Having seen Jared Polis’s misleading campaign ad attacking Cary Kennedy for the umpteenth time, I am sharing some direct insight about his claim that he “led” the effort to increase funding for every school in Colorado – and from where the actual leadership came. I was the campaign manager for that effort – Amendment 23. Cary Kennedy conceived the amendment, wrote it and led the effort to explain it, debate it and advocate for it. Working with a crew of tenacious women, they fought for and won the Amendment 23 election. Cary’s ability as citizen leader was clear: She identified a problem, identified a solution and built momentum to fix it.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s July 11 Executive Order puts Colorado on the path to meet America’s commitment to the Paris Agreement of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025. It does this by building on the clean energy progress we have already achieved as a state, and by prioritizing working with utilities to achieve these goals.
This is a smart economic move. The International Finance Corporation estimates the Paris Agreement will create $23 trillion in investment opportunity, which means Colorado can create good jobs by working toward the Paris target. This is also a realistic move. We can meet these goals today, while decreasing consumer costs and generating new investment for our workers and communities by working with utilities and industry.
Renewable power is now the cheapest new source of electricity for power customers. Colorado has proven we can harness our abundant wind resources while maintaining grid reliability and low costs. Building renewables is a winner for consumers because it avoids buying fuels and helps reduce pollution. The real challenge is managing the transition from older, less efficient power plants to a clean fleet while addressing local economic consequences, including job losses caused by these closures.
When power plants are retired, they often have residual value. They are called “stranded assets” because the plants and equipment, already included in consumers’ rates, still need to be paid off. This is exactly what is happening in Colorado and around the country to old generation plants and we must be prepared.
Fortunately, there is a proven solution to repay the utility without creating additional burdens on ratepayers: refinancing these stranded assets at a much lower interest rate using ratepayer-backed bonds. This approach is time tested, and has been employed in more than 20 states since 1997. Consumers save a bundle as these low-cost bonds replace more costly capital payments. Utilities’ shareholders benefit as their capital is returned immediately and reinvested into more efficient and clean energy investments. Finally, some of the significant savings generated by the plant retirements can be used to assist displaced workers and communities.
During the 2017 legislative session, state Rep. Daneya Esgar and I introduced HB17-1339 to bring this refinancing approach to Colorado. The bill authorized ratepayer-backed bond refinancing and detailed what the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) would need to consider to approve a utility’s use of the bonds. It also directed that 15 percent of the savings from the refinancing be earmarked to help workers transition and communities recover. Workers, consumer representatives, and communities all offered support for HB17-1339. The bill cleared the House, but died in the Senate based on opposition from coal mining interests.
Gov. Hickenlooper is looking for ways to meet his climate goals without costing taxpayers money. Our approach can do this while also reducing costs for customers and putting private dollars to work in communities where plants close in a “win-win-win” solution. It’s a win for electric consumers who save money by lowering interest costs and by avoiding buying fossil fuels. It’s a win for utilities and their shareholders; they get to recycle their investment capital into more productive new clean energy investments at a fair return. And in a first in the nation, Colorado will have resources to help communities and workers when power plants retire without needing additional tax dollars or expenditures.
I invite the governor to consider using ratepayer backed bonds as one tool in the toolkit he is assembling to address our climate goals. Now that new, cleaner options cost less than running older more polluting plants, it is time to seize the economic opportunity at hand and make the switch.
Colorado leaders left and right had strong feelings about President Trump’s symbolic withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate accord Thursday.
Here is a digest of what people said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper:
“It is a serious mistake to back out of the Paris Accord. This is a historic global agreement between almost every nation on earth to address the single most pressing issue facing humanity. Abandoning this climate deal is like ripping off your parachute when you should be pulling the ripcord. America’s greatness has always been demonstrated by our moral leadership. Today, we break ranks with 190 nations who are working together to stop the worst effects of climate change, which the scientific community agrees would devastate the global economy and our planet, and the defense community agrees would destabilize vulnerable nations that have served as breeding grounds for international terrorism.
“The U.S. is letting go the reins of world leadership, allowing other countries like Russia, India, and China to take our seat at the international table. Our economic and technological competitiveness will suffer. Isolationism is not leadership. Colorado’s commitment to clean air and clean energy will continue. Clean energy is abundant, home-grown, and creates 21st century jobs for our modern workforce across every part of our state. We renew our commitment to pursue cleaner energy at a lower cost. To do otherwise would be governmental malpractice.”
Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet:
“The President made a catastrophic mistake by putting a misguided campaign promise before the needs of our economy and the credibility of American diplomacy,” Bennet said. “Before this decision, the United States was on track to achieve energy independence, reduce its carbon footprint, and create good-paying jobs in rural communities—with Colorado leading the way. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement attempts to undercut the progress we have made.
