Climate Action Plan aims to reduce state greenhouse gas emissions
From mountains to plains to desert lands, Colorado has a vast and diverse environment that provides the state and its residents with a multitude of unique opportunities. A new bill in the state legislature aims to preserve the state’s environment by reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
The Climate Action Plan, also known as HB19-1261, outlines three targets for statewide greenhouse gas emissions based on the 2005 levels. The goal is to reduce 2025 greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent, reduce 2030 emissions by 50 percent and reduce 2050 emissions by 90 percent.
Rep. KC Becker, who represents Grand County, said she sponsored the bill to address the unique impacts climate change will have on the state.
“Less snowpack, less water in rivers, more wildfires really impacts our economy and our tourism and our local communities,” Becker said. “We’re just not seeing national action and I believe not addressing climate change is a whole lot more expensive than addressing climate change.”
Becker also highlighted the limited time to respond to climate change before it causes catastrophic damage as one reason why the bill targets greenhouse gas pollution and sets ambitious goals.
If the bill passes, the state’s air quality control commission (AQCC) will be tasked with taking the framework of the bill and finding cost-effective options to reach the goals outlined within the plan. Over $281,500 is appropriated from the general fund for implementation.
“This bill is about creating the targets, directing the AQCC to focus and create cost-effective regulations that achieve those targets, having a big, robust public process and just move the ball forward,” Becker said.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the state’s greenhouse gas emissions have been steadily rising since at least 1990 and forecasts of the future predict a continued rise.
In 2005, the state emitted 123 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2e) in greenhouse gases and it forecasts 143 MMTCO2e of emissions in 2030. Becker’s bill would aim to have 2030 emissions at 61 MMTCO2e.
Since the two largest industries driving greenhouse gas emissions are transportation and electric power, Becker said she suspects electric companies will feel the majority of the impact.
A spokesperson for Tri-State, the energy cooperative that Grand County’s Mountain Parks Electric is a member of, said the power company was in favor of common-sense carbon reduction and it has already taken steps to reduce emissions.
“There are a number of things we do and have done to reduce the amount of carbon that comes from our operation,” said Lee Boughey, senior manager of communications and public affairs for Tri-State. “Today, nearly a third of the energy consumed within our association comes from renewable resources and that has a meaningful effect on carbon emissions.”
One major step Tri-State is taking is increasing its renewable energy sources with more wind and solar plants, generating more solar than any other cooperative in the country. The company also retired a coal plant in 2017 and has plans to retire two more in 2022 and 2025.
It also offers members energy efficiency rebates, which Boughey said reached a new record in the number of rebates given in 2018, as well as invests in research and development of energy efficient technology.
“The last two (solar) projects that we’ve entered into have a beneficial impact on our costs,” he said. “We’re going to work to make sure that we’re focused on the needs of our members and that we’re increasingly flexible and increasingly clean.”
While the bill doesn’t require action from local governments, Becker said she wouldn’t be surprised if they were encouraged to take action voluntarily.
In Grand County, both the towns of Fraser and Winter Park are a part of the Colorado Compact of Communities, a municipal organization that supports local sustainability efforts.
Both towns have also supported eco-friendly policies and programs, such as the disposable bag fee, The Drop recycling center and installing solar panels.
“We’re always looking for more sustainability initiatives and opportunities, here,” said Michael Brack, assistant town manager for Fraser. “We just got done rolling out the disposable bag fee and if there are any revenues from that, that can go toward more sustainability, so we’ll have more funding for those initiatives.”
Brack also highlighted plans to potentially expand the Lift bus service to include electric buses in the future.
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations sent the bill to the Senate as a whole, which has until the end of the legislative session on May 3 to make a decision.
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