Office.

Without the full funding – about $3.1 million – the office will see significant cuts in personnel, deeply cutting into its ability to provide core environmental and energy services.

The Republican-controlled Senate had included provisions that would have made changes to a host of renewable energy and other programs in the state, including eliminating some of those programs.

The Senate version would have expanded the Colorado Energy Office’s focus to include nuclear and hydropower, while giving the oil and gas industry a greater voice at the table.

It also focused heavily on natural gas, aiming at eliminating a prohibition on investor-owned utilities owning natural gas reserves. Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said the prohibition raises costs for consumers.

An investor-owned utility is owned by private investors and members. The legislation would have directed the state to create rules allowing an investor-owned utility to acquire an interest in Colorado-based natural gas reserves for up to 50 percent of its needs.

A provision of the legislation also would have raised registration fees for electric vehicles, which had some Democratic lawmakers concerned.

When the original 57-page bill made it to the Democratic-controlled House – a measure that was introduced in the final days of the session and died on the last day of the session – Democrats approved a trimmed bill, which would have continued funding for the Colorado Energy Office, but also would have stripped many of the provisions stemming from the Senate.

“Losing the office would have been a disaster for Colorado. So rather than lose it, or lard up the reauthorization with giveaways to the oil and gas industry, we passed a clean bill,” said House Democratic Leader KC Becker of Boulder, just prior to the Senate rejecting the House’s version of the bill.

The discussion became bogged down in politics, especially following a recent home explosion in Firestone linked to natural gas leaking from an old pipeline. The incident killed two men.

Knowing that the Energy Office would be significantly reduced by rejecting the House version of the bill, Scott responded, “It’s their choice now,” referring to House Democrats.

Becker responded, “This late bill included sweeping changes to energy policy and concessions to the oil and gas industry, many of which I could not support. Mixing these new changes in with the work of the Energy Office turned the bill into something that was untenable.”


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Peter MarcusMay 3, 20174min324

Lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a measure that would maintain funding for the Colorado Energy Office, while restructuring it and doing away with certain programs.

Senate Bill 301 – a 57-page bill introduced in the waning days of the legislative session – is supported by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Energy Office, though some environmental interests and Democrats believe the legislation wouldn’t help the state.

The bill passed on a 6-5 party-line vote, with Republicans pushing the measure on to the Senate Finance Committee. Without the funding, the Energy Office would be eliminated.

Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, the sponsor of the legislation, said his main focus is on bolstering natural gas in the state. The bill would eliminate a prohibition on investor-owned utilities owning natural gas reserves. Scott said the prohibition raises costs for consumers.

An investor-owned utility is owned by private investors and members. The legislation would direct the state to create rules allowing an investor-owned utility to acquire an interest in Colorado-based natural gas reserves for up to 50 percent of its needs.

“The problem with any type of an energy bill under this wonderful dome is it gets twisted, turned, flopped, flipped, into ideological discussions, and it’s difficult for all of us, especially in a split building as we are,” Scott said. “This bill is truly about a little molecule called natural gas and storing some of it for the future use of consumers and holding the darn prices down for the ratepayers.”

But the bill also would make changes to a host of renewable energy and other programs in the state. It would eliminate the Wind for Schools Grant Program, which was established in 2007 by federal dollars to provide grants to public schools and community colleges for wind generation projects.

Similarly, the bill would eliminate the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Schools Program, which provides school districts with loans for renewables and efficiency projects.

Senate Bill 301 also would eliminate the Green Building Incentive Pilot Program, which was established to incentivize making energy efficiency improvements.

The legislation would expand the Colorado Energy Office’s focus to include nuclear and hydropower, while giving the oil and gas industry a greater voice at the table.

“We cannot just wholly strike these programs without a more balanced and thorough review of where we can make the office more lean,” said Theresa Conley, advocacy director for Conservation Colorado, which opposed the bill.

A provision of the legislation also would raise registration fees for electric vehicles, which had some lawmakers concerned.

“I know that my constituents did not send me down here to increase taxes and fees. Every time we do that, I hear about it,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

The Colorado Energy Office supports the bill because it believes many of the programs overseen by the office have grown outdated.

“These programs are ones that have actually been successful in the past,” said Kathleen Staks, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office. “That certainly doesn’t mean that the intent and original purpose for these programs were not important, but we have implemented other programs since then.”


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Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinJanuary 17, 20175min487

Citing her work with traditional and renewable energy, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Kathleen Staks executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, effective Jan. 20. She will replace Jeff Ackermann, who was recently appointed to the Public Utilities Commission.