Colo. cool with the idea

State joins ex­pand­ing coali­tion com­mit­ted to green­house-gas re­duc­tions set in treaty

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Bruce Fin­ley

Colorado on Tues­day joined the grow­ing num­ber of states and cities com­mit­ted to meet­ing or ex­ceed­ing green­house-gas re­duc­tion tar­gets set in the in­ter­na­tional Paris cli­mate treaty that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­jects.

Gov. John Hick­en­looper is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der com­pelling a green­house gas emis­sions cut be­fore 2025 by at least 26 per­cent be­low 2005 lev­els. Hick­en­looper also de­clared Colorado will sign on to the U.S. Cli­mate Al­liance of states and com­pa­nies coun­ter­ing the Trump administration by shift­ing more quickly to wind and so­lar en­ergy. This move added Western heft to widen­ing ef­forts to try to ease the im­pacts of ris­ing tem­per­a­tures.

Colorado will ac­cel­er­ate work to­ward cli­mate goals “re­gard­less of what the fed­eral govern­ment de­cides to do,” Hick­en­looper said be­fore sign­ing the or­der at Red Rocks Park, over­look­ing metro Den­ver.

“We will tap into this mar­ket force that is al­ready mov­ing,” Hick­en­looper said, em­pha­siz­ing ro­bust eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity around wind and so­lar en­ergy as an al­ter­na­tive to burn­ing more fos­sil fu­els that in­crease car­bon and other heat-trap­ping pol­lu­tion.

“This is a grass­roots-based move­ment,” he said. A dozen or so other states and hun­dreds of cities al­ready had de­clared they’ll meet or ex­ceed Paris treaty tar­gets. “That groundswell will build into a na­tional move­ment.”

Trump is try­ing to back the United States out of its treaty com­mit­ments to help na­tions of the world com­bat poten-

tially ru­inous cli­mate change. White House of­fi­cials in June ini­ti­ated a process to with­draw from the Paris treaty, which isn’t ex­pected to hap­pen be­fore Novem­ber 2020, near when Trump could be re-elected. Trump has said he’s open to rene­go­ti­at­ing U.S. car­bon cut com­mit­ments but that the treaty im­poses in­tol­er­a­ble fi­nan­cial bur­dens on Amer­i­cans.

The land­mark 2015 Paris treaty ob­li­gates the United States by 2025 to re­duce its green­house gas emis­sions by 26 to 28 per­cent be­low 2005 lev­els.

Gov­er­nors of New York, Cal­i­for­nia and Washington launched the Cli­mate Al­liance last month, af­ter Trump an­nounced his in­ten­tion to end U.S. par­tic­i­pa­tion in global ef­forts to re­duce car­bon emis­sions. Car­bon diox­ide is a main green­house gas that traps heat, chang­ing the cli­mate. Other states join­ing the move­ment in­clude Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Hawaii, Mas­sachusetts, Min­nesota, Ore­gon, Rhode Is­land, Ver­mont and Vir­ginia.

Cli­mate Al­liance mem­bers are pro­mot­ing pol­lu­tion con­trol, sharing best prac­tices and im­ple­ment­ing new pro­grams to cut emis­sions from all sec­tors. Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock and mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers na­tion­wide have joined the ef­fort.

Hick­en­looper’s or­der set the over­all green­house gas re­duc­tion goal of 26 per­cent by 2025 and also a tar­get of cut­ting car­bon pol­lu­tion at elec­tric­ity power plants by 25 per­cent be­fore 2025 and 35 per­cent by 2030, mea­sured against 2012 lev­els. In Colorado, 55 per­cent to 60 per­cent of elec­tric­ity cur­rently comes from burn­ing coal.

The or­der di­rects state agen­cies to work with util­i­ties to max­i­mize use of re­new­able en­ergy vol­un­tar­ily with­out in­creas­ing costs to tax­pay­ers. It calls for a state plan by 2018 to in­crease use of elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

Colorado will cre­ate “charg­ing cor­ri­dors” along high­ways “to re­duce range anx­i­ety” — the fear among elec­tric ve­hi­cle driv­ers that bat­ter­ies will die, Hick­en­looper said. “You’ll be able to drive an elec­tric car from Colorado to the Pa­cific, and from Den­ver to Mof­fat County, with­out fear.”

The Colorado De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health and En­vi­ron­ment now must de­velop a sys­tem for track­ing green­house gas emis­sions, Hick­en­looper said. And min­ing towns hurt by a shift away from coal can re­ceive more train­ing for dis­placed work­ers and help im­prov­ing broad­band com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­nec­tions.

This or­der “is not a man­date” for util­i­ties, Hick­en­looper said. “We’re re­ally try­ing to build a col­lab­o­ra­tive frame­work. … These are mar­ket forces. This is not govern­ment im­pos­ing a regime. … This is the fu­ture of jobs for our kids and for our grand­kids.”

Colorado al­ready has cut green­house gas emis­sions by thou­sands of tons a year, and Hick­en­looper called greater cuts essen­tial for clean air and an econ­omy in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent on a healthy nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. “This is our foun­da­tion. We want to keep build­ing on it and cre­ate jobs that can’t be ex­ported over­seas.”

En­vi­ron­ment groups and Demo­crat law­mak­ers ap­plauded the ac­tion.

“A real lead­er­ship move,” Western Resource Ad­vo­cates pres­i­dent Jon Gold­inDubois said, point­ing to cli­mate-driven im­pacts of droughts and in­ten­si­fy­ing wild­fires that are “daily oc­cur­rences here in the West.”

Repub­li­can senators chafed.

“It takes us back­wards” by try­ing to in­crease re­liance on re­new­able en­ergy with­out work­ing with law­mak­ers, said Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junc­tion, the as­sis­tant ma­jor­ity leader who chairs the Com­mit­tee on En­ergy and the En­vi­ron­ment.

Colorado law­mak­ers have re­quired in­vestorowned util­i­ties to gen­er­ate 30 per­cent of their en­ergy us­ing re­new­able sources by 2020.

Colorado Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Stan Dempsey ques­tioned Hick­en­looper’s as­ser­tion that shift­ing off coal — in fa­vor of wind, nat­u­ral gas and so­lar en­ergy — is a mat­ter of rolling with “mar­ket forces.” The boom­ing wind and so­lar in­dus­tries ben­e­fit from fed­eral govern­ment sub­si­dies, he said.

“The only way this will be done,” he said of the emis­sions re­duc­tion goals, “is pure muscle — forc­ing things at the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion. What coal-fired power plants and elec­tric­ity gen­er­at­ing sta­tions are go­ing to be af­fected?”

Yet fos­sil fu­els in­dus­tries also ben­e­fit from govern­ment sup­port, Con­ser­va­tion Colorado di­rec­tor Pete May­smith coun­tered.

Trump administration re­jec­tion of in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to slow cli­mate change clashes with what peo­ple want and eco­nomic mo­men­tum in Western states, May­smith said.

“The na­tion ac­tu­ally is mov­ing the other di­rec­tion,” he said. “You now have gov­er­nors and may­ors say­ing it is wrong to walk away from the Paris agree­ment.”

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

Colorado Gov. John Hick­en­looper, ac­com­pa­nied by other of­fi­cials at Red Rocks Park on Tues­day, signs an ex­ec­u­tive or­der com­pelling a green­house-gas emis­sions cut be­fore 2025 by at least 26 per­cent be­low 2005 lev­els.

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, sec­ond from right, and Gov. John Hick­en­looper, left, at­tend Tues­day’s event at Red Rocks Park.

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