“In Colorado, we will continue working to meet the carbon emissions targets set in the Clean Power Plan. The administration should reverse this shortsighted decision and work to protect our planet, economy, and national security.”
State Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction:
“The U.S. is the leader in clean reliable energy, being part of the Paris agreement was symbolic at best. We have a 100 year history using fossil fuels and beyond to better everything from clean water, clean air advanced medical equipment to shoes on our feet, we’ll be just fine without the Paris Agreement.”
“Coloradans value our natural heritage and our lands. Our leaders know it’s not a partisan issue – it’s our collective livelihood. That’s the Colorado way. The Paris Accords are about protecting people. Declining economies and scarce resources are certain outcomes. Marginalized communities in urban and rural Colorado will be hit the hardest.
“And since the White House won’t lead, Colorado will. Tomorrow, I will join my colleagues to create a bipartisan plan to help protect Coloradans from the untold consequences of the president’s failed leadership on this issue.”
Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates:
“President Trump’s decision to back the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord is short-sighted and unwise. Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, and its effects, like drought and increased wildfires are already being seen here in the American West. As the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide pollution, the U.S. should lead on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“If the President of the United States fails to lead, the American people and leaders in our western States will. Western Resource Advocates will continue to work with elected leaders with our communities, with leaders in the clean energy industry and with investors on smart and economical solutions to reduce carbon pollution.”
Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado:
“This is a disappointing and infuriating day, and the president has shown once again that he is reckless. The power and leadership on clean energy and climate change now shifts to states, cities and the private sector. Whatever Governor Hickenlooper, mayors, county commissioners, and other leaders across our state had been planning to do on climate change – they must now do twice as much. The time for bold action is now.”
Jimmy Sengenberger, president and CEO of the Millennial Policy Center:
“President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change is the right move, for all of the reasons so aptly expressed by the president in his Rose Garden statement this afternoon. The fact remains that former President Obama’s decision to sign on to the accord was unconstitutional in the first place, as a binding treaty requires Senate confirmation. In effect, what President Trump just did was reinstate a fundamental constitutional tenet. As one Millennial Policy Center fellow put it, ‘If you like your unconstitutionally signed, financed, and implemented U.N. treaty, you can keep your unconstitutionally signed, financed and implemented U.N. treaty.’
“… While we agree that humans do impact our climate in some ways, our response must not be disproportionate and come at the expense of the economy and American livelihoods. We applaud President Trump’s decision today and hope that he will take a more thoughtful, measured approach to leading on this important issue moving forward.”
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement is wrong and takes our country and Colorado backwards not forward. I’m disappointed and frustrated by this decision. Clearly climate change is a threat to our way of life in Colorado.
“Colorado is a proven leader in developing technologies that reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. I will continue to fight for the progress we’ve made in Colorado and push to reduce the impact of climate change in our communities.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy:
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement takes our nation backwards. Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. With or without Washington’s help, Colorado will continue to lead. Scientists and engineers here in Colorado are world leaders in developing, producing and marketing advanced solar and wind technologies. We can keep electricity affordable, reduce carbon pollution and bring new jobs to Colorado, especially in rural Colorado. In 2015, cleantech businesses employed 4,250 workers in eastern Colorado alone. This lays the foundation for economic prosperity for our state for decades to come.
“Colorado should have the cleanest air in the country, and be a model for the nation in using clean, renewable sources of energy. To accomplish this goal, I propose Colorado raise its renewable energy standard from 30% to at least 50%. In 2004 Colorado passed the first in the nation, voter-approved renewable energy standard. We will likely reach this target ahead of time and it’s time we raised it.”
“This president and his administration are on the wrong side of history with this remarkably short-sighted decision. Global climate change is an issue that requires moral and political leadership from the U.S. and energy-rich states like Colorado.
“If our federal government isn’t going to make smart decisions for our environment and economy, it’s time that U.S. cities and states take the lead. Here in Colorado, Pueblo, Boulder and Aspen have committed to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2030; it’s time for leaders across Colorado to act by embracing the future and boldly committing to a sustainable future.”
“A Trump presidency could well be devastating to Colorado’s lands, waters and the environment,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of the Denver-based environmental group Conservation Colorado. “Someone who has called climate science a hoax and wants to put an oil executive in charge of our public lands does not inspire confidence in ensuring our country is a leader in the effort to address the climate crisis.”
Conservation Colorado, which supports the Clean Power Plan, says coal-fired power plants create special dangers for the state.
“Carbon pollution and climate change are extremely dangerous, threatening Colorado with prolonged droughts, decreased snowpack, and bigger and more dangerous wildfires,” Maysmith said.