State senator: ‘ We will not compromise’
August 18, 2007
ASPEN ” State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, talked about successes, challenges and legislation that is making a difference during a talk Friday at the DoerrHosier Center at Aspen Meadows.
Schwartz addressed an audience of 30 as part of the “Exploring the Future” speaker series sponsored by Aspen’s Community Development Department to train and educate city employees and open dialogue with the community.
“I wake up every morning because I believe so much we have an obligation to preserve Colorado as we know it,” Schwartz said.
That means everything from protecting precious water resources and the environment to making oil and gas companies pay their way during the current oil boom.
Schwartz said the current Democratic Party majority in both the House and Senate is an “opportunity to revisit issues we lost ground on in the last administration.”
“Colorado is going to take leadership in renewable energy,” she said.
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She touted everything from a commitment by state energy officials to build 20 percent in renewables by 2020 to legislation protecting water quality, and even a bill mapping renewable energy sources statewide.
Legislation to restructure the state’s oil and gas commission makes it less industry-heavy and gives government administration ” people like Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt ” a voice.
“It’s a very exciting time for Colorado,” Schwartz said ” a time when conversations about the environment that have been going on for decades at places such as the Rocky Mountain Institute or Aspen’s Community Office for Resource Efficiency are becoming part of statewide dialogue.
Schwartz is concerned about the lack of funding for public roads, schools and other infrastructure, she said. The spread of mountain pine beetle, which is devastating other parts of the state and is just creeping into the Roaring Fork Valley is a threat to hunting and fishing, tourism and ” Colorado as we know it,” Schwartz said.
The state has a “long way to go” to help those with mentalhealth and substance-abuse problems who are filling state prisons faster than officials can build them.
And Schwartz looked to the U.S. Congress for leadership on immigration and a means to issue temporary worker visas for people working in resorts and in agriculture.
But the freshman senator is outspoken on severance tax for the oil and gas companies extracting nonrenewable resources from the ground.
That’s why she convened a special senate interim committee to study the effects of drilling, she said.
Colorado has the lowest tax on oil companies in the region, and states like Alaska levy more than 60 percent on oil revenues to support local infrastructure and offset the effects of oil and gas exploration, Schwartz said. Oil and gas companies drive heavy equipment on rural roads, flood communities with itinerant workers who strain social services and law enforcement, and pollute backcountry areas “right over the hill” from Aspen, Schwartz said.
She wants to ensure companies pay their way.
“We have the responsibility to build a permanent fund for our grandchildren,” Schwartz said. “We will not compromise what we cherish and that’s the environment in our state.”
Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org