Originally published on NRDC Expert Blog.
By Ariana Gonzalez, Director, Colorado Policy, Climate & Clean Energy Program
After months of drafting, negotiating, and rallying around legislation in the Colorado State Capitol, the General Assembly has adjourned. Looking back over the past six months, it’s clear that achieving enforceable and equitable climate action was a top priority not just for NRDC, but for our community partners and elected officials as well.
Our priority bills focused on how to help Colorado center environmental justice and disproportionately impacted communities as well as drive important reductions in the greenhouse gas emissions that are already warming our climate, melting our snowpack, and contributing to wildfires and drought. This session was no walk in the park, but at the end of the day, we made real progress. As a result of tireless advocacy from environmental, health, business, and community advocates across the state, legislators passed the following essential policies:
- HB21-1266 defines disproportionately impacted communities, requires engagement of those communities, and creates staffing, task forces, and boards focused on addressing environmental justice. This bill charges polluters for greenhouse gas emissions and uses the funds to invest back into disproportionately impacted communities and supports the climate and environmental justice staffing. It also absorbed parts of our climate bill that faced a veto threat (SB200) including enforceable deadlines, reduction requirements, and rulemakings for the electric, industrial, and oil and gas sectors.
- HB21-1189 regulates three toxins (Benzene, Hydrogen Sulfide, and Hydrogen Cyanide) and four facilities (Suncor, Phillips 66, BF Goodrich, and Sinclair). It also requires covered facilities to conduct and publicly report fenceline monitoring.
- SB21-246 requires investor-owned utilities to file beneficial electrification plans every three years that must include programs targeted to low-income and disproportionately impacted communities with at least 20 percent of the funding going to those households. This is also the first building electrification policy to pass with active labor support in the country.
- HB21-1286 requires owners of certain large buildings to collect and report their building’s energy use annually and meet periodic building performance standards.
- SB21-264 requires gas distribution utilities to file a clean heat plan with the Public Utilities Commission that shows how it plans to meet the targets of a 5% reduction below 2015 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2025 and 20% below 2015 GHG emission levels by 2030.
- SB21-108 adopts rules and penalties related to gas pipeline safety.
- SB21-72 directs the Public Utilities Commission to approve utilities’ applications to build new transmission, creates the Colorado electric transmission authority, and sets out deadlines for electric utilities that own transmission facilities to join a Regional Transmission Organization.
The evolution of SB21-200 and HB21-1266 warrants its own discussion. In mid-January, Governor Polis released his Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, which laid out the sector-specific emissions reduction targets needed to hit the economy-wide goals set forth in HB19-1261. Following the report release, climate and environmental justice leaders Senator Faith Winter and Representative Dominique Jackson proposed legislation in line with the Roadmap to help the State make good on its climate promises.
However, a shocking and early veto threat from the Governor meant the bill was bound for an uphill battle. Coloradans across the state took notice and came together to push for the bill, culminating in a broad coalition of more than 100 environmental, racial justice, public health, outdoor recreation, business, youth, and community organizations elevating the need for climate justice. It was this coalition that helped HB21-1266 absorb elements of SB21-200, cross the finish line, and ensure environmental justice and disproportionately impacted communities are centered, not sacrificed, in climate action. It is this larger, more inclusive, and more powerful coalition that will hold the state accountable in future rulemakings, legislative sessions, and implementation.