May 21 Colorado Energy Roundup: capitulating to the EPA, sage-grouse protections, and lazy fracktivists

May 21, 2015 by michael
Filed under: Archive, CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, PUC 

Gov. John Hickenlooper intends to capitulate to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan,” rejecting a suggestion by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to avoid implementing the new federal rules:

Gov. John Hickenlooper rejected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for states to defy new federal pollution controls on coal-burning power plants, saying Colorado has a long history of protecting its environment — despite its heavy reliance on coal.

In a letter to McConnell dated Thursday, Hickenlooper also disputed McConnell’s contention that the rules would cause electric rates to soar. Hickenlooper said Colorado is cutting pollution while keeping energy affordable.

The full text of Gov. Hickenlooper’s letter to Sen. McConnell. The Democrat called the suggestion by the Kentucky Senator “irresponsible”:

In a letter dated May 14, Hickenlooper told McConnell that compliance with the EPA’s proposal would be “a challenge,” but said “states tackle problems of this magnitude on a regular basis.”

“We think it would be irresponsible to ignore federal law, and that is why we intend to develop a compliant Clean Power Plan,” Hickenlooper said in his letter.

About 64 percent of Colorado’s electricity was generated by coal in 2013; when the state ranked 11th nationwide in overall coal production, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

Hickenlooper said the state has “a long-standing history of investing in our natural environment, with the engagement of local business and civic leaders.”

“We have made immense strides in eliminating the ‘brown cloud’ for which Denver and the front range of the Rockies were once famous; stunning, clear views of the Rocky Mountains have been restored to our residents and the tens of millions of visitors who come here annually,” he said.

The Colorado Assembly entertained SB 258–the Electric Consumers’ Protection Act–this past legislative session, passing the State Senate in a bipartisan vote, but ultimately dying in a Democratic House kill committee late in the session. The bill would have called for any state implementation plan for the EPA Clean Power Plan to be reviewed by the Public Utilities Commission in a public, transparent manner with heavy input from the public as well as agencies such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, with a final review and vote by the full state legislature, instead of a policy written behind closed doors by CDPHE and implemented unilaterally at the executive agency level, with input offered only after the fact.

Opponents of the bill called the transparency measure “red tape.”

Appealing for broad inclusion and procedural transparency, the Colorado Mining Association’s Dianna Orf hopes that CDPHE and the Governor’s administration will ensure that Colorado’s plan include those most affected by the rule–energy producers and consumers:

“We ask that it be as inclusive and transparent a process as possible,” Orf said. “The magnitude and significance of the plan, and how it’s implemented, is so far reaching that we’d ask that they not only include utilities, but consumers and fuel suppliers as well as the larger business community.”

Indeed.

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On the other hand, late last week, Gov. Hickenlooper issued an executive order on behalf of the greater sage-grouse that is designed to shield the state from expanded federal efforts to list the animal as threatened or endangered, which would have a devastating economic impact on the western part of the state, and many surrounding states as well:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order on Friday (May 15) directing state agencies to take additional conservation measures for the greater sage-grouse.

“Our actions, in conjunction with the efforts of our local governments, landowners and many others to protect the greater sage-grouse, have been extensive,” Hickenlooper said in a press release that accompanied the order. “With this Executive Order we are directing our state agencies and our partners to do even more to protect this treasured species.”

Hickenlooper directed state agencies to take a number of actions designed to reduce impacts to the greater sage-grouse and its habitat, including taking inventory of — and improving habitat within — state lands with grouse populations.

“We firmly believe that state-led efforts are the most effective way to protect and conserve the greater sage grouse and its habitat,” said Gov. Hickenlooper in the release. “Conversely, a decision by the federal government to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act would have a significant and detrimental economic impact to the state, as well as threaten the very state-led partnerships that are working to protect the species.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service has until September 30, 2015 to render its decision on any listing action for the greater sage-grouse. Full text of Gov. Hickenlooper’s executive order can be read here.

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Outgoing Colorado Oil and Gas Association President and CEO Tisha Schuller had some thoughts on anti-energy fracktivists in Colorado:

On what she sees as a hypocrisy by those who want to ban fracking

“Communities that use oil and gas can’t ban it and say someone else has to produce it for them… We are consumers demanding a product and demanding it at a very affordable price. We know how sensitive consumers are to changes in their heating bill and their gasoline bill… I think a better paradigm is we are totally interdependent on oil and gas, and vilifying it is simply silly and a very lazy way of trying to address climate change.”

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