Legislators rise to climate challenge
By Leslie Glustrom, Published in the Boulder Daily Camera June 11, 2021
The rain around Boulder this spring was wonderful, but the chances of another hellacious wildfire season are still high — reminding us yet again of how serious the climate crisis is already — and we are only just beginning.
In that context, I believe we should all be grateful for the dedication of our Colorado legislators as they worked feverishly through this 2021 session to address the climate crisis.
I, of course, think our Boulder legislators are “The Best,” but let’s take a look around before thanking our City of Boulder contingent …
Looking to the east, we can see that State Rep. Tracey Bernett, who represents Longmont, Louisville and Lafayette, is already a climate champion, having gotten a paradigm shifting bill through the Legislature.
HB 21-1238 — known as the “Gas DSM — or Demand Side Management” bill will help Colorado undertake proper accounting to reduce our reliance on fossil methane and move toward cleaner ways of heating our buildings. The bill will help utility customers both save money on their heating bills and reduce climate pollution. Thank you, Rep. Bernett for your intelligent shepherding of this “Gas DSM” bill!
Also from Longmont, Rep. Karen McCormick, a veterinarian, now chairs the House Agriculture Committee in conjunction with West Slope Republican Marc Catlin, and she sponsored a bill to improve agricultural soil health (HB 21-1181) — a key mechanism for sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere. Thanks, Rep. McCormick!
Representing east Boulder County, Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a pharmacist working on lowering prescription drug prices, also sponsored a bill (SB 21-235) to increase funding for agriculture renewable energy and energy efficiency programs — including combining agriculture and solar production or agrivoltaics. Thanks, Sen. Jaquez Lewis!
Moving a bit farther east, we find Sen. Faith Winter from Westminster and Rep. Dominique Jackson from Arapahoe County sponsoring the blockbuster SB 21-200 bill to make our climate goals enforceable and improve environmental justice.
Gov. Jared Polis threatened to veto SB 21-200, but Sen. Winter and Rep. Jackson negotiated hard to make sure that many of the key provisions in the bill were preserved and incorporated into an environmental justice bill, HB 21-1266, which passed.
These two legislators and the coalition behind SB 21-200 deserve mountains of credit for a heroic effort to strengthen Colorado climate policy and environmental justice.
Thankfully there were many other state legislators in both parties working hard on climate issues, but now it is time to brag about our Boulder legislators.
First, Rep. Judy Amabile, representing Boulder and areas to the west that are served by rural electric co-ops, got a bill (HB 21-1131) enacted in her first term that overhauls how rural electric co-oops and entities like Tri-State Generation and Transmission operate — improving transparency and ensuring they stay true to co-op principles. Thanks, Rep. Amabile!
Boulder’s Rep. Edie Hooton courageously sponsored a bill (HB 21-1269) that directs the Public Utilities Commission to study the potential benefits of a Community Choice Energy system in Colorado. Communities and utilities around Colorado are finding that when they can “go to market” to choose their electric provider, they can often get much higher levels of renewable energy at a significant cost savings.
The CCE bill was strongly opposed by Xcel, but Rep. Hooton worked tirelessly to get the bill passed. HB 21-1269 lays the foundation for more Colorado communities to benefit from competition and market forces while we work to cost effectively decarbonize our electric system. Thanks so much for your courage and hard work, Rep. Hooton!
Finally, Boulder’s State Sen. Steve Fenberg, the Senate majority leader, carried several very important bills — eliminating the 120% cap on solar system size and promoting Distributed Energy Resources (SB 21-261), improving Public Utilities Commission processes (SB 21-272), promoting electrification of buildings (SB 21-246) and the transportation funding and modernization bill (SB 21-260). It would take a whole dissertation to describe what Majority Leader Fenberg accomplished — on top of managing Senate business every day. Just know that we are lucky to have his wise and compassionate leadership for our state. Thanks so very much, Sen. Fenberg!
Thanks to all of our Colorado legislators for their long hours and dedication to addressing the climate crisis. We have a long way to go, but we also have much to be proud of!
Leslie Glustrom is a senior adviser to Clean Energy Action. She has over 15 years of experience at the Colorado PUC and advocating for climate and clean energy bills in the Colorado Legislature. More information on the legislators and all their bills can be found on the leg.colorado.gov/