Colorado environmentalists vow to defend regulations
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – Colorado environmental groups will be spending a lot of time this year defending the legislative gains made over the past four years under Democrats, including requiring that utilities use more renewable energy and oil and gas rules that the industry says are onerous.
Republicans are in control of the House, but Democrats still control the Senate and governor’s office and they can block any attempts to roll back some of the programs that were passed when they controlled the House, the Senate and governor’s office.
Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said Thursday that conservative Republicans are already raising questions about the new laws and regulations that have been imposed.
This year, environmentalists are concentrating on implementing those programs, including energy efficiency and recycling.
“We are going to be fighting hard to make sure we don’t go backward,” she said.
Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said earlier this month his industry is trying to cope with 233 revisions to regulations passed under the administration of Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, and Republicans are listening.
GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty said Republicans want to protect the environment, but they also want to roll back new oil and gas rules that have cost thousands of jobs. He also said the 120 bills passed by conservation groups over the past four years have resulted in dozens of new state regulations for the construction industry, utilities and other industries that are costing consumers at a time when the economy is struggling.
He said Republicans are scrutinizing the new 30 percent requirement for major utilities to use renewable energy, which the coal industry opposes.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has promised to review oil and gas rules, including requirements that energy companies pump waste water back into the ground in southern Colorado and other regulations the industry opposes, including a ban on dumping pit liners in landfills. He also promises to review regulations that hinder businesses, but he also vowed to protect the environment.
Bills that environmental groups got passed include a solar financing program for businesses and homeowners and giving utilities flexibility to adopt graduated rates based on energy consumption.
They also tout 57 new laws approved by former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter to promote his “new energy economy” including increasing renewable energy standards to 30 percent, requiring sellers of new homes to offer low-energy appliances and water efficient landscaping, and increased oversight of uranium mining.
McNulty said many of Ritter’s new energy economy laws “were just window-dressing” and it’s not worth the effort to repeal them.
“To the extent that they had an adverse effect on business, we will work to change them,” he said.
Other new laws increased waste tire regulation, applied new plumbing code conservation standards, and created wildlife crossing zones.
GOP Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp said some of the new environmental laws went too far, including the new renewable energy requirements.
Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass, said her party is focusing this year on implementing the gains passed over the past four years.
“It’s probably good we’re stepping back. We put a lot of things out there, let’s see what works. For now, we can work on energy efficiency,” she said.
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