In the face of a Trump repeal, clean power is a Colorado winner, Hickenlooper says

Author: Joey Bunch - October 10, 2017 - Updated: March 26, 2018

Gov. John Hickenlooper released a statement Tuesday afternoon about President Trump’s plan to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan:

“Here in Colorado, clean energy is not a partisan issue: 95 percent of Coloradans want to see our state move toward a cleaner energy future. Clean energy is an economic engine for our state and for our nation. These are well-paying jobs, most of which cannot be automated or shipped overseas. At the same time, renewable energy can actually lower customers’ energy bills. We have already set greenhouse gas reduction goals that would go beyond those set forth in the Clean Power Plan. We know it’s good for Colorado jobs, for our economy, and for our health.”

Here’s our original story:

EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced the “war on coal is over” Monday, as the Trump administration announced its repeal of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

The plan was enacted two years ago to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants to curb global warming.

Pruitt made the announcement in Hazard, Ky., the heart of coal country, where he was joined by Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.

The announcement came as no surprise, as Trump promised a repeal on the campaign trail to bring back mining jobs. In April signed an executive order to review the EPA plan, with an eye toward eliminating it. The order rejected previous government analysis of the Clean Power Plan’s benefits.

When the Obama administration passed the rule, the EPA estimated it could avert up to 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks and 3,300 heart attacks by 2030. Power plants were the largest source of carbon emissions in the country.

Colorado has switched four coal-fired plants to cleaner-burning natural gas. Energy production and steel production are the chief uses for Colorado coal, and as demand has fallen, so have coal-mining jobs in the state.

The rule required states to reduce emissions with standards based on their energy consumption and provided incentives for beating deadlines to deploy energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, which Colorado has taken advantage of.

“This is a dangerous decision that threatens the health and safety of Colorado’s families and communities by worsening climate change and increasing air pollution,” said Amelia Myers, the energy advocate for Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental organization.

“The Clean Power plan is not only based on a strong legal foundation, but is in line with the fact that Coloradans want their elected officials take action to address climate change.”

The Trump administration had questioned the legality of Obama’s climate change rule.

“(T)he CPP exceeds the EPA’s statutory authority and would be repealed,” stated the rulemaking proposal that accompanied Trump’s executive order. “The EPA welcomes comment on the legal interpretation addressed in this proposed rulemaking.”

The EPA has not yet determined whether it would create a replacement rule to regulate greenhouse gases.

“The illegal CPP was destined to failure, Americans demand low-cost energy and the math shows you can’t get there with renewables only,” said state Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, who heads up a special Senate committee tasked with studying energy issues. “Just look as far as Xcel’s new rate increase request. The governor with no federal support should roll back his pipe dream executive order for the Colorado version.”

Xcel has asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve a 2 percent rate hike to pay for improvements, including its natural gas distribution system.

Conservation Colorado, however, applauded Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pledge to stay the course on efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the state. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jared Polis and Mike Johnston, both Democrats, of course, say they will move the state toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, if they’re elected.

Colorado has a plan in place to get 30 percent of its energy supply from renewable energy by 2020.

Jim Alexee, director of the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club, said the Trump administration is ignoring the jobs created by cleaner energy and industries around efficiency, which the Sierra Club alleges exceeds those of the fossil fuel industry.

“All Trump is doing is trying to prolong our reliance on the fossil fuels that pollute our environment, keep our energy bills high, hurt our nation’s most vulnerable communities and prevent new job growth,” Alexee said in a statement. “Replacing the Clean Power Plan with a polluter-approved alternative is not making America, or Colorado, great.”

Environment Colorado director Garrett Garner-Wells called the repeal effort “a brazen attack on Coloradans’ health, environment, and future.” He also cited wildfires across the West this summer and extreme weather as examples of the results of ignoring climate change.

“After a summer marked by wildfires and extreme storms, President Trump has moved to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, the biggest single step any nation has ever taken to cut the carbon pollution that causes global warming,” Garner-Wells said. “This rollback undermines our ability to combat climate change, which is making natural disasters and extreme weather more deadly and destructive.

“We cannot bury our heads in the sand and refuse to address climate change. Replacing the Clean Power Plan with a weakened standard will reverse the progress we have made to protect Americans from the dangers of climate change. In order to be sure we leave our kids a cleaner, healthier planet, we must protect the Clean Power Plan.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.