State senator: ‘ We will not compromise’ | AspenTimes.com

State senator: ‘ We will not compromise’

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado

State Sen. Gail 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." (Jim Paussa/The Aspen Times)

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 cagar@aspentimes.com

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