NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session
Out with the old and in with a new. Gone are the five feet of snow from April and May - and in with this sudden summer heat. The feeder and fountain in view from this keyboard are graced with migratory birds such as Evening Grosbeak, Spotted Towhee and one Ruby-Throated hummingbird that loved on that sugar water when all fragrant things were cloaked by heavy snow.
And in Denver, flown from the coop are all our state legislators from their tightly compressed legislative session. What have they gotten done?
“This has been an extraordinary legislature,” said a seasoned Democratic fundraiser in Denver, Sallyanne Ofner by Facebook message. The range of work was wide:
For civil unions came a meaningful redress of the wrong-headed vote of 2006 to limit marriage to one man and one woman. Now LGBT couples can commit for life and legally reap respect and due benefits.
Firearm safety has been enhanced with popular universal background checks on purchases plus size limits on high capacity magazines.
On behalf of rape victims, parental rights of attackers over the children they spawn have been severed, and sexual assault victims have access to a payment program for their medical needs.
One gripping disappointment was the failure to repeal the costly and conspicuously racist death penalty in Colorado.
Also disheartening: the failure to pass seven out of nine bills to regulate hydraulic fracturing. A notable failure was minimum fines for serious spills -- needed apparently because spills now don’t invoke the maximum fines allowed. The 30-hour spill that erupted in mid-February near Fort Collins still has not been fined, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The Governor has ordered a formal review of how fines are imposed.
Also targeted was a ban on energy industry employees from serving on the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to regulate their own companies - failed. Lawmakers also failed to require more frequent inspections at Colorado’s tens of thousands of wells, though they did secure budgeting for 11 more inspectors and a lower spill amount threshold at which companies must report. More health and water testing around fracking areas? Also failed.
Visiting The Camera this week, representatives from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association lamented the session as being polarized, and that legislators with no knowledge of industry surprised them with a slew of bills that COGA hadn’t seen much less collaborated on. This came off poorly as they and their 23 lobbyists certainly know that the session is compressed and filled with the slew of matters just mentioned.
Coming this fall is still more action on fracking, in a rule making session by the Air Quality Control Commission. Judging by the Governor’s oft-stated goal to see “zero” fugitive emissions from natural gas infrastructure, let’s hope the AQCC can screw some new regulations to the sticking point.
On the bright side for clean energy, Boulder’s own Will Toor is uniquely proud of a suite of successful bills for electric vehicles that led his agency, South West Energy Efficient Project, to launch Colorado to a leading grade of A- among six western states for EV’s. New bills included extended rebates for private purchases of EV’s and conversions of hybrids. For state and local governments to purchase EV’s, life cycle costs may now be considered as well as contracting through energy service companies to have EV’s paid for through fuel savings. PACE financing for commercial buildings and parking lots was expanded to cover charging stations. Also, apartment buildings and HOA’s will have to allow charging stations. And to address an old sore spot, a decal program will have EV owners pay a $50 tax per year for road maintenance and the construction of more public charging stations.
We will see more charging stations – this comes with nice timing as Consumer Reports just named the Tesla Model S the best car. And as Colorado’s electric power sector cleans its emissions, the use of EV’s will leverage reductions in emissions from transportation.
But that electric sector still has serious business leftover. Colorado has until June 7th to persuade the Governor to act on the gloriously debated SB 252 that would require rural electric providers to get 20 percent of their power from renewables. Since coal costs have about doubled over 10 years and Tri-States’ coal-rich power expenses have risen four times faster than sales, SB252 needs to pass for pocketbooks and to deal with that horrific new 400 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere.