Ritter gets A- on environmental scorecard | AspenTimes.com

Ritter gets A- on environmental scorecard

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter, who campaigned on the benefits of renewable energy and protection of natural resources, has received an A-minus overall from Colorado’s conservation groups on environmental issues during his first year in office.

Ritter, a Democrat, promoted a “new energy economy,” based on expanding the renewable energy industry as well as the state’s coal, oil and gas resources. He also reached out to environmentalists, hunters and anglers concerned about the impacts of Colorado’s natural gas boom on wildlife and air and water quality.

Ritter started delivering on his campaign promises within weeks of taking office, according to Colorado Conservation Voters, the political arm of state environmental groups.

“When you look at the big picture, the Ritter administration has really changed the course we’re on when it comes to protecting the environment,” Carrie Doyle, the group’s executive director, said Thursday.

Doyle noted that Ritter and the Legislature approved laws increasing the amount of power that energy utilities must get from renewable energy sources and requiring more input from state wildlife, health and environment agencies on energy development.

He also appointed a climate change adviser and announced a plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gases.

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Ritter’s predecessor, Republican Bill Owens, didn’t fare as well with the Colorado Conservation Voters. At the end of Owens’ two terms, the group contended that he vetoed more conservation bills than any other Colorado governor.

The nonpartisan group, which advocates pro-conservation issues and candidates, didn’t give Ritter all high marks. He scored lower on protecting wild places in part because of his stance on the Roan Plateau.

Last week, Ritter asked federal land managers to expand areas off-limit to direct gas drilling and urged stronger protections for the rest of the public land on the western Colorado plateau, but didn’t recommend against drilling on the top as environmental and outdoors groups wanted.

“His statements on the Roan Plateau were an improvement from where the (Bureau of Land Management) was,” Doyle said. “But he fell short from where conservationists, sportsmen and some elected officials asked him to be.”

Proponents of developing the Roan Plateau’s oil shale and natural gas praised Ritter for what they called a balanced approach.

The BLM’s decision is pending on managing areas considered environmentally sensitive on the Roan Plateau. Federal officials are still talking to the Ritter administration about the management plan.

Colorado Conservation Voters gave Ritter an “incomplete” on growth “due to a lack of action towards the development of smart growth plans capable of linking land use and transportation planning.”

Doyle said conservation groups didn’t push major initiatives on growth this year.

“I suspect in 2008 and 2009, we’ll see more attention on growth in Colorado,” she said.

Colorado is the eighth-fastest growing state, according to new Census Bureau statistics.

Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman, said the governor worked hard on the behalf of Coloradans as “a stubborn steward” of the state’s air, land, water and wildlife.

“This report card reflects that commitment and it reflects that there is most definitely more work to be done,” Dreyer said in a written statement. “Gov. Ritter looks forward to continuing that work with all stakeholders in 2008 and beyond.”

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